An Inverted Insignia

An Inverted Insignia Part Two: Extracurricular Activities 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 8 The Legal Points
Chapter 9 Fields of Blood
Chapter 10 An Act of War

Chapter 11 Flight Manoeuvres
Chapter 12 The CWC Council
Chapter 13 Psychological Effects
The Legal Points

Upon leaving he set to returning to the Resource Centre in order to obtain his materials and pick up a few more documents to read. Starscream glanced over the book he had removed. It was quite an old book, printed on thin sheets of opaque white plastic. Bound between two hard plastic boards. Older texts were printed - most were downloadable, however he enjoyed the feel of a book in his hands. It also seemed a bit more "magical" if he were to apply fantasy to his task. He was curious about the Decepticon faction, it's hierarchy and how and why murder was an acceptable method of progression.

'Were any of those three I killed a higher ranking cadet?' He wondered. 'None had weapons other than knives- well Bloodlust had a sword, yet he had no ranged weapons. If they were, did I actually advance myself without realising?' His thoughts trickled back to Skywarp. 'Was it possible that Skywarp, for all his kills, only killed those he could best? Weaker individuals who did not amount to anything so he did not raise his station... That is possible, Skywarp is- how do I say, lazy.'

Starscream cocked his head. He fought because he was forced to. He would not have targeted them at all. He considered the possibility- his first taste of 'blood' and a slight awakening in a fairly primal urge to hunt. It had been a long time since he hunted for anything. His mind drifted briefly to the fields and forests of Vos. There they had ample supply of turbo foxes, and even the more dangerous Iron Hoof Stag. They were large buck-like creatures, with massive bronze antlers and sharp steely hooves. These hooves were used for eviscerating predators or anything that proved as a threat to the creature. Starscream in his early years had taken down one immature stag and it was a fight he would never forget.

The combat was entirely accidental, but once started, the challenge had to be seen through. By the time he had confronted the beast, he had upgraded his slingshot to something more reliable, although the ammunition was weak. It would never work against a young stag. The only other weapon the youthful flier had was a knife, one he had managed to steal from somewhere. So in his efforts to track a fox he had wounded with his slingshot he stumbled into a clearing, face to face with an Iron Hoof. He stared at the beast, it stared back at him. Immature stag and an Immature Seeker. The young flier was tiny in comparison to the beast. The beast charged the flier and Starscream leapt into action. He jumped into the air, and executed a flip and landed on the back of the young buck. He grabbed the stubbly bronze antlers and hung on. The animal enraged charged on as the Seeker wrapped his legs around the neck in an effort to cut fuel supply to the brain unit.

The beast jammed his fore-hooves into the ground bucking his back legs up and the seeker was dismounted and crashed into the ground. The enraged animal charged again, lowering his tiny antlers at the flier. Starscream waited until the last possible second to step out of the charge, and grab one of the lowered antlers. The beast's momentum and the Seeker's pull caused the creature to crash into the ground. At this point Starscream had his knife in his hand and drove it into the neck of the buck, he drew the blade outward severing all fuel and intake lines. The buck tried to cry out in pain, but it could not make a sound. Starscream had severed its vocalisers. The animal weakened and bleeding, the Seeker leaned in and drank from the spilled fluids gaining nourishment and energy as the animal's spark was extinguished.

The young flier sighed as he looked at the book in his hand. His memories tantalised him with the taste of raw wild energon. He closed the book and tapped its cover. He believed it was what he required. Starscream took the book over to the desk and signed it out. Rather than sit down in the Resource Centre, Starscream moved off to the barracks. It was safer, slightly. attacks could happen in them, but not as likely. Most of the warriors preferred to get their targets alone and isolated and away from any allies.

Once he arrived and seated himself at his study station, Starscream opened the books carefully, gently and began to read about Cybertronian laws. Laws that, no matter what side you were on, it still applied. These laws were oddly, not part of the curriculum - however ignorance of the laws does not spare one from them.

By his very nature, Starscream he felt the need to follow rules that were set down in a logical sequence by this desire laws and rules were important. Knowledge of laws and rules could easily give him the upper hand - particularly in an arena which Darkstar indicated he was likely going to be found fighting for his life. If he wished to survive, and he very much did, he would need to learn the rules, and learn how to bend them to his advantage.

He found one line in the Cybertronian book of Combat codes: "In a duel, each warrior must fight as he or she is without any additional reinforcement. This may include pre-combat power upgrades, weapon upgrades, narcotic for brief bursts of energy. Anything that is not native to, or in standard use by the combatant. Weapons may be provided to level the playing field."

Starscream wondered about bloodsports. These were typically considered illegal in most parts of Cybertron. Kaon was one of the few cities that allowed it and very openly so. However, Kaon was considered a rough city and was largely avoided by most citizens from other places. Only the real loathsome individuals lived there. As odd as it seemed though, Megatron had risen to power from those very pits in that particular city.

Somehow, Starscream doubted that they were following the Cybertronian Laws. However, he strongly felt that it can be used to his advantage. Knowledge of the rules would give him the win if an individual beat him by "cheating". He understood with extreme clarity that Knowledge was power.

He was absorbed in his reading when Skywarp appeared at his side with a cold blast of air. Thundercracker hustled toward the pair.

"Whatcha doing, Screamer?"

"Reading laws," the Seeker replied with a huge sigh, slipping a paper into the page he was on and flopping it shut. Now his trinemate was back, nothing could be done and understood.

Thundercracker paused just before he got to the two and stared at Starscream. "What are those?" he rumbled, pointing at the Seeker's rifles."

"Null ray rifles," Starscream replied.

"We can't have guns, how'd you get them?"

"I have a special dispensation to use these, as my natural abilities, unlike Skywarp's, are harder to control... they had to deactivate them so they can fix me up...this was their idea to make it less of a hazard. In order to return them to me, they gave me the rifles so I can focus on them. These aren't firearms... they are null rays. They can't hurt anyone, just render them inert."

Skywarp glanced at Starscream, "say again, and a little less 'wordy'"

"I am allowed to use these, in spite of the rule, so I can use my power, and still knock people out."

The dark Seeker nodded. "So, you've got big tanks and put them to bed-ability."

"Something like that, yes," he agreed. "I've also advanced."

"Advanced?" Thundercracker asked, sitting down. "All of us?"

"No, just me. I am going to level three, you two are at level two for now... I am trying to understand why. But this means... I need to learn a lot more in order to continue my existence. I am apparently expected to pit fight from time to time..."

"I can save your aft!" Skywarp chimed in.

"I don't think so the Cybertron code of combat requires each warrior to fight as he is, without additional reinforcement," he responded. "I am trying to fathom if these rifles negate that rule or not. I mean, translation for you Skywarp, do they break the rules."

"I know what you mean dumbaft, I'm not stupid!"

"Schizo...." Starscream muttered under his breath. "regardless... We are still a team right? We rely upon each other for survival? I give you thanks, Skywarp, for giving your advice that day..."

"Advice... oh, the stuff of not being there to save your aft?"

Starscream nodded. "It saved my aft."

Thundercracker rumbled to himself and then looked over at the pair. "That can't be right, you're expected to pit fight?"

Starscream nodded. "That's what they said... I can be challenged."

"Starscream, If I am recalling it correctly, Level three's don't pit fight. Level fours do. So you've either advanced to level four, Skipping three, or they gave you bad information. Check that out."

"Level four?" he asked, astonished. "They are advancing me two levels? They ARE trying to get rid of me!" Starscream was appalled and suddenly rather afraid. He could handle going up a level but going up two scared him.

"Okay, calm down, Starscream!" Thundercracker tried to sooth his trine mate. "Just double check if you've been put up that high or not. Don't panic." The other's face had gone a couple shades lighter indicating his increased stress and fear. "If you have gone to level 4, you've probably gone up for a good reason, one of those guys... they must have been quite advanced and you scrapped them, right? You scrapped three of them. You scrapped one of the strongest trines, that leaves us, we're a pretty talented trine ourselves...We got Skywarp, and we have an energy reserve. We also have you with long range weapons." Thundercracker watched as Starscream remained unsettled. "We could also train more, Primus knows, Skywarp's a killer, he could show you a trick or two if that's a problem."

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I'm a hunter- I can do this." Starscream said that more for himself than his trinemates.

"Yeah, because if you can't, then you're in the wrong job," Skywarp reminded.

"I guess I better make the switch from science to war..." he nodded.

"Thatta boy, Screamer!" Skywarp practically crowed. "You'll learn to love it!"

The Seeker looked at his friends and smiled coyly. "That's what I am afraid of." He already knew the rush and allure of the kill in the hunt.

"So, that's why you're reading about laws and stuff." Skywarp nodded. "So you're gonna try to take a brain to a sword fight, eh?"

Exhaling, the Seeker nodded. "There could be an advantage to knowing how the game should be played. That is, I can call foul if someone tries to use 'unfair' tactics against me. I could use unfair tactics myself, but if no one calls me on it, then I can get away with it."

"So, you're banking on being able to use fair play against other warriors?" Skywarp asked.

"Call it an ace up my sleeve. You cheat at poker, you should know the importance of having a plan 'B.' "I object to being called a cheater!" Skywarp crossed his arms, scowling.

Starscream could have laughed at the expression of hurt, however he chose to ignore him, "now if you don't mind, I would like to at least go over this one page regarding duels."

"Whatever flies your kite," Skywarp replied, he grabbed Thundercracker by the shoulder and they blinked out. Probably to grab a cube from the pile. Starscream only hoped that they'd bring him one back, he needed a drink.

The book detailed a section on duels, these were typically honour based combats. Where one combatant, who was offended for some reason challenged the one who did the offending. The Challenger would issue the challenge and the one challenge had to accept or be dishonoured. The two combatants would choose their second, a person who would set up the duel, the location, and the weapons or other rules. He found that typical fights could be, in case of weapons, a single shot. If they both missed, the duel was a draw. Another was to first blood or mark. Where the first to injure the other would win. Then there was the duel to the death. Where the extinguished spark of the loser marked the win. The challenger should outline the basic rules of the challenge. If it was to first blood, or a battle to death or even exile. If the challenger does not outline any rules, then the challenger could elect to include battle outcome options.

The results of the win if the loser was allowed to live could depend. They could be forced into servitude by the winner. Their freedom and their humiliation was occasionally enough and then there was the exile. Where the loser was forced to leave a given area within a set period of time.

Starscream pondered briefly, could he use a designated Second? Who would he choose? Skywarp, or Thundercracker? Thundercracker seemed capable of making fair judgements in regards to how things should be laid out. He probably could be trusted to make sure things go right. Skywarp was more prone to wanting to see chaos and a fair bit of carnage. Although he did genuinely want the group to make it through.

Then the gladiatorial combat. This was different from honour duels. Gladiatorial combat was more bloodthirsty, dangerous and warriors were often entered at a base level and worked their way up earning armour and gear as they survived battle to battle. Not all battles ended in the death of the loser, but more often than not, it did.

Gladiatorial fights would frequently have weapons scattered around the arena, where the combatant fought each other as they tried to get the best possible weapon in hand to eliminate the other. This was where natural abilities were best used. Where duels were combats with strict weapons or rule sets, the Gladiatorial sports were more of a bloody free for all.

Starscream looked in the direction his teammates left and knew he would have to train harder. standing up, the Seeker moved to the simulator in Riftwing Guard tower.

page break

Fields of Blood

Riftwing was not present. He could not even detect him, so he leaned over the control panel and managed to hack into the console by using a key. It was simple enough to do with the correct cypher. After a few moments, the program finished running and the Password was given. Quickly, the Seeker punched in the given password and the world of choice opened up before him.

He had many options. Scenic vistas, alien worlds, cities, battle simulations, Mountains, Oceans, Sea of rust, forests, fields. He chose a combination of fields and forests that would be ideal for a duelling field. Next came the options for NPC's He chose several who were just bystanders. They'd simply be observers. Then he had a choice of challengers. The choices resolved around those with various weapons skills. Starscream had decided on a more classical method of duel: Back to back with pistols.

Selecting a few other options, time of day, planet, type of pistols, how many paces, the simulator created the field. It was an open plains with copper-leaf and gold-leaf trees on either side. The glinting forest with shimmering gold leaves and brown was a beautiful sight to behold. The sun was rising to the east. Either side of the field people came into view. One carried a box with small hand held pistols. Each weapon was loaded with one round. It was held by the referee. From the opponent's side, stepped a mech, grizzled and battle scarred. He appeared more intimidating than he did in the lineup.

"The duel will commence between Blindspot and Starscream. Starscream is the challenge." The referee announced. "Will the combatants meet in the middle back to back. They will each take one step per count and turn and fire. The first would or kill wins. If both miss, it's a draw."

It seemed real enough, the Seeker only hoped that the simulator was using simulated rounds and not real rounds. He did not wish to actually be injured or die. Starscream stepped forward and looked at the opponent, he was quite large. The other looked back and had the flier not known that it was a simulation, he'd not have guessed. The other looked at him with hatred and loathing, as if Starscream had committed some crime that needed to be resolved. One he turned his back on the other he could feel the hologram turn around. His wings twitched. Starscream could feel the magnetic field of the hard light image behind him. It was surreal and tingled in a strange way.

"1...2...3...4...5" the voice counted as each number was spoken they took a step, hands at their side. Starscream's hand shook as the number increased "6...7...8...9...10" . On ten the pair spun around. In a moment Starscream felt a searing pain in the centre of his forehead and he fell over backward. His body was locked and he was unable to react. He fell over backward stunned. For the briefest of moments, Starscream thought he was actually being killed. But then he realised he was frozen in place and the pain, although shocking, was brief and then non existent.

"Starscream was hit by a fatal shot to the head, Blindspot wins," the game simulator announced.

He moved his mouth and his voice came, not weak like he had thought it would be, but strong as ever. "Again! Restart the duel, and let's do it again." The stasis field let up around Starscream and he returned to the start position. Blindspot did as well. Again the Referee counted to ten. As they spun around, Starscream once again felt the searing burn of a shot hit his chest and once more the Stasis field shut him down and he fell back 'dead'. He gasped in surprise, that hurt a lot more this time around. He wondered how the simulator targeted his nervous system to relay a simulated burst of intense pain. He disliked it intensely. This gave him resolve to actually succeed.

"Starscream was hit by a fatal shot to the chest, Blindspot wins." the computer announced.

"Again!" he called out. The field released him and he took his position once more. He needed to spin faster, the other was a grounder, wingless and had less resistance on a turn, but if he carefully calculated a spin while using his wings to carefully off balance him just a little, he could pivot rapidly and possibly get the bead on his opponent. On ten the Seeker spun, using his planned technique. Again he was struck but the stasis field did not activate. He fell to the ground and tracked his opponent and fired. His shot struck, but did not kill. Still he had a shot and struck.

"Starscream was hit first. The wounding shot on Blindspot was not lethal. Blindspot wins."

"Nyargh! Again, I say again!" the Seeker was getting a bit frustrated, however he forced himself t calm down. He battled Blindspot over and over for much of two hours. As he continued he found his skills improving, his speed at the turn and fine tuned adjustment of his wing tip twist. Soon he found he was scoring the winning shots. After another hour of repeated successes, Starscream ended the simulation. He sat down and took a breather.

His next task was to explore the weapons he had been given. The Null rays. The simulator was changed to a work room, benches, tables and tools. All of which were hard light, but the tools could be used on real weapons.

His new weapons were feeling more and more natural as he got used to wearing them, although he found he would bump them or they'd get caught on things, he learned where they were and started to make allowances for their size. These were his given weapons, the tools he would likely be fighting battles with, and hopefully winning.

Starscream turned the new weapons over in his hands. They were as long as his arm, the tip extending just past his finger tips. The muzzle was was somewhat bulbous, being wider than the shaft of the weapon. The shaft narrowed just before the tip and widened toward the shoulder mounted charging chamber. The charging chamber had three fins, in a light blue. Two of the fins were found on the sides and the remaining fin was located on the top. It was deeply grooved with a heat exchange vent that allowed it to keep itself cool under more intense use. the vent he re-examined had high powered fans residing just beneath the mesh, this was why they whined when he charged them up rapidly. Air drew in through six intake slots just at the base of the barrel, washed over the mechanisms and hot air out the back.

He could see there as an ammunition feed chamber that could take a belt of rounds, in the bottom. The belt would have to be stored in the inner arm, which could result in some movement hindrance. He was not sure this was a thing he wanted to use. However, upon inspection of the inside, it was discovered that there was a series of prisms that could convert light into a highly concentrated form of laser. The weapon was not only an energy weapon, a potential firearm, but a laser weapon as well. The light would pass through a magenta coloured ruby giving it its strength and power. He considered altering the program to allow for the weapon to fire a laser charge. It still would technically not be a firearm. Lasers were not powered by the primitive, yet effective mix of sulphur, charcoal and saltpetre, they were powered by light. Light was virtually instant. Light produced no sound, unless it was lightning and the sound was caused by air being super heated. Lasers were beautifully stealthy. He liked this aspect: Stealth.

The drawback of a laser was that at a distance, the beam eventually widened, the power of the blast would be reduced as it was no longer concentrated. Lasers were better close to mid ranged, or at least the potential of the weapon that he held. The adjustment of the weapon would take a bit of time. To learn the process of the conversion, to the science behind the laser. As a scientist he felt this should not be overly difficult, but he wanted to be sure of the weapon's safety if it was going to be nearly permanently attached to his arms. The last thing the Seeker wanted was to have his limbs blown off or melted through.

'Null rays.' he thought as he programmed in the desired practice. The misfire protocol was removed. He did not feel they would cause any problem. If they did he would find out first hand. Safety was off. He realised the mechanism he would be fighting could cause him actual damage. This was to give him reason to avoid being hit. His wings twitched at the thought, but as he had it figured, it would be better to learn how to defend in a controlled live situation than in the middle of combat. Where you only ever get one chance. The computer knew that if the wound was life threatening, to contact the medical bay.

He inhaled a deep breath and looked toward the scene. It was of a war torn set. Broken beams, craters from mortars, smoke, fires, puddles of oil, pools of dark muck, bodies strewn around, number of them Seeker's, many of them grounders. It looked like hell. Starscream all but froze on the spot being confronted with a realistic image of war. He assumed the computer drew it from an ancient war. Starscream would not be happy to know that the scene was from a recent battle.

"You are to protect your two teammates, drawn from your file- Skywarp and Thundercracker. They are grounded as are you, Skywarp is injured. Thundercracker is attempting to render assistance. You are to protect them and yourself, until a medivac vehicle arrives to airlift you three to safety. You are the sole survivors. The rest of your unit is dead. The rules are: there are no rules."

Starscream cocked his head. 'No rules? But there are rules to every game...'

"War rarely has rules that people comply with, war is not a game." the computer responded before the simulation came to life. Huge mortars rained down, they exploded noisily. His fuel pump started to pound and electro adrenaline roared through his systems. It nearly shocked him at how powerful the surge was, it caused his entire system to shake before he settled down. The simulated Thundercracker called out to him. He was holding a very injured looking Skywarp. Feeling of pain jarred through his systems and shock at seeing his usually jovial, if not annoying trinemate laying there nearly lifeless with Thundercracker rendering what little assistance he could. He tried to keep in mind this was a simulation, and that the characters he was watching were not real. It was not his wingmate lying there dying. It was a rendered model of Skywarp, down to the finest detail - unfortunately. He kept this thought in mind until an explosion of a near landing mortar peppered him painfully with rocks and dirt. They stung, some even caused minor injuries. Tiny wounds bled, from where rock and stone embedded into his surfaces. He threw himself to the ground and crawled over.

"Skywarp's dying, I think," the simulation of Thundercracker said. "Don't let him die..."

"Not on my watch," Starscream replied, hurrying to the radio communicator. He sent out the distress call. As he did, tanks rolled in. Their movements shook the ground with an intense rumble, they started to fire lasers at the trio. Starscream realised he would have to draw their attack so that Skywarp and Thundercracker could be spared the fallout.

He stood up and bolted toward a broken down building, jumping over bodies. A couple of the corpses disturbed him, their heads were blown open, the brain unit still sparked and it appeared as if their eyes followed him. Their mouths were open in silent screams. He wondered, were these bodies alive? He turned and fired his null rays at them. The brain sparking ceased and the dim glow of red faded to black. They were alive... he felt revolted and yet he knew it was the right thing. Or were they? The simulation seemed too real.

The tanks fired a volley at the moving Seeker, three laser bolts flashed past him, the fourth struck his wing, burning a hole right through it. His pain sensors flared and he screamed sharply. Turning his weapons to full power he fired several bolts of his null rays at the tanks; they froze very briefly and then started to roll again, as if they rapidly rerouted power from a secondary source. He would have to locate that source or some other way to stop them. As he ran, he tripped over a lump, a body. Spiralling head over heels, he landed face first next to something, a machine gun. Large rifle, heavy and with a clip three quarters full of ammo. He cocked it then aimed firing at the semi-inert tank's. The machine gun had significant recoil. He could smell the stink from the black powder as the acrid, almost acidic smell burned at his olfactory senses. Bracing himself he stood alone in the path of the great tanks firing the machine gun. He alternated with blasts of his null rays.

He was not making much of a dent on the machines. Then it came to him. Tanks were most heavily armoured on the fronts. He ran toward the tanks, zig zagging to make himself harder to track and attack. He leapt up and grabbed the barrel of the huge cannon and swung upward then landed on the top, much like he had with the Iron Hoof. Here he ripped open the hatch and fired both of his null rays into the cabin. The great machine rolled to a stop. He slid inside and found robot drivers, he took them out with a shot of this purloined Machine gun and then looked around. The machine was still operating, it was only rendered offline briefly. He quickly closed the hatch and then looked over the controls. He had never driven a tank. The only machine he had ever controlled was a Shuttle craft. As a Seeker he never dreamed of controlling a land vehicular, and here was his chance. It was oddly not that dissimilar in spite of it being trapped on a two dimensional plain instead of what he was used to, three dimensions. It had a steering control and a shifter. It also had pedals and a ground braking system. He doubted he would need brakes. Not for what he had in mind.

The machine was also relatively slow to control. It took a few moments to turn the machine, and by the time he had the other tanks had pivoted their turrets. He ensured he had the front of his tank facing their weapons. He figured that it may still resist their fire power while he attempted to get the slow machine to speed up. The engines roared and the cramped inner cabin started to warm up significantly. He grunted as his wing started to sting in response to the heated air. The needle of the tank was buried in the red warning zone and lights started to flick on indicating critical malfunction as the tank had picked up significant speed. Starscream, worried about the heat, popped the hatch open. This opened him up to other risks, but it allowed the heat to escape and for him to feel as if he could breathe and a little less claustrophobic. The tanks neared and he fired on them using the cannon. The whole machine lurched awkwardly. As soon as the tank neared he jammed a metal object into the pedal and then climbed out the cabin. The air outside the tank was refreshingly cool. The first machine crashed into the second tank, which caused it to roll into the third tank. The three tanks were abruptly engulfed in a plume of fire and sparks. He stopped their advancement.

Starscream jumped up with a cheer and then felt the heat of a laser strike him in the chest. He fell to the ground with a gasp. He had not noticed that one of the 'corpses' had climbed to his feet. It was alive and had been playing possum. It had struck him with a critical shot. As he fell, he fired his null rays, neutralising the "corpse" then fired his machine gun finishing the corpse off. Not far away he could hear the whine of engines. It was the medivac vehicle. It had arrived to collect Skywarp and Thundercracker, but he was in the field away from his teammates. He had got them to safety, but he had not been able to. He watched and shuttered his optics, thinking, if this was a real war, he had just been left for dead. Or had he? There was sounds of feet coming nearer and nearer, the vehicle had not left. Strong arms had picked him up and pulled him across the field to the medivac. The door closed and the simulation ended.

He was laying on the floor, fluids seeping from his chest. He coughed and more fluids welled up between his lips. "This is for real?" he gasped.

"I told you he'd come here," Skywarp said. "He's been running the simulations heavily lately,"

"I didn't think he'd remove the safety," Riftwing replied, his tone deeply concerned. "Any weapon could be used to inflict lethal damage if the safety was off...."

"How did that cadet get into the simulation anyway?" Thundercracker demanded.

"I think he slipped in when Starscream was in that tank, ya know?" Skywarp replied.

"Thundercracker put pressure on that line there," Rifwing ordered. Starscream could feel hands move into his chest area. Pain erupted throughout his system then faded as the other applied pressure as directed.

"Did Starscream kill him?" The blue Seeker asked as he worked to save his trinemate.

"Yeah, four in the span of two weeks... he's getting ruthless."

"Cadets cannot override the safety protocols.. It shouldn't be possible so tell me, how did he manage to override them?" Riftwing demanded. "This is my system, I designed it and I'm the only one able to override it."

"He's Screamer, he's a science geek. You know them, they learn quickly. He has smarts." Skywarp tapped his head to indicate the brain.

"Not quick enough, or smart enough." Thundercracker muttered. "Reckless, that's what he is. He isn't going to survive this academy if he keeps getting scrapped."

"But Thunder, they can't scrap him, that's the problem. They keep trying and they fail. Look, he squirmed out of the one I helped him with, then he killed those three other guys and he killed that fourth just now. He's done kinda well if you think about it. Survived basically five attacks killing four of his attackers."

"Starscream's barely gonna survive this... look at him. He's been getting out of stuff by sheer dumb luck."

Starscream was exhausted from the pain in his chest he felt an intense need to sleep; if only for a bit. His feet and fingers felt numb and tingly, the voices were distant. He felt unable to focus on the fuzzy form and he decided to shutter his optics again. He felt the fatigue creeping from his feet and fingers up his arms and legs into his torso. As it did, he exhaled slowly, fluids bubbled up between his lips and out through the nasal passages. His pump rate began to slow, but did not stop. It fired off a beat at the rate of once every half minute. The machines in the medical bay started to scream warnings at the fading life signs.

It was not that Starscream had been special to receive medical treatment. Many cadets after their fights and scraps had been taken to the repair bay for repair. The Decepticons wanted survivors, and if they survived the fight, they were more than welcome to whatever aid they needed. But many cadets were dispatched before any aid could arrive. This was entirely acceptable as it weeded out the weak. Starscream though had some natural ability to survive some gruesome wounds he had sustained, both at the academy and in his youth.

Skywarp and Thundercracker exchanged glances and medical staff worked quickly to repair the injuries the Trine-leader had sustained. The shot had ripped through his canopy, barely missing the spark chamber, it blew through several fuel lines, and missed the main feeder lines of the fuel pump. The fluids seeping into his mouth had entered into his air exchange system from those feeder lines. The leaking tubes were quickly clamped off by the medics as the spilled mech-fluid was mopped up. It had started to jellify and darken as the life-energy dissipated. Medics connected fuel lines to tubes at the base of his throat, they fed energy rich fluids to the brain unit, to prevent it from starving and important data being corrupted or deleted. Their fingers flew as they focused on their job.

Starscream, his wingmates, and the medics were not alone, for above them faces glanced in from a window at the top of the room. Medical students were watching the medics repair the injured Seeker. There was probably a professor with them explaining the procedure as they viewed Starscream not as an injured-possibly dying cadet but as a subject of study. Yet another reason cadets were more than welcome to receive aid. They became the live subjects or cadavers- depending on what was required.

As the repairs were completed, electrodes were attached to the fuel pump to stimulate it's activity as the fuel lines were finally reconnected. Fluids resumed flow through the energy starved system. The Seeker's colours, although significantly faded, began to return. Medics disconnected the emergency feed lines to the brain unit then wheeled him out to the recovery room. Skywarp and Thundercracker followed and decided they would wait and be on guard, protecting Starscream from any other attacks, particularly while he was vulnerable.

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Darkstar's voice was deep and angry sounding as he spoke to Riftwing and Stellardrift. "What do you mean the boy turned off the safety protocols?"

"He managed to override them..." Riftwing replied, his voice was not as deep as Darkstar's but it trembled slightly.

"I thought it was impossible for any cadet to tamper with your systems..." Darkstar hissed.

"It is supposed to be, I think he might have noticed me putting in my password..."

"Change it- We can't have cadets messing with the systems. Who knows what damage they'll cause if they get into the main database. Primus, Riftwing, I thought you had more sense than this!"

"Darkstar," Stellardrift interjected, "we realise you have invested an interest in this particular trio to advance, however, it is Riftwing and my opinion that you are pushing them well past what they are capable of doing at this point. You are more likely to see the trio killed than to see them graduate." Stellardrift's voice was gentle sounding. Not like the near bass tone of Darkstar's or Riftwing.

Riftwing muttered a rumble of agreement.

"You two think I am pushing them too fast?" Darkstar asked if his tone had become a little less angry."

"They need to learn the skill sets of a warrior before they can be moved up any further. I know you are itching to make Starscream a level five Cadet, so he can graduate as an officer, but he is not anywhere near ready. None of them are. He does not have the mental fortitude of a killer. He is still very much a soft-shelled scientist. You may have your spark settled on the wrong person for the job. I doubt Starscream is capable of ever becoming strong enough to become a Seeker leader. And if he is strong enough, allow him to make that choice himself. If he desires to lead, he will, But only if he can fight for it and fight to maintain his place."

Darkstar sighed. "You could be right, we'll leave them at their current levels and allow them to progress as nature dictates."

Riftwing patted Darkstar on the shoulder. "We'll continue their training as we planned, just allow the evolution to occur and they should be fine. They appear to be a balanced trine, they have a genuine friendship, they should succeed."

In the other room, Starscream had overheard the three talking and listened as best he could. The three elder Seekers had left the adjacent room and their voices faded to the point he was unable to listen. 'A leader of Seekers,' he thought. An entertaining notion, the only problem was...he was not sure he could. All he wanted to do right now was get out of the Academy alive.

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An Act of War

This time, Starscream spent much of a week in recovery in the repair bay before anyone there would consider releasing him. His internal injuries were significant. This meant unwanted time away from his academics, which fortunately Thundercracker had obtained the necessary work. Skywarp continued to remain guarding Starscream in spite of him missing his courses. He really did not care about academics, Fighting was far more interesting, and guarding meant he could sit back to entertain himself with mind numbing vid-files or images from the Cybertronian data-net, and at the same time subtly irritate his trine-leader with his presence.

The Advantage of being in a medical unit was the fuel was supplied and there was no fighting for it. Except with Skywarp who would try to take at least some. In the end the Medical Facility realised that if they did not feed Skywarp as well, half the recovering patients would end up going hungry. It appeared that the Teleporter's teleportation system required large amounts of energy to be consumed which was why the dark Seeker was nearly constantly stealing from people.

Starscream laid on the medical platform, knees bent up, reading the latest from his science courses. It was an easy enough subject for him to miss, as he already knew the subject inside and out. It was tests he was unable to miss - unless he was stuck in a medical unit as he currently was. The situation of the simulator ran through his mind. His wingmates, as well as Riftwing, explained what had occurred - that an enemy cadet had entered and waited for a moment of distraction to take the Seeker out. A near successful attack had Starscream not used his weapons - both the null ray and the firearm to kill. Again the Seeker had mixed feelings about the need to kill, however it was becoming apparent that it was a necessary evil. Kill or be killed. He was not entirely sure why he had become such a popular target in recent weeks, but he would defend himself. He decided this: No more hesitation, just pull the trigger or thrust the knife.

As Skywarp had said some months earlier when Starscream asked him if he had reservations about killing, Skywarp's simple reply was, "No. You think I'd be here if it did?" And that was the fact of the matter. He was training to become a warrior, if he wanted to be a pacifist he'd have either joined the Autobots or more appropriately the Neutrals or simply remained as a civilian in his home City of Vos. Yet he had chosen to take up arms and why would anyone join an army if they did not wish to fire a weapon or swing a sword in defence of their land, their ideas and their freedom.

The Decepticon method here was simply to weed the weak from the strong and he was being viewed as weak. Why? Simple, because he hesitated or he tried to talk his way out of it, because he was a scientist and they were pegged as soft. He realised his attitude had to change, he told Skywarp and Thundercracker that he could lead them. Darkstar had for some reason seemed to think he'd be a leader for the Seekers. He was still unsure how Darkstar came to that particular conclusion, but if one of the officers held that view of his capabilities, who was he to disappoint? The Elder Trine, as he referred to them as, were hell bent on training his group, although it was apparent the Elder trine had different ideas on how to do it. He inhaled sharply and Skywarp glanced over from his video then returned his focus. There were only two ways he would get out of this Academy and that was Alive as a warrior, or dead in a box. He decided the first was preferable.

His mind was set. Starscream reached over for his datapad to log in a notation.

My near end in the simulator has set one thing firmly into my mind: I need to fight and stop skirting the issue of killing others.

I am here, as a Decepticon, and we do not settle for anything less than the strongest. I am strong, I am a survivor and I am intelligent. These are advantages that many others here lack. Most of them do not have a history of living off the land as a hunter. Most of them are used to comfort and luxury. I may have wished to avoid conflict in my recent past, but after having nearly lost my life in that simulator, I think now is as good a time to say, I will be the best Seeker this Academy has ever seen, I will be known and I will become feared. I will now make the change from Scientist to Warrior, and I shall not regret this. I will still pursue my former profession- it will have its use in war. The old saying, "Knowledge is Power," pertains. I will not be like Skywarp over there. He is destined to be a forever grunt- sadly. I can be- so much more.

Tomorrow morning when I am released from here, I will turn my new leaf and become that which I never had dreamed I could be.

He put his stylus down and logged the datapad out.

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The mess hall at midday meal was busy, there was the standard standard pushing and shoving. Skywarp blinked in and out across the hall, stealing the fuel from under the noses of unsuspecting cadets, and blinking away before anyone could react to find him. He was by far one of the toughest Seekers to deal with at the midday brawl. Starscream typically avoided the meal hall and used the Energon reserves he and Skywarp had procured, and that Skywarp kept topping up. He was determined this time, to prove himself. He joined the line and grabbed a tray of fuel cubes. Within a minute there was a cadet approaching him, larger, flightless and optics staring him down as if to intimidate him.

"You're gonna give that to me, flier." the cadet demanded.

"Get scrapped," Starscream replied, his wings flaring upward.

"Seeker scare tactics aren't gonna work with me, you hanger-born scrap heap."

Starscream grabbed one of his cubes and stuffed it in his mouth, eating it down to show he was not in the slightest intimidated. His tanks flipped and flopped and a surge of electro-adrenaline shot through his lines. Usually he disliked the feeling but in recent weeks he started to get used to the surges and almost enjoyed them. "And you're nothing but a mud slinging ground hugging- maggot," Starscream responded after he swallowed his morsel. He remained polite, not talking with his mouth full.

That insult was enough to send the Grounder into a fit, the Mech threw himself at Starscream and the Seeker raised his arm and discharged his null ray. "I said, get scrapped!" The Cadet crumpled to the ground, circuits nullified. Starscream gave him a swift kick in the chest, cracking the glass windshield and then carried on to his seat as if nothing happened. A number of cadets stopped and stared at him- surprised. Starscream decided that in this case the cadet did not need to die unless he escalated the issue, the weapon would go to show the others that he was able to bring someone down with little effort.

Another cadet, having missed the previous altercation, noticed the Seeker sitting largely alone, and approached him from behind. His intent was also to steal the fuel cubes. Starscream sensed the presence of a new magnetic field and his hand slipped to his hunting knife. He continued to eat holding his fuel with his right hand as he readied himself with his left. The hand came around and Starscream dropped the cube, grabbed the intruder with his right and ran the hunting knife through the top of the Cadet's hand burying the blade into the table. The Cadet screamed in pain and the whole room fell silent. Starscream snarled. "Try to steal from me and you will regret it. The next person who tries this hour will forfeit their life," he hissed his voice carried in the now silent room. "And I mean it, no more Mr. Nice Scientist."

Starscream reached down and grabbed the hilt of his blade then drew it out of the table and the cadets hand. "You better get that looked at and run fast before I decide to bury it in your spark," he said to the other. The cadet grabbed his hand in his uninjured hand and ran off into the direction of the medical bay. The rest of the Lunch hour remained largely uneventful.

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Skywarp appeared beside Starscream later that afternoon as he was returning from one of his science labs. "I heard about you at the mess hall, wish I had seen it!" the dark seeker raved. He nearly startled Starscream into a defensive reaction.

"Yeah, well... it's do or don't right? Well I am done with the don't so I am doing. And, Skywarp, don't make me hurt you. Keep away from my meals..."

The dark Seeker nodded. "Yeah, I think it's gonna be more unsafe stealing from you now."

"We can seek energon together but we do not take from each other. Not in our trine. We work together, we help each other if there is need. But we do not steal from each other. We have standards, right?"

"Right," Skywarp nodded. "We have standards."

"Good, because we're gonna make a hit and run on another cache."

Skywarp stopped. "We are?" his wings trembled in anticipation, "When?"

"As soon as we get Thundercracker- there is a small storage facility just on the outskirts of Iacon, we will sneak out at midnight, and strike then."

"But that's off campus, we aren't allowed to leave!" he responded, sounding fearful for the first time.

"Come now Skywarp, rules are sometimes meant to be broken. And I think in this case, we are meant to think outside the box- that's what the elders say. That cache belongs to the University I was exiled from.... It's very high grade, very nice energon. Lots of bottles and a lot of choices. I'd like to get my hands on it. Take something back from them, It will empower us as well, and it will keep our cache well stocked probably for the rest of the terms we spend here."

"You're right, some are meant to be broken and high grade you said? I can hardly wait!" Skywarp rubbed his hands together and grinned, "the stuff they serve here is blah." The dark Seeker slapped his hand across Starscream's back in a friendly manner. "Now you are getting the spirit. Welcome to the Decepticons, Screamer!"

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The three Seekers crouched behind a railing, they peeked over watching the activity as a few people left the area. It was two in the morning and the activity was that of only security or the odd individual getting off from a late night shift.

The University of Iacon was a place that Starscream knew quite well. Its large vaulting halls, ornate ceilings with carvings of alien beasts, strange botanicals, and finely painted artwork framed in gold leaf. It was a beautiful place and the Seeker drew in a breath as memories returned to him of things that he had experienced there. Good things, graduating top of his class, obtaining his degrees, being coached on by Skyfire. He offlined his optics as the recent memories of his expulsion came to mind.

He waited until the security guard strode back to his desk and sat down. Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker stole down the hall. Their steps were light and careful as their trine leader led them to a Storage room. He fiddled with the lock slightly and it slipped open. Skywarp's jaw dropped as he watched Starscream pick the lock. It was not something he expected the scientist to know how to do.

"Gentlemen, I give you the finest supply of Energon on Cybertron." The door opened up to a small room with energon cubes of varying colours lined shelves. Glowing fluids in bottles, other ingredients that would augment the flavour or usefulness of the energon.

Starscream quietly closed the door behind them. What he did not realise was the security on the store room had been recently updated and a silent alarm sounded, alerting the front security desk that there was some sort of problem. The security officer had just been dozing off when the alarm sounded. He glanced at the campus map and noted the area that was highlighted. He turned the beacon off and then picked up his nightstick and light. The halls were still as he quietly walked to where the three Decepticon Cadets were busy looting.

"You have the co-ordinate set in your head, Skywarp?" Starscream asked. As he gathered several bottles of the finest Energon he could find. "Because I intend to clean this place out of every last bottle." Starscream placed the bottles of energon into a crate as the door opened. Skywarp froze. Thundercracker stepped back into the shadows and Starscream turned around.

"Hey, what is going on here?" The security officer asked. He glanced at the Seekers and his optics fell on the insignias. The guard pulled his service pistol out and aimed it at Starscream and Skywarp. "I don't know what is going on here, but you don't belong here. So I am arresting you!"

"Did you happen to call for backup?" Starscream asked calmly, "you look a little tired..."

"Um-er... no... I forgot."

"Mistake number one," Starscream fired his null rays and the guard hit the ground. "Nap time," he whispered. The Seeker dragged the security guard into the room and closed the door. "Mistake number two was telling us that no one's coming looking for you." the red Seeker leaned down and picked up the pistol and glanced over. It was loaded. He cocked it and fired a shot into the head of the Guard. The guard's body darkened in death. "Good night!"

At this point Thundercracker came out of the shadows and grabbed the weapon from Starscream's hand. "What in the pit do you think you're doing, he's innocent! What the slag has happened to you Starscream, you've turned into a murderer."

"I am removing all threats from our mission," Starscream snatched the pistol back and tucked it away.

"He is not part of the Academy, he is just a guy doing his job."

"Aren't we all just doing a job?" Starscream asked darkly. "If they are from Iacon, then they are an Autobot. If he isn't an Autobot- then oops either way he'll alert them that three Decepticons are raiding a energon storage. Before we know it, a fully trained army will be breathing down our necks and filling us with holes. I say for our sake, it's best to remove one than have us three terminated. Isn't that right, Skywarp?"

Skywarp nodded. He had seen a few things tonight that indicated Starscream was quickly embracing the ways of the Decepticons. "Yeah, Screamer... wow, good shot too, I'm impressed!"

"I don't believe you are siding with him, Skywarp!"

The dark Seeker tipped his head in thought. "I don't believe you aren't- he's right you know. It's gotta be this guard or it'll be us. Let's get the energon out of here and go before they discover him dead. Anyway, I know where to go next time, I can just raid it for supplies later."

Starscream dragged the body into a dark corner and piled empty crates around him, just to hide him for a while. With four official kills, Starscream had now added a 5th to his tally. He doubted he could register this one with the Academy, it could be black marked. In either way, it was his first real murder. This time, he felt a rush. It was not a cadet on his side that he killed, it was an actual enemy the feeling he got was of elation. A feeling he could easily get used to. Killing enemies was a far different feeling from killing a "friendly" Starscream let out a small chuckle as he finished placing the boxes. Thundercracker watched him with an expression of fear and disgust. Starscream grabbed a bottle, popped it open and tipped its contents back and smiled. "To victory!" Skywarp joined Starscream in his drink and jubilation. Thundercracker rumbled. He did not agree with this. He did not join in with the pair's drinking. After a few minutes of their celebration Skywarp teleported them to a clearing where they transformed and flew back to the Academy.

Skywarp quickly transferred the units of energon to their storage area. He hummed as he put the bottles away on the rough shelves he had made out of crates and metal boxes. Starscream, this time, had really impressed him.

Thundercracker glowered at Starscream as they re-entered the barracks. They crept in quietly and then stopped. Starscream's wings tingled. He put his hand up and Thundercracker walked into the back of him. Thundercracker grumbled as Starscream swore at him just under his breath. Thundercracker grabbed Starscream by the throat and pinned him to the wall. "I don't know what you are trying to pull, but that action was many levels of wrong. If you weren't my trine leader, I'd kill you for that." He let Starscream go shoving him aside and stepped to his bunk.

Starscream rubbed his throat and inhaled sharply, dropping to his own platform. He disconnected his rifles when he heard someone approach from behind. Initially he thought it was Skywarp, but the approach was heavy, and it appeared as if there were at least two people and not with the typical blast of cool air that announced Skywarp's sudden re-entry from subspace.

"Where is Skywarp?" asked the deep voice of Darkstar.

"Uh," Starscream glanced around. "He must be at the cache..."

"Where were you? There was a random bed-check and you three were missing and we did not detect you on Campus," demanded Riftwing.


"Speak the truth," Thundercracker snarled at Starscream.

"We went on an off campus raid..." Starscream admitted. "Iacon, the university I was expelled from. They had a good energon cache, so I decided that we should take it. As compensation for my inconvenience."

"Were you seen?"

"Yes!" Thundercracker said quickly, "We were seen. Starscream... neutralised the thread as soon as it occurred."

"Neutralised, will they be able to identify you three?" Darkstar asked in concern.

"I doubt it," Starscream answered. "I killed him, then I hid his carcass. I made sure he went black in death."

"That was an act of war, Starscream!" Riftwing responded.

"It most certainly was," the trine leader agreed. "If you did not wish us to find alternate sources of fuel, you'd supply us with all that we needed."

Skywarp teleported himself neatly beside Starscream and Thundercracker. He looked at the trio of Elders and then glanced at his wingmates. "Oh scrap, we're in deep slag aren't we?"

"Welcome to the party, Skywarp." Starscream sighed. "Look, if we let the guy live he'd have identified us as Decepticon and brought the Autobots out to get us. We have those huge Decepticon insignias on our wings... We couldn't let that happen. We left no witnesses and dead mech tell no stories. Anyway, he's just a bot... why would it matter to you?" Starscream crossed his arms. His optics had narrowed and he was determined to prove himself in the right. "In one moment, you are basically attempting to urge me to fight, and in the next you are on my case about actually doing so."

Other sleeping cadets were waking up to the disturbance. They sat up on their bunks and watched as the three cadets were ripped into by the three elders. The cadets began to whisper amongst themselves as they learned of the situation. Starscream had killed yet again.

Darkstar stood up and grabbed the red Seeker by the wing and pulled him into the middle of the room. "First of all, cadet, you will lose your insolent tone with me. Secondly, you do not leave this campus after lights out without the express permission of your immediate overseeing officers, this would be myself, Riftwing or Stellardrift. Thirdly, had it gone wrong you could have seen yourself, and your trine mates scrapped and in the hands of the enemy side. And finally, you yourself objected most profusely to being considered an Autobot by us. How hypocritical of you to assume that a guard is an Autobot. He could have been, at the least, neutral." Darkstar reached up and smacked Starscream resoundingly across the face with the back of his hand. "If you ever use those tones against a superior officer again it will likely be the last thing you ever do."

Starscream spiralled to the ground as the much more massive Seeker whacked him, his lip split and fluids seeped out of his mouth. Skywarp and Thundercracker winced but stayed in their spot as diligently as they could. Only their wings belied the urge to help the other Seeker to his feet. "My error, Sergeant Darkstar," Starscream said, poking at his lip. "But if I may offer something to appease you, I do have some amazing Engex vintages in our possession. We'd be willing to share with you if you'd permit."

The large Seeker stopped and looked at the much smaller cadet and rumbled. He seemed surprised that the young warrior would in effect bribe him and make him party to the crime committed. However, he too had missed luxuries such as fine Engex. "Very well, cadet, bring me a bottle of your best tomorrow, but be warned, we are going to be talking to the council about disciplinary actions."

"As you'd like," Starscream gracefully bowed his head. "May we return to our bunks, we do need to catch up on some rest before flight manoeuvres tomorrow."

Darkstar nodded. He gestured to the two other warriors and they departed.

"You just bribed Darkstar," Skywarp whispered, sitting on his own bunk. He leaned over and looked over at his trine-leader.

"No scrap," was the young Seeker's terse reply. "Mind getting the rest from the storage room tomorrow, during our break?"

"He said not to leave campus without his permission!"

"He said not to leave after lights out without his permission. He never said anything about not during the day. It just needs to be done with a bit more stealth, you are stealthy as it gets with your teleport. There will be an extra cube-or whatever you want in it for you too."

"Now you're bribing me!" the dark Seeker whined.

"It is the only currency I currently have." Starscream replied, raising his empty hands to show how poor he actually was. "The energon I helped procure is the only money/power I-we have."

"I know, I know. Fine, but if I get caught, it's your idea." Skywarp said, wagging his finger.

"Very well, I will take the heat," the younger Seeker agreed. "It shouldn't come to that though. Anyway, I have to talk to the council tomorrow about my actions. I'll keep the heat off you there too, it was my idea anyway."

Thundercracker said nothing. He was still steaming angry at Starscream's earlier actions. The blue Seeker for the first time, wanted to beat the spark out of his trine-leader.

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Flight Manoeuvres

The Next Day

Seekers knew how to fly as soon as they could transform; the instinct came naturally to them. Still it was not uncommon for young Seekers to have rough landings, improper turns, taking too steep a climb and stalling, even though the ability to fly was sparked into them. They needed to be guided by skilled fliers to learn how to fine tune their native skills, how to understand the currents in the air, what the thermals meant, why air pockets would make a Seeker lose altitude. This was easily taught from elder to younger and they learned at an early age to identify various air currents.

At the Cybertron War Academy- Seeker Division these lessons were taught on an advanced level. It was more than simply how to manage a thermal, but how to handle one self in storm conditions, high winds, extremely hot or cold air- all of which could affect the flier's ability to manoeuvre. The Seeker Division redefined flight theory, teaching more than the basics but how the laws of physics acted upon a Seeker, how gravity of a planet or density of materials flier flew over would affect them, why their cybertronian forms may not work as comfortably on other worlds, and the necessity to adapt to situations.

The lessons also discussed why many of the Seekers had cockpits and a control centre that could take a smaller mechanoid, typically one who could not fly or transform. It discussed how such a relationship was useful and symbiotic; yet many Seekers refused to have anyone other than themselves in control of their systems. This refusal did show some of the true Seeker arrogance in which they deemed anyone who could not take flight a lesser being. Where the partnered flight lessons occurred Thundercracker refused outright to allow anyone to fly him. Starscream entertained the notion and briefly allowed someone to pilot him- the whole ordeal revolted him. Skywarp on the other hand agreed to allow a pilot, then denied the pilot flight control. The Dark Seeker took in a sadistic pleasure of thoroughly terrorising his temporary partner. It became apparent to Stellardrift, Riftwing and Darkstar, that this concept was a bad idea.

Where Starscream could understand the benefit, he agreed with Thundercracker. He would not allow another to control his moves. He might take on a passenger, but never a pilot. Why should he when he could do the job himself easily enough. Stellardrift, had explained that the concept of taking a pilot came from the early days when transforming was fairly uncommon and the vast majority of Cybertronians required vehicular transport to get around.

The idea to transform between native root modes and Alternative vehicular modes only came in the past seven million years until it was widely adopted. Many of the formerly non transforming Cybertronians took a t-cog upgrade to allow it. Seekers themselves were engineered from the outset with Cyber Nucleic Acid (C.N.A.) removed from small predatory flying creatures, known as Cybertronian mini-dragons; a form of predacon, that exhibited extreme intelligence, and a strongly gregarious nature. Seekers could be both manufactured in "Seeker Mills as full adult" or produced from pods in an immature form with C.N.A donated from two parent Seekers. An unexpected result from the C.N.A that was harvested from the small predators. It also appeared that Seekers that had to develop over time had a far greater understanding of the environment and world around them as opposed to those who hopped off the line fully mature and educated. In either case, the instinct to take flight was seated deep within the Seeker genome.

Seekers were from the get go Transformers. Their bio-mechanics was complex and there were initially nine prototypes; each one with different systems, builds and abilities. The size of the prototypes went from huge to what would be considered standard height; they started off with a significant bulk yet had grace. Continued development and refining of Seekers followed in the Seeker mills as well as genetic modification of naturally sparked pods. Seekers took pride in themselves and would become one of the dominant species of Cybertronian on Cybertron.

Where other Decepticons were given flight ability through anti-grav systems, propulsion systems, they lacked that intuition that the naturally sparked fliers had. It was this intuition that made the Seekers extremely dangerous in the air; however flight manoeuvres showed Seekers how to refine their flight abilities and be able to fly in tight military formation. Some of the formations had fliers flying within an inch of his neighbour so timing on relayed orders had to be absolutely spot on without any deviation or delay even by a nanometre.

These rigorous lessons did end up in injury of cadets at the very beginning, but as they progressed the Seekers flew with grace, smoothness and precision that would become the hallmark of the Decepticon Air Force. When the lessons ended, and no one was injured and time allowed, the Seekers were shown aerobatics or other show flying techniques. Most Seekers enjoyed this, displaying smoke trails in various colours, flying on wing edge, spirals, spins and barrel rolls. As their formation skills improved they were able to incorporate what they learned with the show flight then execute some complicated displays for fun and to impress the Grounders doing their exercises below.

The first squadron, with Starscream in the lead, flew overhead. The thunderous roar of their engines shook the buildings and the grounders stopped to look up and watch. Other warriors peeked out windows to view the spectacle. There were nine Seekers in total that flew in Starscream's team. They were exceptionally skilled fliers and were selected by him for the extracurricular activity of show flight. He had been noted by Darkstar and a number of other academy staff as one of the most agile and accurate fliers. He was offered a position as a leader for an air-show unit to give the warriors some extra practice in flight, as well as something entertaining to do that could not only amuse the Seekers but entertain the academy on academy down days. The effect was contagious, ground units would also join in showing off their tactical skills, their prowess with ranged weapons, and transformational displays.

First squadron would sometimes be joined by the second squadron in an interactive aerobatic display of Seekers weaving in and out of each other, zig zagging or criss-crossing across the sky. One unit would fly in between the other unit, knife edge, keeping themselves perfectly positioned so as not to contact. It was extremely dangerous yet the Seekers felt a rush and thrill.

Other times the Seekers and the Grounders got together to display mock warfare, with Seekers and Grounders firing blanks, and smoke grenades at each other. Seekers would burst smoke bombs from their wings and simulate being hit and spiral to the ground. The Grounders would simulate strikes themselves, letting off pyrotechnic displays as Seekers flew over, simulating bombing runs, it looked like chaos, but the displays were extremely controlled.

As word spread about the Seeker and grounder shows, civilians from neighbouring cities would come to view the sceptical. They would watch, optics bright in awe at the pyrotechnics, and cheer the squadrons as they made their final display.

They flew low over the academy, their bellies barely avoiding the tallest tower, they looped up then over making one more pass. As they did they released a stream of smoke, and then the trio from either side would split off, leaving Starscream and his trine flying forward. As the trine flew on, Skwarp and Thundercracker split off leaving Starscream flying solo. He activated wing smoke bombs then did a slow barrel roll, banked then met the units on the runway. The gathered civilian crowd cheered wildly. The Decepticons showed themselves to be highly skilled and accomplished fliers and ground fighters. It boosted morale for the cadets and the civilians nearby.

Starscream transformed as he landed from his flight manoeuvres.

"Well done, Cadet Starscream, an excellent show!" Darkstar congratulated the Seeker as he stepped into the hangar. "Now, did you say you had a bottle for me?" The older Seeker, in spite of his knowledge of the bribe, did relish the idea of having a great vintage passed on to him.

Starscream nodded and pulled out a sealed, unopened bottle of Engex. "Only some of the finest we have," he passed the bottle over to the larger Seeker and watched as the older warrior glanced it over. He read the label and nodded.

"A very rare blend," he said. "You said you got it from Iacon University?"

"That I did. I have had access to the stores in the past. I used to go there with Skyfire and the dean. We'd grab a bottle and discuss matters of science, education and current politics." the young flier replied. "Those were the days," he mused.

The veteran nodded. "We have matters of your own discipline to discuss, Cadet. The council wishes to see you."

Wincing, Starscream nodded. "Yeah...I was afraid this would still have to occur."

Darkstar nodded, and patted the Seeker on the shoulder. "It's a routine inquisition basically, they'll ask questions, you answer truthfully." Darkstar guided the smaller flier into his office. The younger Seeker sat on a hard metal bench looking down at his feet as the other studied him. "We first will sample the Energon."

Darkstar asked as he cracked the seal from the bottle, and poured a small glass of the rich magenta fluid. He swilled the glass and held it to the light to admire the colour. After a few moments Darkstar took a deep sniff then a sip. The large Seeker swished the energon across his taste receptors then swallowed, nodding appreciatively. "Very good indeed."

"As I said, it was excellent stuff," the younger flier reminded me.

Darkstar nodded, he poured Starscream a shot and capped the bottle putting it away. "Drink that up then you and I will discuss with the others about this infraction. We'll have a drop more after."

"I probably should be going in with a clear head," the younger Seeker said as he studied the glass of energon, but I doubt that this one drink will do me much damage...." He tossed the glass back and swallowed the energon without taking the time to appreciate it like the elder. He felt far too stressed out, worrying about being expelled. "What do you think will happen?"

"Hard to say," the dark Seeker responded. "Depends on how the Council views this situation and it depends on how you explain your part."


Darkstar patted Starscream on the shoulder. He stood up and capped the bottle again and tucked it away in subspace. He then nodded to the younger flier and gestured to the door. They would be heading into the Academy Council Chamber.

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The CWA Council

After the Show

The Chamber was designed in the manner of a courthouse, with a large dais in the middle, and seats either side. The Decepticon flag hung proudly on the back wall, it was rimmed with gold piping and it swayed gently with the breeze from air exchangers. Riftwing and Stellardrift were already seated near the dais as were other professors and military trainers.

"Starscream, please explain your actions, motives, and reasons for the actions you took last night in your illegal raid," the head councillor asked.

"My actions.... " Starscream exhaled a slow sigh as he readied himself. "My intent was to seize the energon/engex stash for me, and my team's purpose. Part of it was to have leverage and power for trade for any supplies we might need in future. Also that leverage could aid in getting some more hostile teams off our case, should we need that edge. We really did not intend to kill anyone to obtain our goal, but when the security officer arrived, there was little option. Yes, I could have rendered him unconscious, but that would mean we'd lose the advantage of the cache. It could be moved, more security measures could be applied, guards posted. Worst comes to worst, even aggravating the growing hostilities between our factions. However, the fact of the matter was I wanted revenge: I am angry. Very angry at Iacon for having my credentials stripped from me for an incident that was no fault of mine. I was not given a fair trial, I was not innocent until proven guilty. I was 'at the scene of the crime' and charged because I happened to be there. My words were not heard; are my words being heard now?" he asked rhetorically.

"Now if you please consider the rather rough conditions we are being forced to endure while learning here at the War Academy," he continued, "then you may understand the reasons for this situation having occurred.

"Only recently my wingmates and I had a long stretch of having nothing to fill our tanks with. Out of desperation, we took the first step toward securing our current cache then concealing it from everyone on this campus. Unfortunately, our stores were starting to look a little sparse. So when an enemy has what you need, why not take it? It would reduce their supplies, demoralising them to a degree. After all, an excellent cache of fine energon could improve the morale of anyone having a bad day. It sure as the pit would improve the morale of my team, as well as give us that leverage I mentioned before." Starscream glanced at his hands. He deeply desired a sip of the engex perhaps a full bottle and a cosy corner to get completely inebriated in.

"Thundercracker has not yet spoken to me today because of my action at the university. But when it comes down to it, Darkstar," Starscream turned to face his mentor and put his hands up in a somewhat resigned manner, "You are making me a killer, a warrior. You are teaching me that this is how I need to be in order to survive. I tried to play it nice, but nice is only going to end up with me dead. I told myself I would fight and I would kill; this is to survive. I want to complete this course, I want to become an air warrior. And just maybe lead my kind in battle one day. Yet if I am in trouble for killing a bot, on a small supply run, then I think there may be some issues with hypocrisy here- we are at war and Iacon is enemy territory. I have no more to say."

Darkstar stood up as Starscream sat back down. He watched the older flier approach the stand with a certain type of confidence that Starscream admired. "The Cadet, Starscream, feels his actions are justified and that no other solution would have been suitable in the circumstances," Darkstar summarised.

"He killed an innocent bystander," one of the Council members stated. "The report from his Trinemate, Thundercracker, said it was done after the 'threat was neutralised and then Starscream took the guard's weapon and killed him in cold blood. Starscream's reaction was so fast I was unable to intervene and stop it. I was shocked that Starscream could do such a thing so easily and without any apparent remorse'." The council member read from the datapad before him. He glanced over at the seated Seeker. "Such an act against civilians is, by Cybertronian law, punishable by death."

Starscream inhaled sharply, his worst fears were being realised. Not only had his wingmate betrayed him by filing a report against him, he was facing a real possibility of being executed for it. His wings began to quiver slightly.

Glancing over at the younger flier, Darkstar noted the fear in the youth's optics. And the shake in the wings. He would have to defend Starscream in earnest. "Perhaps in a non war situation, this would be a case against him; however, as he stated, we are at war and we are training them to be killers. His reaction to the situation is as we have been teaching them. Can we really hold it against the Cadet for having taken this particular action. We have been teaching them to use creative thinking in regards to obtaining supplies for survival- he just chose to take it somewhere off campus and succeeded."

"However, the mech he killed 'was a civilian only doing his job'," the Council member quoted again from Thundercracker's report.

"Perhaps you lack understanding in the story of young Starscream before he entered the service. Starscream was also doing his job when he returned to Cybertron from his exploration mission. A mission where his legal guardian, Skyfire vanished and was not seen again. Upon his return, he filed this report of his guardian's disappearance and included any research materials they had obtained." Darkstar stepped up to the panel and inserted a data disk into the slot. He uploaded the report to all council members. "If you read, then you'd know that he did everything he could to locate the Air Guardian. And he included all reports and readings he took during the search."

He uploaded another file to the members, this one outlining the dismissal. Darkstar was an excellent hacker, able to break into most databases. These files were at his fingertips and were largely insecure; no one would have considered the youthful flier being anything more than a failed scientist. "Young Starscream was, all but accused of murder and thrown out of the university. It was fortunate they did not have him arrested immediately however that is likely due to the fact there was no proof of his guilt- there may be no proof of his innocence either, but they should have at least investigated it first before expelling him.

"Prior to the events on and off campus, Starscream was incapable of killing another mechanoid being that he was a scientist, a person of peace, intelligence and learning; he still is. But what we have been doing is cultivating the killer instinct in this boy as well as others like him. Promoting the need to quickly react to situations. These cadets have been conditioned to react to protect themselves and we should not be upset when the seeds we have sown start to germinate and flourish.

"The cadet did admit his motive was to take revenge against his former university by stealing its best energon; and this is technically wrong. However, he did not go there to kill those who had wronged him- the primary difference. He only went there to take away something they enjoyed. I would also like to point out that, in any military operation, the security officer's, or any civilian's, death would be classified as collateral damage in the battle code. The warrior would not be held responsible for those who inadvertently or purposefully involved themselves into a life or death situation. And finally, he could perhaps have considered taking the guard a prisoner; however, we have yet to teach this particular skill set to the cadets. There is an art of taking prisoners and their interrogation through various torture methods."

"Indeed, Darkstar. Question for you, do you feel that you are becoming far too involved and fond of this cadet?" Asked another Council member. "Would you not say there is a conflict of interest here?"

"I believe he needs our guidance and I am acting as his and his team's mentor. I feel he can do much for the Decepticon Cause. He is Intelligent, daring and ambitious. He also seeks out personal education and training on his own time, thus far his lowest academic grades is 98%. He is so far top of the class and top cadet this academy has seen," Darkstar evaded the question. He had a fondness toward the cadet, but he also felt this cadet had much potential.

The Council turned to discuss matters with each other. Their voices melted into a hum as they discussed the outcome. Darkstar returned to the younger Seeker's side. He could feel the Seeker's fear as he neared the youth. "It'll be okay. You are a brilliant, young Seeker with great potential, they'll understand this."

Turning his head to look at Darkstar he shook it slightly. "I wish I had your level of confidence, but I don't think I'm going to win this one."

"Do you feel any remorse?" Darkstar asked quietly.

"No...not really, I suppose I should, but I don't. I did what I had to do. The only thing I regret is Thundercracker taking it so poorly... He looked as if he'd kill me last night."

"He is more of a neutral," Darkstar explained "That wrinkle with his report was unexpected, for sure."

The Council leader stepped into the light wielding a large gavel he tapped it once and placed it down gently. "We, the council of the Cybertron War Academy, find Starscream guilty, by his own admission, of murder of a civilian. In a non sanctioned- off campus activity," The young Seeker in the bench paled. "We, hereby, sentence him to death by spark extraction."

"Death by spark extraction?!" Shock from the announcement rapidly set in. The colour started to fade all across his body. While the warmth in his limbs was replaced by a coldness that rapidly pulled inward to the core.

"Primus, have... mercy," Starscream whispered, his voice barely audible to anyone but Darkstar. He sank to his seat and lowered his head in defeat. His optics turned to the only one near he felt he could trust. "I don't want to die... not like this... Darkstar, please don't let them kill me... please!"

His vision became hazy as his mind began to retreat, his thoughts started to become more difficult for him to understand. Time itself started to feel agonisingly slow. The Seeker's drew in very short breaths, barely enough to keep his internal engines running smoothly and this began to contribute to his haze. Starscream was on the verge of blacking out. He thrust a hand out to balance himself against the bench.

Darkstar pressed a reassuring hand to the young warrior then launched himself over the barrier and stood in the inner circle of the room. "I OBJECT!" he roared.

Riftwing and Stellardrift also rose from their seats. They had not agreed with the ruling and anticipated Darkstar reacting to the sentence. They were rapidly at Darkstar's side. "The cadet was doing what he was trained to do, sentencing him to death because of his training is a hypocrisy."

The security detail descended upon Starscream. He tried to draw back and push them away, but was soon overcome. They were on him, holding his arms. The young flier wished his EMP had not been modified as that would have been the only way he could have freed himself. He could feel them wrenching his wings backward behind him, and clasping the electrified wing clamps on. This followed by pulling his arms backward, and cuffing his wrists, then attaching a cable between the clamp and the cuffs, to prevent arm movement or the clamp from slipping off.

Starscream looked over his shoulder to his mentor, optics bright and pleading, as the other spoke on his behalf. Riftwing and Stellardrift had moved in position beside Darkstar. They were fighting for him. "Darkstar, help me! Please! Council, have mercy!" he screamed struggling against the restraints and hands that held him. The guards were attempting to move him from the room. "I beg of you, please, don't kill me!"

The young Seeker's cries and pleas for clemency upset Darkstar greatly and he realised that he did allow himself to get too close to the young flier, however, he would continue to fight against what he felt was entirely unjust given the circumstances.

Starscream's cries fell upon deaf audio's as he was shoved toward the prisoner's exit. He fought against every push, nudge, prod or step until the guards spun him around and started to drag him out. His vision was still hazy and he was unable to clearly make out the large silvery figure that entered from the back entrance nearest to the dais.

The Council leader was going to call for order, when the large figure walked toward the Dais with purpose. It was Megatron, the Decepticon Warlord himself, who had arrived to witness the final proceedings of the court.

Megatron had been attracted to the court by the screams of the cadet, and had asked one of the guards what had occurred. The guard informed Megatron of what the proceeding was about and the Decepticon leader frowned.

As he entered the room, could see the young Seeker resisting as guards attempted to drag him off to a cell. Megatron watched as the young Seeker fought against the bindings and his guards, begging for mercy.

The youth was clearly strong willed, determined and not set on allowing anyone to dictate his future and yet understandably frightened. He smiled slightly, Megatron could clearly see a warrior in the making and yet- the Council wished to destroy this one. He would not permit it. In the end, all decisions regarding life and death matters were his right.

"Release him!" his voice boomed across the room. The Council stopped to stare.

"My lord.." the Leader of the Council started. "Release him?"

The young flier drew in a deep breath of hope. Was it possible he was going to be allowed to go free? He fought again against the guards, however, they continued to hold him, although stopped pulling him to the entrance. They were unsure of who had the right to determine the flier's fate.

Darkstar dropped to one knee. "My Lord Megatron, this is an unexpected surprise," he stood up and his wings flicked back a bit. "Can you help him?" the older Seeker gestured toward the prisoner.

Megatron nodded at the large Seeker who knelt before him then he glanced at the young flier, who was still being held prisoner. "Am I to understand we are executing a cadet who has shown initiative, has successfully planned then executed an attack as well as dealt with any unexpected problems arising?" Megatron inquired.

"Yes, my lord." replied one of the Council members almost sheepishly. "We have decided his fate. He must be...."

"...Yes, so I have heard." Megatron cut the council off. "By sentencing him to death by spark extraction," Megatron replied coldly. "Am I being told, then, you do not approve of this cadet killing a member of the enemy faction?"

"The cadet was absent without leave... The mission was not approved and he killed an innocent person."

"This court is not approved and the fact of the matter is you were about to kill a skilled and highly intelligent cadet." Megatron responded harshly, shaking his finger between the council members and the manacled Seeker. The Council leader drew back slightly.

"I do not feel the cadet has committed any crime against the faction. Therefore, I overrule your sentence. No further action will be taken against this young air warrior. Cultivate him and his skills, don't execute him for finally displaying it." Megatron stood before the council and sat down in his dais. His figure filled the throne and he glanced about at everyone in the room.

"But Megatron, the civilian laws say...."

"Need I remind you that civilian law cannot function in a military set up during a time of war, else you would find virtually everyone amongst us guilty of murder; myself included. I have strong doubts that any of you are entirely innocent either; so allow this one cadet to live. I was also wishing to commend that same young flier on the wonderful aerobatic display he and his teams offered earlier. I would say that executing someone with such raw talent would be a waste and a great disservice to the Decepticon cause, don't you agree? And that when it comes to the fate of my warriors, it is me who determines who lives and who dies and for what reason. Now, must I ask you again? Release him!"

Starscream could barely believe his audio's, Megatron, the Decepticon Warlord was defending him.

"Yes my Lord Megatron," the Council responded. "Release the prisoner- his sentence is rescinded."

The guards quickly removed the cuffs and wing clamps not wanting to become the receiving end of Megatron's ire. The young Seeker's knees promptly gave out and he sank to the floor, a shaking mess. It was close; too close. He exhaled in relief, glad for being spared. He struggled to his feet and sat down on the nearest bench resting his head on his arms. Wings quivering and colour still washed out from terror.

"The court is adjourned," the Council leader said as the gavel hit once. Within a few minutes the room was empty except for Darkstar.

Still very pale in colour, the young Seeker glanced up and forced a smile toward the exiting Decepticon leader. It was the first time he had seen him this close. He was glad to have finally seen him and under the circumstances Megatron almost appeared to be Starscream's knight in shining armour, saving him from an unfair ruling. He watched as Megatron left the room with the retreating Council. He wanted nothing more than to, one day, work alongside this master warrior.

Darkstar returned to the shaken Seeker in the benches. "It's over now, Starscream," he said softly, placing a reassuring hand on the youths shoulder. He handed over the bottle of engex the young flier had given him earlier in the day and a pair of medium grade bottles. "Drink this, it'll calm your nerves and then go get more from your stash, you're going to need it to calm down," Starscream opened his mouth to refuse, "You can owe me a bottle later." Starscream nodded, pulling out the stopper and drinking from the bottle itself. "I'm going to speak to Megatron. Go to the medical wing, and then go back to your barrack when your strength returns to you and get some rest." The older Seeker rose to his feet and left quickly to see the Warlord himself.

Instead of returning to his barracks or visiting medical, Starscream took the bottle of engex that Darkstar had returned to him, and he hurried off to the simulator. He felt that the barrack would be the last place in the world he wanted to be. He did not want to see Thundercracker, having been angry as the pit for the report and what the result of it just put him through. His fuel pump was still hammering at a fast rate, but slowly it returned to normal.

He entered Riftwing's simulator room and activated it, using a small back door he had discovered during one of his previous hacking attempts. Once in, he activated a simulation of a landscape he had designed in his off time. The simulation of a peaceful landscape, with a golden sun setting on a deep dark ocean. He found himself a place on a bare cliff top with thick pine forests growing. Strange animals roamed the distant plains. The scene of a Miocene Earth landscape. It was alien and beautiful.

Leaning against a large boulder, Starscream popped open the bottle then drank deeply from it. When that was done, he popped open another bottle of extremely high grade enjex. He pressed his lips to the rim and drank it straight and fast. Thundercracker and Skywarp were unaware that he had taken a few extras for himself to indulge in when he wanted it. He was going to take the advice of the older flier; and sleep, but not in his bunk. Within an hour, the young Seeker was passed out in a drunken stupor. The sun's golden rays struck the clouds turning them fiery pink and orange as if someone had poured molten lava in the sky. Had he been awake at the time the sun sank below the ocean, he may have witnessed the rare green flash of light.

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Psychological Effects

Day After the Trial

Skywarp found Starscream in the simulator later the following day, he had searched out the entire campus, teleporting from room to room, looking in every place his trinemate would likely retreat to. He heard about the trial and Starscream's reprieve and figured the younger flier would have tucked himself away. Skywarp felt that his trinemate had enough time on his own and should be with friends.

When he found Starscream, the Seeker was asleep sprawled on the ground with bottles scattered around him. He frowned, realising the youth had drunk himself into a stupor likely to distance himself from the terrible experience of being almost sentenced to death.

Skywarp knelt down and shook the Seeker with a gentle hand, "You still function, Starscream? It's me, Skywarp."

With a startled grunt, Starscream woke up. He flailed slightly as he attempted to push away the other Seeker before realising who it was. "Skywarrrp...," he slurred slightly. His mouth brain function was somewhat off kilter and he struggled to get his mind straight. Starscream felt a pounding sensation in his head, which indicated to him that he was indeed alive and only slightly hung over. "Why are you here?" he finally managed.

"I was worried about you. You did not return to the barracks last night. I understood you wanted time to be alone, but when you failed to come to mess, then your classes, we became worried. It angered us, they were going to kill you," Skywarp said disbelievingly, "for doing what we've been taught to do." Skywarp picked up the empty bottles that lay around Starscream.

"Yeah," Starscream replied groggily, "No thanks to Thundercracker who pretty much welded my coffin shut," his tone became dark.

"Thundercracker was extremely upset that they were gonna execute you, his report was not meant like that. Yes he was angry about you killing, but he was surprised you could and so coldly. It seemed like, from my perspective at least, it came naturally to you."

"It felt- easy," the young flier responded. "Incredibly easy and there was satisfaction... they've corrupted me. But now, Megatron approved of it and of me," he almost gushed his last words out, he was still quite inebriated. "I am gonna do what I can to impress him!" Starscream's emotions were still scattered, nearly manic in nature, heading from a deep low to a high rapidly.

"We heard he was responsible for reversing the sentence of that unfair trial."

The young Seeker nodded enthusiastically. "He did. I owe him my life. I am very grateful to him... I am not sure when I would have been terminated, but I am slagging glad...."

Skywarp looked around at the simulation that was still running. "What is this place anyway?" he asked, attempting to change the topic. To get Starscream's mind off the previous day.

"The planet I visited before I joined the Academy. Not sure it's supposed to be called. It orbits a G5 type star...." Starscream glanced at Skywarp, "...not that I'd expect you to understand that. It has a lot of energy Cybertronians can use. I lost my guardian and friend here. I miss him and the time we spent doing what we loved- which was exploring alien worlds. He was always there when I needed help."

The dark Seeker sat down and looked over the plains where the alien beasts roamed. "You've never spoken about him."

"There is little to say, it would bore you... being science and all," the younger Seeker exhaled, "We met when I was extremely young, he basically fostered me and became my legal guardian. I was always interested in sciences, how things operated, and wanted to learn more about stuff I was unable to understand. Skyfire carefully cultured these things in me.

"Eventually he went to university and felt that I would enjoy it. I applied to my home city's University and was denied. So Skyfire got me into Iacon while he was working on his thesis for his degree. When I had completed mine, we got talking and he asked if I wanted to assist in an energy research project. I agreed, and we went off-world to a nearby star system.

"I had never been off our home world and I was impressed by what we saw. I was glad I chose that field of study. We got to explore new worlds and discover amazing things. We travelled between the university and various worlds to make new discoveries and write our papers. He and I were loved by the university- or so I thought. I realise now it was never me they were interested in; It was Skyfire.

"My efforts toward science and understanding were of no concern to them as I was a citizen of Vos, unlike Skyfire who was a citizen of Iacon the pride of Iacon. So when I returned home ten years later, without my partner and with the war brewing, I was viewed as the reason he did not return. He was lost in a storm... there was no way I could have found him. I tried."

Skywarp nodded, he may not have paid full attention to Starscream's story, but he managed to get the gist of it.

"Megatron may not care who I am, but he did save me yesterday... I want him to truly notice me one day. Maybe I can even call him my friend."

"That's wishful thinking, Screamer. Megatron's elite guards are hand picked and you've gotta be slaggin' good. No offence there, but I don't think you, or myself for that matter, have what it takes."

"Perhaps, but one can dream, can't they? It's good to set goals, even lofty ones." He glanced up at the sky and then back down.

"You know, Skywarp, have you any idea of what it is like to be told you are going to be put to death?"

Skywarp did not answer him but he looked over at Starscream, he realised his trine-leader's mind would not drop the subject.

"It's the single most terrifying thing to ever have happened to you. It's one thing to be threatened with death, have a knife to the throat, and that you can fight, but to be told in no uncertain terms that your life is going to end very shortly and there is no way to fight for it, no form of escape or reprieve." He held his fingers to his head pulling away as if his head was exploding, demonstrating the mind shattering nature.

"You can't think, you can't fight, all you can do is babble, beg, cry or scream. Your body goes numb, your colour drains. Slag, my colour is still off and I have had time to rest. But traumatic experiences don't leave you easily. I may have killed that mech, but he did not feel a thing, he did not know I killed him. He did not have time to experience what I went through when they said 'death by spark extraction'. If I understand correctly your body is killed but then the spark is removed and stored, or it's destroyed as well- not sure. I have heard of a form of incarceration of the most dangerous criminals in the form of spark storage."

"My report, Starscream, was not intended as a way to get rid of you," Thundercracker's voice said from behind.

Starscream turned around suddenly, wishing he did not. His head spun and his tanks churned. The Seeker's wings flicked back and he glared at the blue Seeker. "What was your intent then?"

"I was asked to describe what happened. No I did not approve of your kill, not at the time, but I understand where you were coming from. It scared me that it came so easily for you, considering how you've been hesitant for the past several months. But I can understand what you mean, your way was more merciful than what happened to you. I can't imagine the psychological effect of being told you have to die, than to simply be killed quickly without warning. Please forgive me for my part in yesterday's fiasco."

"And me too, for not realising you were in deep scrap, I coulda got you out." Skywarp added, "but I was busy obtaining the rest of the energon as per your orders," he smiled.

Starscream nodded, but he was not smiling. His mind reviewed the previous day and his fuel pump skipped a few hammers. He shuttered his optics and shook his head attempting to clear his mind. "Yeah, Thundercracker, I'll forgive you this time. But don't do it again. I won't forget this any time soon." He stood up and shook himself once more. "I guess I better get moving, I have classes to attend. End simulation," he said sharply. The Miocene scene ended and the room returned to its pre-projection state. He said nothing else to his trinemates as he left the simulator, and by his abrupt exit, he did not wish company.

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