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The Cause
Chapter 1 Destitution

Just cast away and I am lost at sea
Another lonely day and no one here but me
More loneliness than any man could bare
Rescue me before I fall into despair
The Police, Message in the bottle

It took the last reserves of his energy to reach the star's third planet. It was Earth-like in many ways. There were huge oceans and two large land masses separated by a small sea. There were lots of shallow lakes, swamps and bogs in the area he chose to crash land. Starscream's engines sputtered and died as he entered the atmosphere. 'Not good', he thought.

He took a visual check of where he was heading. Closing his eyes, he plunged blindly down and made a low scream. The air around him heated as he plummeted from the sky. His speed was too fast for him in his present condition. He opened his eyes and noticed a lake below him, two hundred kilometres long. He thought that if he could attempt for a crash landing there, he might survive the almost uncontrolled descent.

Fighting with his systems, he managed to guide himself to the lake. He got his nose up, an effort that drained him of most of his scant energy. With a sonic boom and a shrill scream, his belly hit the lake sending huge waves of water up into the air.

He skipped into the air again, fighting to maintain control. He was thrown several more kilometres. His speed had slowed enough for him to try to guide his crash landing away from the edge of the lake. Again he hit the water, skipping into the air for another kilometre. His final plunge landed him in the water of a tropical swamp. He transformed and sank partially into the mud.

Starscream lay unconscious, in the stinking mud, unmoving for several days. The pressure of his crash landing had blacked out his mind causing him to enter a type of coma.

It was bright, sunny, and very humid when he regained consciousness. The smell from the swamp was near intolerable. It reeked of rotten eggs and of something else, the sickly sweet stench of death. His eyes blinked on. He groaned, confused, as the smell assaulted his olfactory sensors. He felt ill. It took time for him to ignore that particular noisome odour. Not far from where he lay was a rotting corpse of a huge animal. It was far too decomposed for anyone to have recognized what it was, but it had a odd resemblance to a whale or a plesiosaur.

The sound of strange birds and the creaking of foreign insects rang in his audio sensors.

He looked around from his vantage point, which was very low. Mud almost completely covered him in a thick, warm, slimy blanket. It was sticky and a brown-green colour. Algae covered the surface like a thick green slime. Small creatures and worms wriggled through the mush. Only his upper chest and face were completely out of the swamp.

He did a quick scan of his internal and external conditions. From a stroke of luck, he was in near perfect condition. His decade of outer space drifting had drained him of most of his energy. He was very weakened and could barely move. He was somewhat glad he had hit the water of the long lake instead of land. If he had hit the land he surely would have been obliterated. Mind you, at least that would have been quick, and in his blacked out state, he most likely would have not even felt it.

His reserves of energy were nigh exhausted. He knew that if he did not think of some way to get energon it would not matter. He would perish regardless of how good he looked. 'I need to fire my travel agent', he thought. He had not planned for this camping trip, therefore he had not packed any energon wafers. So there he lay, stuck in the mud, without an ounce of energy, watching the sun dance across the sky. Clouds drifted overhead as they gathered for a rainstorm. The sky slowly darkened and in the distance thunder boomed. Starscream had hoped a strike of lightning would hit the swamp he was in. The charge from such a strike might give him a bit of a power boost, but a direct strike would fry his circuits for sure.

One drop, two drops, lots of drops. It had started to rain. He blinked as the rain fell on his mud covered face. The droplets of water were cool and cleansing. He noticed the water he was in was rising. It came up to his head. He started to feel fear, he was going to be covered. The storm was blowing in debris and the mud was covering him further. He looked around, gasping as sludge and water slopped into his mouth. He spat disgustedly, as he struggled to move his hands, to find some purchase to help pull himself out of the marsh. He was splashing the murky water up into his face as he fought to drag his weakened body out.

Drained, he panted as he lay on his back on marginally higher ground. He watched as the storm lessened and drifted on. Without his realizing it he fell into a doze. When he awoke, strange star patterns glimmered overhead through broken patches of cloud. A cool breeze wafted over him and again he calmly went into a sleep.

The next day the sky was a dull grey, the humidity was almost thick enough to swim in. The air was heavy with the stench of that rotting animal. He sighed in disappointment. There had been no local strikes of lightning. He exhaled, his body felt like lead. He wanted to move but he did not have the strength or will power to even try.

He was not even sure he gave a cyber rats rear about what happened to him now. It was done. He had no strength. To collect energon you need to move to find it. On this uncharted backwater planet where would he even start to look for it?

The Seeker lifted his head to watch a dragonfly dart back and forth. Laying eggs in the water. Flying around his head it returned to its egg laying activity. Suddenly a large fish like creature opened its mouth and swallowed the insect. Strangely he felt for a moment a sense of pity for the pretty flying insect.

Starscream felt a pang of regret to have not been able to do anything to even prevent his pending end. He dropped his head back into the mud hardly moving. He closed his eyes. It was not even his choice. No warning, and blam! into space he was drifting. If he had even wanted to come here he would have gathered some supplies. Enough energon to get him to the planet in a speedy manner. And certainly enough to keep him going until he could track and tap a useable supply. As he had once said before 'no energy, no life.'

He grunted as he tried to move. His energy had drifted to a meager two percent. His mind kept blanking as he tried to think of a plan to save his sorry, soggy ass. He was unable to think of anything useful. With a whine he resigned himself to the inevitable. So low on energy he decided that he, Starscream, the fastest jet in the sky, would be the coward every one thought he was and go into that final sleep from which there was no return. He did not think anyone would find him where he lay.

He was almost literally dead in a swamp. Plants would soon grow over him and hide his body in a matter of a few months No one would know where he was even if they cared. No one even knew he lived. Revived from death by Unicron only to perish in some swamp on a distant primitive world. Starscream felt sorry for himself. He really did not want to die here. Such a loss all Decepticons it was going to be. Perhaps he thought Skyfire would find him as he had found once Skyfire.

One more moment he waited. Death was almost here. The last ebbs of his strength slipped. His mind started to drift into the oblivion.

Bloop! A loud sound came near his right side. His mind drifted to consciousness as a second and larger bubble erupted from the swamp. The warm humid air was causing material in the swamp to rapidly rot. Starscream's olfactory senses told him he had discovered methane gas. He turned his head to look at the spot. There was barely enough energy in him to hold his head in that position.

He fought with his mind to keep it clear. Methane could be converted into energon. He thought if he had a workable energon cube he could harness it and live. He knew, if he did not harness the methane immediately, he would expire in only a few short moments.

His survival instincts kicked in. He really did not want to die again. He drew his hands together and concentrated and a very small energon cube appeared between his hands. The drain almost exhausted him and his thoughts scattered into incoherence. He fought to gain control of his mental processes. With success he took the tiny cube and held it over a bursting bubble. His hands shook with the strain of the effort but he managed to hold it over the bubbling spot. Murky energon shot from the bubble and partially filled the cube.

With violently trembling hands he lifted the cube to his lips, it smelled vile but he drank deeply nonetheless. The energon was barely pink, more of a muddy red. It was thick and almost oily tasting as it slipped into his mouth and down to his internal fuel storage compartment. A tiny trickle of the energon ran down his chin.

He leaned back into the sticky mud feeling the minor charge of energy running through his system. Hardly pushing the imminence of his death back. He attempted to sit up and with an effort, sat up shakily. He brought his hands together a second time to make another cube the same size as the first. He leaned back, exhausted. But he was resolved to attempt to collect more of the off coloured energon.

After several attempts he had enough energon to let his energy starved body rest for a short moment and absorb the fresh fuel. He looked at the sun and the blue sky and sighed, then he closed his eyes and slept for what seemed a few hours. He awakened, frightened that if he remained asleep he would not wake again.

The swamp still stank. He watched the mud of the swamp bulge. He held an unused cube over and it filled as the surface of the bubble broke. He drank again. His energy was still very low, barely five percent, but it was higher than it had been an hour or two ago.

He looked around himself and decided that laying in the swamp was no longer a pleasant idea, not that he had ever considered it a nice place to lay in. He had heard that mud was great for the complexion but decided that the odor of the great "plesiosaur" was a good enough reason to get out.

He heaved himself over onto his chest. His hands trembled as he pulled himself to the edge of the swamp. Coated in the dark brown and green mucky slime, his beautiful red and white body barely showed its true colours. His face was dirty except for a couple of spots where energon had run down and left a sticky trail. He laid face down, sprawled on the bank.

He lifted himself to his hands and knees then slumped into a sitting position. He created a couple of more cubes which he filled and drank. Life energy started to fill him again although the swampy tasting energon was starting to make him feel ill.

He sat on the ground and looked over his muddy body. He was still weak with the low energy but revived enough h that he now had more than a fighting chance. He was in fine condition with a couple of minor scratches and a dent or two. It had been a certain miracle that he was not more severely damaged. An unplanned entrance into a thick planetary atmosphere, skipping like a stone across a lake and landing smack dab in a marsh and all he had was a couple of scratches. Not all things were turning out badly, hey, Screamer?

The foul smelling energon gave him the energy boost he needed to stand up. He looked around and took in his surroundings with more than just curiosity. He walked to the huge plesiosaur corpse and the smell made him almost retch. The last thing he needed was to spill that precious energon.

He walked around the swamp looking for some other form of fuel he could use to make into cubes. There was none. He was all alone stranded, surviving off swamp gases. He sagged to his knees in the soft ground. With a sound that resembled a sob, he lifted his head to the sky in the direction of Cybertron. "You will pay for this, Galvatron! You will pay!" he screamed in anger, then crumpled into a heap.

He was very glad there were no Autobots or even other Decepticons around to see him in this condition. They would surely laugh. "Hey, Screamer", Skywarp would tease. "How was the mud bath?" Thundercracker would banter back as well, "How is it? I mean, drinking unfiltered swamp energon? Geez, Starscream, you are looking a little green around the face"

He sighed. Another regret wormed its way to the surface. Skywarp and Thundercracker were like brothers to him. He would not admit it to any one, but he cared for them. He knew he could never truly show it. Although he seemed dispassionate to their plight. He had felt guilty about dumping them into space.

He made it seem that he did not give a damn for either of them. But did he really give a damn, after all? He wondered. He shoved them off Astrotrain that day along with Megatron and the Insecticons.

He really did not want to shove Thundercracker or Skywarp out but it was the plan with Astrotrain. It did pain him when they begged him not to do it, but they needed an excuse to ditch Megatron. It was all or nothing. So out they went too. He did send Astro out a day or so later to find them but they were gone. He said all there was left was debris.

That should have been his first warning that all was not right. Where was Megatron? He should have asked rather than assume that Megs had somehow gotten himself out of it. He knew it was most likely the final straw but he was confident that Megatron would have quickly died. He had streams of energon leaking. He would have bled to death in a very short time.

When he had realized that Skywarp and Thundercracker had really disappeared, for all he knew at the time they were truly dead, he had a team go to the crypt and set up a couple of markers in their honour. And he silently mourned.

Perhaps he should have shown a little more than the indifferent face to the ones he had cared for. But he had thought that if he showed them that they would be lost like Skyfire was lost. They were lost regardless of what emotion he showed them. The two Decepticons had been important to his team, and had always been there from day one. Now he had to stand alone. Utterly alone on a distant planet billions upon billions of kilometres from Cybertron.

He cursed to himself as he had finally gotten himself out of the swamp and survival at the moment was assured. With that he was relieved, but he still very frustrated. Like Megatron had years ago ditched him on a deserted island, he was stuck on this rock. However he could get off the deserted island, where as here he most likely could not. What was he thinking when he went this route? It was quite lovely, but it was not Cybertron.

Oh, he really wanted to be back on Cybertron. If he could get there he could hide in one of the old ruined cities. He was certain he would not be found. He was pretty sure the Autobots had not the population to police the entire planet. It was huge world. Then again, any time a Decepticon invader would go near the world, his presence was automatically detected. The Autobots would be warned by their computer, Teletran Two, whose monitor would light up like the proverbial Christmas tree.

'Oh, Christmas,' he thought. He was never sure of what it really meant nor did he actually care. He would often watch as the humans rushed around towards December. What they were doing was a complete puzzle to him. The music that hit the airwaves around that time, when he decided to tune in, was terrible and it seemed like the same six songs done in slightly different manners. Sometimes he would hear the Decepticons humming the odd Christmas tune. He liked human music -- some of it could be quite interesting -- but Christmas music was very hard to stomach..

What he secretly loved with Christmas was the lights. The humans hung lights everywhere: up trees, around their houses, in the shops. Flying over human towns on a calm, clear night, just after a fresh snow had fallen, he had seen nothing more beautiful. The coloured lights were amplified by the snow and they look like jewels in a rich white velvet robe.

It also appeared that humans loved snow as well as hated it. He had watched the fleshling brats build something they called a snowman. It looked nothing like a man in any respect other than the simple face or hat it was given. Three balls of snow in diminishing sizes were piled one on top of the other. Starscream had taken to this idea and went to a mountain top where he made a snow Starscream and a good one. He smiled fondly at the memory.

The Humans who hated it, shoveled it. They would often lose control of their vehicles, ending up in ditches. When the weather really rolled in there were some serious accidents. The snow would come down so heavily that it even grounded him on occasion. What he did not like was the searing cold. Mind you it was warmer than in outer space. He did not like that cold either.

* * *

This world, although older than it was when he first arrived with Skyfire, was still quite primitive. The atmosphere had a thick layer of carbon dioxide that kept the planet in a very, very warm state. It also appeared to rain quite a bit. The humidity in the air was almost as wet as the ground. Thinking of wet... He decided he was going to take a bath and remove all the mud.

Peering down at himself, he thought he looked like a swamp monster. Green slime glistened over brown muck. He also smelled like the swamp. Not that any one would have cared. There was no one else here but great primitive beasts. Starscream always had to look his best. Once he looked better he figured he would feel better. So he walked over to the lake. His feet kept sinking into the soft ground and when he lifted them they made rude slurping sounds. A few more steps to the lake and the ground was more solid and sandy.

The water was refreshingly cool. He rinsed the filth from his body and the clear water around him went brown. He knelt into the water and splashed it into his face. He waded out to deeper water and dove under. He surfaced and his face glistened in the warm sun. Then he returned to the shore. He sat on the ground between the lake and swamp in a relatively dry area and took another look around.

Large frond trees stood by the swamps and mangrove type trees in the swamps. Ferns and cycads grew in abundance. Mosses grew in clumps and clusters on the rocks and trees. Huge primitive flowers bloomed everywhere. Orchids and air plants, hidden in amongst the moss, hung from the branches of some of the mangrove trees. Bromeliads grew in abundance their bright leaves adding a splash of red or pink to the verdant green growth. It was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.

The swamps had plants that looked like bulrushes from old Earth, and lily pads and flowers covered the swamp. Huge mats of what resembled water hyacinths and water lettuce covered large areas of the swamp. A small stream ran from the swamp to the lake. The water that came from it was reasonably clear.

Huge insectivorous plants grew around the marshy edges. Venus flytraps with leaves the size of dinner plates lay in wait for the large flying insects that buzzed around. Sundew plants with huge, red, sweet smelling, sticky filaments glistened in the sun. A couple of them had victims snared in their sticky nets. Pitcher plants were the most massive of all; they grew four feet tall with a huge sheltering leaf covering the open mouth to the bowl of the plant. The inside was brightly coloured and a sweet aroma wafted from it. Its leaves trailed into the water of the swamp and insects were flying all around.

"Interesting," he said aloud. 'It's a different place when you are not stuck in the middle of it, dying,' he thought back to himself.

Amphibious and reptilian creatures basked or hunted around the edges and in the waters. Lungfish laboured through the swamps outlet into the lake. They looked a lot like the pictures of ancient earth creatures that he had looked up when he was still on Earth.

One of the few real signs of civilization the humans showed was the Internet, so much information at their fingertips. Most of the Decepticons had a look every so often but most did not find it overly exciting. Rumble had a knack for it, Soundwave had insisted that he and Frenzy hack it. They caused discreet havoc, from viruses to denial of service attacks. Starscream researched much that the Decepticons could use scientifically or tactically.

He watched a creature similar to a Dimetrodon. He wondered if it was as similar that it could evolve into mammals or even worse, humanoids. A fleeting thought ran across his mind to kill the creature. It was not doing any actual harm so he left it alone. By the time it evolves into a human, if that's its path Starscream should be long gone from this world.

He wondered if there were coal or tar deposits anywhere nearby. A shame he did not have a computer to tell him everything he wanted to know. So with determination to find a better fuel than swamp gas he set off to have a look around locally. He spent a better part of the day walking north and all he saw was thick lush vegetation, snakes, reptiles and more plants.

The sky was clouding over and the rains were about to resume. It rained almost every night. He turned around and walked back to the swamp. This was "home" for now, he thought, depressed. There was no luck in finding anything but more plants, swamps or streams. Deciding that ill tasting energon was better than none, he resumed collecting energon from the bubbles, hoarding it till he had enough for a few days so he could hike further away.

Night fell, and the thunder and lightning flashed. Starscream huddled by the lake feeling miserable about getting pissed on by the rain. He held his precious supply under him and used his wings to shelter them. He allowed himself only one of the cubes, which were far larger than he had started with a day or so earlier.

He was certain he was starting to feel damp inside. It could be psychological, with the constant lying in the swamp and humidity, topped off with the evening rains. He could be thinking he was soaked to the "bone". He needed better than this. He needed to find or build a shelter of some kind. If not to keep him dry, to keep his cubes dry.

The sun rose like a large blood red eye in the early morning sky. The whips of clouds were coloured bright pink and glowed like lava. The swamp was shrouded in a mist. The night had gotten quite cool and Starscream had wished he had been able to go into a sleep cycle. The dawn was beautiful and he marveled at the numbers of colours the sky changed to before the bright sun heated the damp earth and set up for another very humid day. He almost thought moss was going to start growing on his wings.

He covered his cubes with a couple of leaves. He was not sure what he was hiding them from but he had a distinct feeling he was being watched. It was far too wet in the evenings to start a fire but he felt that he did not have the spare energy to use force should he have to defend himself against potentially dangerous animals.

Not that he had seen any "live" ones, yet he knew they had to exist because of the rotten plesiosaur. He could not afford to take any damage to his body. He had no tools or alloys that he could use to repair himself. He would have to find some resources soon so he could start building something. What would he use to dig it out? Stone tools? He hissed at himself. 'You will figure it out when the time comes, you always do'

He decided to make a rough lean-to. He gathered fallen logs and bound them together with vines that grew in endless supply around his swamp. He gathered fronds from some of the palm trees and layered them in a thick water resistant mat over the primitive shelter to keep the rain at least off his cubes. He collected several more cubes and some vaguely dry, rotten wood. He decided he was going to call it a day.

The sun moved overhead and then set in the west. Another day was done. It was the first night he spent not lying in the swamp or sitting in the rain. This night it did not rain . The night was warm and still very humid. The air was thick with the scent from the pitcher plant nearby. It appeared the smell got stronger as the sky went to dusk.

He sat on a large log and looked up into the sky. The stars twinkled, and he spent ages looking and wondering where the star that Cybertron orbited was. He thought he saw it glowing bright, and blue. He was feeling homesick. A smaller, not so bright, yellow star twinkled and it disappeared behind a distant cloud. He figured that one was earth's sun. It was annoying to him that he felt like he missed both worlds, and yet both worlds were strongly occupied by the Autobots.

The night world was filled with far stranger sounds than during the day. This night there was no thunder to drown out the loud bellowing calls and thundering crashes of large unseen animals in combat. The thought unnerved him that he still did not have a good energy reserve should he have to fire his rifles in defense Although his personal energy was at twenty - five percent, his physical supply of energon was not enough to warrant use of his weapons. Without putting him back into possible dire straights.

The night call of frogs and insects stopped. The swamp fell silent. Very silent. The water of the lake almost seemed like it stopped lapping at the shore. Starscream stopped dead still. He glanced at his energon. He needed to take it with him if he decided to go further than a half a day out. 'You can't use it all now.' he thought to himself. 'Anyway what will it charge you to? Thirty thirty five percent? Then what? Wait, be patient, get yourself at least two full charges worth before you do something overly energetic.'

He flicked his optics to night vision, starlight enhanced. He almost yelled out as he was suddenly able to see a large, winged beast lumbering by. The beast stopped and uttered a weird cry that made Starscream's circuits quiver. The cry was answered in the distance. The huge animal, resembled an ancient earth sauropod, around twenty five metres in length. It plodded at the edge of the lake. It carried on for a good five or six hundred metres before it stuck its long necked head into the water. Bubbles erupted to the surface. It stopped and watched.

From the lake, a huge plesiosaur reared its neck. A mouth full of teeth grabbed at the big winged monster's back. The monster flapped in a rather futile way and it managed to lift off the ground and move a couple of metres. It was quite obvious that this creature was either just evolving to flight or losing that ability. Its body was too huge or its wings were too small.

The winged creature whipped its head around at the plesiosaur and spat at it. The gob landed on the plesiosaur's head. Starscream thought this was amusing until he saw what was happening to the great lake creature. It thrashed around and the head emitted steam. Starscream watched in disgust as the flesh melted back exposing the brain and the plesiosaur fell to the water, dead. The giant winged creature hauled the corpse to the shore and spat on it a couple more times and then walked away. It cried out again and the answering cry was very, very close.

What was most disturbing to Starscream was that the venom touched the rocks and some of them started to sizzle into nothingness. 'What would that substance do to me?', he wondered. That explained the corpse in the swamp where he had lain.

He figured the best measure was to keep at a distance from the creature. It cried out again and the calls of the others were far closer. He watched silently as a slightly smaller creature than the hunting one emerged from the jungle. Two more, very small ones flew in, their body to wing ratio was more proportioned for flight so they could fly as babies it seemed. The wings must be a defensive mechanism for the creatures when they are younger. The two adults greeted each other in an affectionate manner. The babies ran to the plesiosaur and started to feed. The adults joined in, with their wings overlapping, sheltering the young.

The creatures ate on and off for a couple of hours and then they lumbered into the jungle. The babies flew alongside. Nothing came near the corpse. Starscream waited for a couple of minutes and sprinted to the fallen animal. He looked at the venom and sniffed at it. Off to the side was a bubbly substance. Starscream dipped his finger into it and sniffed it. Soap? How could this be? Then he figured it out.

The venom was lye and it had reacted with the fat of the fallen beast. The venom was alkaline. His fears were legitimate. If the stuff hit him it would damage him seriously. What intrigued him more was how in the world a creature could evolve to spit such a caustic substance and not do itself any damage.

Starscream returned to his encampment. He was worried that something else would intrude on his much needed rest. He was also worried whether or not fire would attract or scare away any creatures like the beasts he had just seen. He would hate to wake up in the middle of the night with no legs or worse. With a spit as caustic as lye, he decided he would watch those creatures in future.

He removed the dank wood from his lean to and bit the bullet. 'Most creatures fear fire,' he decided, and built the small pile of wood into a little teepee. He found dry leaves to lay around the base of the small wood cone and lit it with a spark from his index finger. The leaves ignited. The fire burned with quite a lot of smoke, and he ended up coughing and moving to the other side. As he moved, the wind shifted, and so did the smoke, still in his direction.

He sighed, snickered. 'I will allow myself one cube then.' He sat on the log by the fire holding the cube up to the sky. "A toast," he said, "to survival of the fittest!" He laughed and downed the cube. "Whee!" He reached for another and faintly wondered if he was going mad. The two energon cubes he rapidly drank, being quite impure, caused him to become very drowsy and very drunk. He tossed a stick onto the crackling fire and then dissolved into a deep slumber, sprawled by the flames.

Night creatures watched him where he lay. His fire burned down to glowing embers. A few of the smaller reptilian creatures came close to take a sniff but they found he was not anything that would be appetizing, so they left him alone. Hidden in some bushes not far from the simple encampment was another creature. It watched for some time. Its eyes blinked and then it was gone.

It was mid afternoon when he awoke. He probably would have slept longer if something hard had not hit him with a hollow thunk. He looked around. His head swam and throbbed. He felt like he was going to retch.

His eyes were out of focus and he could not see what had hit him. Another thunk in the chest and that one stung him a bit. He reached down, straining to focus his eyes and found a wooden shaft with a broken stone tip beside his torso. 'A spear?' he thought. 'Is there actually sentient life here?' He looked around and saw nothing. "A bush rustled behind him, and there was another thunk. He looked in that direction. Another spear was thrown at him. Each time he looked to see where it had come from, the attack came from a new direction. He screamed in his annoyance slamming a fist into the bushes beside him. A figure darted out of the way of the falling hand. There was another movement.

With a sudden motion he leaped to his feet. His head spun and throbbed. His hand shot out and he captured a creature that looked like a large humanoid Iguana. The creature struggled to get out of his grasp, speaking in a strange tongue that consisted of hissing, clicking and rambling.

The other creatures resumed their attack with even more vigor than before. Starscream paid little heed to their pointless attack and looked intently at the creature. Its face resembled an iguana's almost exactly, large amber eyes, thick scales around the mouth, huge ones closer to its jaw. The skin around its neck was loose and formed a dewlap. There were long spiky scales running down the center of its back. In all appearance, it was an iguana of astounding size. The only difference from an Earth iguana was that this one spoke an obvious language.. It stood on two back feet, wore a simple loin cloth made of skins and used stone tools. Its feet were heavily clawed and the toes were quite long. The fingers on its hands were very slender but had sharp claws at the tips of each one. It was heavily muscled and its skin was covered in tough scales. He noticed that it was lashing its long, tapered tail as if trying to whip him.

The creature rambled again and then leaned down and bit Starscream's hand. Its mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth, but they had no effect on Starscream. It looked up in surprise and uttered more sounds. The spears stopped being thrown. Starscream held the creature and studied it for one more short moment and then placed it on the ground. The creature ran a few meters away, hissed to the others and they all took off towards the west. 'Lovely,' Starscream thought. This world was inhabited by a primitive intelligence.... and he was marooned with them.

He looked down at his chest where the one spear had been thrown. It had scratched a small hole in his armour. The broken tip of the spear remained in the hole. He looked up in the direction they had fled. 'When I get enough energon,' he thought cheerfully 'it will be west I go.' His head renewed its angry throbbing and Starscream sat back down. He held his aching head in his hands and moaned. "There has to be something better than this sludge, really. There has to be."

He brought his scanning program online and checked the energon. It was very impure. The energy contained within a single cube was only a fraction of what he had expected. He was going to have to find something better soon. He looked at the shelter. It contained seven murky looking energon cubes. He scanned them to see if they were any better. There seemed to be a minor instability with them. He glanced at the flimsy frame that stood over them and decided that he would have to move.

He checked the local terrain on foot. His energy stores were too low for him to consider flight. He missed flying intensely. It made short work of laborious walking through thick jungle growth. Shooting down the vegetation would only drain him further. He did not like feeling anything less than fifty five percent charged. It was uncomfortable. The less charged he was the more chances he had at making dangerous mistakes, or so he thought. He knew that less than thirty percent power his weapons would not fire as his body would start taking power from non-essential parts of him. His life support systems were far more important then the ability to fire a laser.

Not to far from his camp he came to a small hill. It was quite rocky and it had a small opening. With his hands he made the hole larger. Inside was quite dry and he had found a new energy source. Further back in the cave was a pool of slick, black oil that bubbled to the surface. Starscream cried out in triumph. His survival was assured!

He quickly made a stack of empty energon cubes. He ignited a patch of oil with his laser rifle and the cubes started to fill. The colour was bright pink and very pure. The cavern was soon lit with the brilliant colour of stored energon. All over the walls were crystals. Tiny glistening points that looked like jewels in the reflected light.

When the stack was filled, he compressed them into bales and moved them to a wall just in from the entrance. He spent the day filling hundreds of cubes, delighting that his larder was very full with barely any room for himself.

Prologue - Ghosts Tumble Through Space Chapter 2 - Brink of Insanity