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The Cause
On the Prowl By: Sunstar

The energy rectifier disk is the only thing that stands between Starscream having a good day and a very bad day. Unfortunately Prowl, of the Autobots, has it.

On the Prowl

The sky overhead was dark grey from thick storm clouds. Rain came down in torrents and lightning flashed brightly in dazzling pinks and whites. Within the torrential rain bravely flew a small group of jets. Seekers, Decepticon planes; led by Starscream. The wind, rain and thunder drowned out their engines so their flight went fairly unnoticed.

They were out on a mission, on a hunt. Only earlier in the day Starscream had been attempting to extract a valuable data disk and failed. His return home was less than pleasant but he managed to get a stay of punishment. Only if he could succeed in taking the energy rectifier data disk from the Autobots.

Instead his mission had brought Dirge, Ramjet and Thrust home badly damaged. Only his insistence, while under the unforgivable barrel of the fusion cannon, that they were responsible for the failure was enough to give him just one more opportunity to succeed. Or so he hoped. However, Megatron punched his lieutenant soundly across the jaw as a promise of worse things to come should he not return with the data disk. Starscream pushed the threat out of his mind as he flew into the thick of the storm.

The wind buffeted him as he compensated with trim tabs and rudder to maintain a level and direct flight. The storm was too strong to allow for aerobatic flying, not to mention the rain was far too heavy for regular visual methods. The rain hammered at his wings and body with an intensity.

He allowed the drum of rain to beat a cadence to his thoughts. The energy rectifier data disk was important to a new project that Megatron had concocted with the Constructicons. Starscream had been required to claim it for the Decepticons. It was something the humans had conceived and Megatron had thought it very useful to his plans.

"Useful, my sine function," Starscream thought sourly as he continued to make nearly unconscious adjustments to his flight. "Decepticons should not have to rely on the primitive technologies of inferior life forms." He remained aware of the two jets, flying in close formation, on either side of him as he continued to stew over the earlier mission.

Starscream had grabbed it from the human scientists, after some threats of becoming one with the molecules of the wall. Then they were almost happy to hand it over. He had it in his possession when the all too familiar sound of engines approached. He glanced over his wing and spotted a small convoy of Autobots. Prowl, Jazz, Skids, Smokescreen and Bumblebee.

He groaned and yelled orders to keep the Autobots at bay while he fired laser bolts into the building. The structure shuddered as it started to sag and burn.

It was at this point that things started to fall apart. Dirge was abruptly overcome by an onslaught of irrational fear and became useless. Thrust urged encouragement to him but the Autobots broke through and hammered them with fire.

Starscream was making a run from the collapsing building when he was surprised by an impact in the back, between his great wings. He fell forward and dropped the data disk. Quickly he reached out to grab it but it rolled edgewise away as a large foot stepped on his hand. He cried out in surprise and pain.

"I'll be taking that, thank you," Prowl said as he snapped the disk up and slipped it into a subspace pocket. "It is too fragile for your heavy handedness."

The Autobot stepped off his hand and he could see Ramjet, Dirge and Thrust with smoking wounds already flying a retreat. With no backup, Starscream felt it would be wise to fall back and contemplate an alternative later.

The Air Commander's attention was brought back to matters at hand as the storm became very heavy. Just ahead of him lightning flashed brightly which extracted an admiring "oooh" from Skywarp at his left. Thunder rumbled almost immediately which received an appreciative murmur from Thundercracker.

Weather such as this never occurred on their home planet. Rain was fairly rare and very dangerous. Seekers, unless properly shielded, never flew in the rain which poured forth from ill coloured clouds.

Starscream attempted to keep focused on the ground while he battled with the elements. He was hunting for Autobot energy signatures, hoping for the moment to order the command to burst from the sky and rain laser fire death upon his unsuspecting Autobot prey. As acid rain on Cybertron was dangerous to Seekers; Seekers shrouded in storm clouds were deadly to Autobots.

A strong gust of wind again jostled the triad who expertly maintained their positions.

"We will never find them in this slag," Thundercracker grumbled over his communicator.

"We need to keep trying," Starscream insisted. "Use your instruments and keep an optic on your artificial horizon Skywarp, your altitude is slipping," he warned as his wingmate started to slip out of the bottom layer of clouds.

Skywarp quickly compensated. "Why do we have to go along for this? I wasn't the one who pissed Megatron off," Skywarp muttered.

A huge crack of lightning and boom of thunder drowned out Starscream's sour response.

"Your remarks are not appreciated, Starscream," Megatron's voice cut in.

Starscream groaned audibly. "Can't I carry out a single mission without your constant interference?" Starscream inquired.

"Your activities need to be monitored constantly, you are not to be trusted," Megatron replied acidly.

"You are an unnecessary distraction," Starscream muttered.

Megatron was relaying a biting remark when the Seeker snorted and cut communications with base. Starscream realised there would be repercussions for that, but it did not matter. He was already in deep slag from the previous mission, additional punishment would likely go unnoticed and if he succeeded, there could be a strong chance that Megatron might forget that he cut him off.

And they flew on.

Far below they spotted the Autobots driving cross country toward the ark. The rain system had crossed over the area and the streams and rivers were swollen and muddy. The area was heavily forested interspersed with fields and farmlands. The clouds cast shadows on the land below and the Seekers attempted to keep their own shadows hidden within them.

The road that the Autobots drove along was a glossy black as the rays of sun peeked through the clouds. The tires of the Autobots kicked up a fine spray that added to the fine mist that rose up from the fields as the sun warmed them.

Skywarp was practically shaking in anticipation of the attack. His wings dipped from side to side and he was getting irritated at being held back.

"Look at those mud covered land huggers," Thundercracker grumbled.

Starscream viewed his prey for a moment, sure enough they had travelled through some dirt roads that splashed up a spray of dirt and grime across their vehicular forms.

"Skywarp, Thundercracker, await my orders and attack from the sun. They won't be able to see us with all that reflection," Starscream said in a low rasp.

"Ready?" he paused. "...DECEPTICONS ATTACK," he screamed into his communicator. The three jets accelerated as they nosed toward the convoy below.

Spike in Bumblebee hung out the window looking up as the triangular shadow of a Seeker crossed overhead. "Shit, look! It's the Decepticons," he warned.

"And I thought we ran them off for good," said Jazz with disappointment.

Starscream noted the human and snorted in disgust. He wondered why they always had to have them with them, a mascot? A pet? Perhaps a lucky charm. It seemed to hamper their own efforts at stopping the Decepticons, but Starscream was not going to complain. Anything that helped the Decepticons gain the upper hand was fine by him.

The Autobots transformed and started to fire, but their shots were off. The Seekers were but black marks in the blinding sun. Their jet engines screamed as they fired a strafing run at the ground. Spurts of ground flew into the air as the Seekers pock marked the road.

"I want Prowl, he has the data disk, isolate him from the rest," Starscream ordered. "But do not damage him," the Seeker warned. His wingmates made a murmur of assent as they plunged forth.

Skywarp teleported and reappeared near the group and fired a missile into their midst. It exploded with a tremendous boom blowing a massive crater into what used to be a well maintained two lane freeway. The Autobots scattered in all directions, running into the forest .

Thundercracker directed a sonic boom toward the trees and the fleeing Autobots. The force of vibration knocked trees over and the Autobots flattened themselves and covered their audios. Bumblebee shielded Spike as the trees crashed down around them.

"Well, I'll be damned!" Starscream could hear Jazz exclaim.

"Excellent! Skywarp, Thundercracker, keep at it!" Starscream urged. If only the coneheads had shown this level of competence and co-operation earlier he might have succeeded. The three Seekers continued to attack randomly until Prowl was far enough away from the group.

"Keep them distracted!" Starscream screamed as he chased down Prowl.

Prowl stopped and fired back at Starscream. The Seeker transformed and hovered in the air Dodging the acid pellets as they whizzed by.

The Air Commander landed neatly onto the ground and slowly stepped toward the braced Autobot "You have something that belongs to me," Starscream said, holding out his hand. "I want it, now!" He locked his blazing red optics on the Autobot second in command's watery blue optics. Starscream tried to project all his hate and loathing into the inferior mech.

"Yes, you can have it," Prowl said after a moment, shrugging off Starscream's attempt at intimidation, "after I am done slagging you, Starcreep." He open fired at the Seeker.

Starscream barely dodged the volley of acid as he return fired his null ray. The Autobot gasped in surprise as he sank to his knees and slipped to his side paralysed. His weapon slipped from his fingers and Starscream kicked it out of reach.

"There is much to be said about the human myth of Karma," Starscream sneered. "What goes around, comes around." The Decepticon Seeker laughed as he placed his foot heavily on the Autobots hand squishing it into the soft ground.

Prowl could feel no pain as the null ray had deadened most of his senses and tactile feedback relays.

"I will be taking that, thank-you-very-much," said Starscream cheerfully as he slipped the energy rectifier disk from Prowl's hand and placed it carefully into a subspace pocket. He had it, it was done. Starscream could just had to return to base and get it into Megatron's hand and all would be forgiven. Prowl murmured an insult to Starscream and the Seeker turned about on his heel, his face livid.

"Dare you talk to me in that manner, Autoscrap," Starscream shrieked. He looked at the Autobot and leaned down aimed his weapon then hesitated for a moment. A sinister smile played across his lips and he crouched down until he was face to face with his paralysed prey.

"I was going to leave you like this," Starscream said in a tone that was laced with malice, "so you might recover to report your failure to keep this data from me, but..." Starscream reached down and grabbed the Autobot by the throat in one hand and let his free hand to open the bonnet. "Since you insist on inciting my anger." His fingers reached inside and he started to snap wires one by one. "I will slowly pull you apart bit by bit."

Prowl, who was coming out of his paralysis winced in agony as Starscream continued to rip out components, sparing the vital mechanics as he went along. Prowl gasped in pain and Starscream revelled in his torment.

"Not so tough now are you?" Starscream asked as his hand hovered over the hammering fuel pump. The pump's activities sped up as Starscream hooked his fingers around it and pulled the main fuel line free. Prowl cried out as his energon sprayed out and splattered across Starscream. The red Seeker laughed as he let the Autobot go.

Prowl thrashed on the ground for a few moments before becoming too weak to continue. The Seeker glanced over his wing to ensure that he was not going to be attacked. He had not been paying too much attention.

"Have any last words?" Starscream asked sarcastically, placing his foot on the Autobot's throat. Prowl's mouth moved in silence, "No? What a pity, I was hoping for something interesting." Starscream smiled as he reached down inside the eviscerated Autobot and crushed an oblong spark housing in his hand. There was a bright flash of light and then Prowl quickly darkened.

He looked at the body and the pool of energon that surrounded it. He felt a sense of extreme satisfaction. The data disk was recovered and the Autobot lieutenant was dead. He was sure that he would be rewarded most handsomely for his victory. He had little doubt that Megatron would be very pleased with the success and understand that he was hindered earlier by incompetent team mates.

The Air Commander glanced down at himself and realised he was covered in the sticky purple fluid that was starting to jellify. He reached down and tore the head off the body, a trophy and proof of his kill, and walked to a flooded stream. He stood knee deep in water washing the Autobot's fluids off his chest and wings.

"Did you get the energy rectifier disk?" Thundercracker asked as he flew to where Starscream was bathing.

"Yes, and it was murder to get," Starscream said dryly, glancing over his wing toward the trees while holding up severed the head.

Thundercracker smiled. "Then let's get outta here before more arrive," the blue Seeker responded.

Starscream nodded and transformed as he leapt into the air. Skywarp and Thundercracker joined him. As he gained altitude he saw the damaged hulks of the Autobots. Smoke drifted in the wind and Starscream knew the Autobots would be far too busy to pursue.

"Megatron, this is Starscream. The mission was a complete success," Starscream crowed as he flew onward in victory.