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The Cause
Chapter 10 The Conflict of Interests

You see my hands are steady
You've seen my face before
Soon you can take your last look
And they'll close the door
I stand accused before you
I have no tears to cry
And you will never break me
Till the day I die
- Gowan, A Criminal Mind

He had several more days of very intense interrogation:

The Autobot interrogator regarded the Seeker through the energised bars; he lifted his finger off a red button on the table. "And you know nothing of the Decepticon plans?" he said looking disbelievingly at Starscream.

"I only went to Charr to—" Starscream replied shakily.

"To destroy Galvatron, yes you've told us this." His tone was dismissive.

"I was captured, I got freed and we left. There were no other plans. I am not part of them. I am a renegade by their classifications. Why can't you believe me?" he pleaded, he felt utterly exhausted. This had already gone on for several hours today, question and answer, they'd ask a question, he'd answer they would insist that he was uttering falsehoods.

"Starscream you come to us out of nowhere, with thirty reptilians in tow, with some cock and bull story about being hunted. That ship of yours is very well laden for someone who is asking for asylum and who has claimed to be marooned for ten years. What are the plans, who are you delivering that energon too?"

"For the last time there are no fraggin Decepticon plans! I've told you why I am here." The Seeker shrieked. He rested his hands on the table and pushed himself to his feet. He was angry. He realised belatedly what his outburst was going to get him: Pain.

The Autobot shook his head in annoyance. He pushed the button on the table. An electric charge shot up through The Seekers shackles and sent him reeling back.

"SLAG YOU!" he screamed as he picked himself up off the floor. His optics flashed with hatred, he glared at the Autobot on the other side of the barred cell.

"You will tell me what I want to know! What about the energon? Where did you get it? Who is it for?" he asked with his hand hovering over he button on the table.

Starscream could hardly believe this. The Earth humans had a dark age like this where they would force innocent people into confessing that they were in league with the devil. It seemed the Autobots had taken a leaf from their gristly past. "This is a lot like the Spanish inquisition back on Earth; I thought the Autobots were above and beyond this sort of method for information extraction." He stated as tingling from his limbs eased. "I collected energon from Guandonnaland, its mine; the whole lot of it is mine. It’s enough fuel to get me here and back again with extra for emergency. There is no buyer, there is no scheduled delivery and there are no fraggin plans! And for the record, I am not a Mercenary!"

The Autobot smiled twistedly. "I am surprised at how much of this you can take."

"Don't!" he shrieked. "I am telling you the truth!" He held his hands out beseechingly, in a weak attempt to stop the interrogator from tormenting him further.

The Autobot’s finger pressed the button again but he did not lift it off right away. Starscream yelled out and attempted to regain his composure; he was failing miserably. "It's the truth!" He gasped. "It's the slagging truth! For Primus sake, believe me!"

The Autobot lifted his finger off the button. "I don't believe you, Starscream, However I will be seeing you later. Hopefully—you will be more co-operative with my questioning." the Autobot picked up a datapad and left the brig.

Starscream shoved himself back into the chair. His elbows rested on the table and he placed his head into his shackled hands. He was unsure of how much more of this he would be able to put up with. He allowed himself to go partly off line in an attempt to rest.

* * *

"No mech can withstand that sort of treatment for seven days." said the interrogator to the Autobot leader. "So he is either telling the truth or he's a glutton for punishment. And being it's Starscream we are talking about, I think it’s safe to say he is being truthful, he would have broken at least five days ago if he weren't."

The Autobot leader nodded. "Then I will inform him, personally, he is to stand trial."

* * *

The door of his cell opened. Starscream looked up from his hands. Usually interrogation sessions were every four to eight hours. This was too soon for him to have recovered sufficiently to take another pounding.

"Are you going to take a turn now?" Hissed Starscream acidly as the Autobot leader walked up and sat down in front of the barred chamber. The Seeker’s optics flashed hatred at the Autobot.

"No, but you convinced the interrogator." Rodimus looked at the Seeker for a moment. This was the once proud Decepticon sub commander; he was a wretched sight now. Starscream sat hunched over the table supporting his chin on the back of his fist, his wings sagged slightly, his eyes shone with intense hatred and of recent suffering. The Seeker watched him closely as he settled back into his chair.

"I did, did I? Could have fooled me." he snarled after a few minutes. He scrutinised the Autobot leader; he was young and had a very different attitude from the old Autobot leader Optimus Prime. From his first encounter with the recent Autobot leader, he had thought he might be reasonable, understanding but he seemed as cruel and unforgiving as a regular Decepticon.

"However it’s not his decision on what is to become of you, it’s the council’s. You're to stand trial tomorrow at noon. You should conserve your energy, you will need it." Rodimus stood up from the table. He looked at Starscream one more time. "Good luck." he said as he left the room.

Starscream snorted and returned his face to his palms. At least the interrogation was done. He had not honestly thought he would go through this, he had simply asked for asylum, protection from Galvatron, if he had known this was going to happen he would have said "frag that" and returned to the Dragon and flew somewhere else.

'Hindsight is twenty - twenty, Starscream,' a thought said miserably, 'you could not have possibly known.' The Seeker folded his arms on the table top; he leaned his head on them and fell into a deep sleep.

* * *

The Seeker was led into a room with his hands and feet bound in energon shackles. His appearance was rather haggard. Several Autobots sat in chairs around the edge of the circular room. He was placed in the centre of the room, inside an electrified cage. They were not taking chances. It was an Autobot tribunal, a sort of trial during which the facts and statements he had made over the last seven days were discussed, torn apart and flung back into his face.

The Autobots asked him more questions. Attacking him verbally from all sides in an attempt to get him to contradict his statements. He attempted to answer but the Autobots’ questions were sometimes ambiguous. Things were not looking so good. He looked from face to face and many wore either frowns of expressions of hatred, disgust or loathing.

After a few hours, the Autobot leader called the others to recess to discuss the information and decide what they planned to do with their prisoner. They all filed out of the room and left Starscream standing alone. His hands and feet still bound. He looked around and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself. He was very nervous. He had not expected a warm welcome, he did not expect, however, to be brutally interrogated and put on a war crimes trial.

There had been questions in his involvement in crimes before and during the great battle of Autobot city. He had argued that they were irrelevant. As far as he was concerned they were not crimes. He was doing his job as a soldier, following orders. Well, not all the time. He insisted that he was not quite like he was before and he wanted asylum. The Autobots ignored his pleas and hit him with another barrage of questions. He knew he was not innocent of the charges against him but that was before Galvatron vaporised him.

Then came the question about his association with Unicron. He said in a very Decepticon like manner it was only a means to an end that for the chance to be returned to life, there was no price too high, even if it meant selling out his world to achieve it. He realised with that statement he had just dug a large hole and jumped in. How would they ever believe by his statement that he was a refugee? Surely his time on Cybertron was also a means to an end. He still planned on locating Galvatron as soon as he had his nerve and as soon as he was freed.

There was a knock at the door to the court room. Starscream looked up from his reflections. The Autobot guards opened the door for the council. The Autobots filed in one by one and sat down. Rodimus Prime alone stood. He looked grim. Starscream swallowed. His throat suddenly felt very dry. He felt a swell of panic build up. He managed, however, to keep it under reasonable control.

"We understand that you are a renegade now, Starscream, no longer a functioning part of the Decepticons. Your previous death at the hands of Galvatron, does not absolve you of your prior life's atrocities, although, there is little evidence to support your claim as a changed individual, we are going to consider your request for asylum. You will not have freedom of Cybertron until we are certain that you are genuine in your claim." Rodimus said looking directly at Starscream. It was almost like he was trying to fathom some ulterior motive in the Seeker's claim.

Starscream exhaled a small sigh of relief. They were going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He had been worrying that they might have considered putting him to death for his prior life’s actions.

"There are other things to consider, Starscream. You are quite powerful." said the Autobot leader as he read off the Deception’s sentence. "You are strong enough to easily overcome your guard if you should try to escape."

Starscream insisted that no such attempt would be made, but it was the decision of a simple majority. The voting outcome was barely fifty point one percent in his favour.

"I am sorry to say," The Autobot leader said, "that you will not be permitted to re-charge your personal energy reserves over thirty – five percent.”

Starscream was outraged. He was going to be kept in a state of enervation. “I object!" he complained. "This is not fair. I have the right to be at least—comfortable." He grabbed hold of the charged bars of his cage in his rage and let go with a shriek as he received a powerful shock. He teetered as he fought to regain his balance. He wanted to avoid falling against them again. There were a few chuckles of mirth from some of the Autobots present. He knew they were enjoying watching him squirm.

The Autobot leader held his hands out in apology. "It's the vote of the majority. If we are to keep a potentially dangerous Decepticon in our midst, you, this is what we have to do. You will gain your freedom in due time," he said calmly.

There were others in the room that seemed less than pleased with the verdict. It seemed like they might prefer that they did not let him re-charge all.

"But energy depravation-" he said weakly.

"I am sorry, Starscream, that's the way it will be." interrupted Rodimus. "You are also required to give up, temporarily, your ability to fly and transform."

Starscream staggered with the blow of his words. A muted cry managed escaped his lips. A pained expression crossed his face. "You—you can't do that!" He stammered. They were going to ground him as well as lock him in robot mode. The ability to fly meant everything to the Decepticons who had the jet alter-mode. Flying was his life. He thought he would rather die than be grounded again. After all he had spent a miserable three years locked in robot mode.

"There is another option," said the Autobot.

Starscream glanced up hopefully.

"The minority favoured the de-activation route- The choice is yours."

The Seekers face fell, "I Uh—please don’t—I consent.” He shook his head in disgrace. 'No' he thought, ' I would not rather die.' He now realised that his life was literally, held in the balance.

The Autobot leader nodded to the guards that stood by the doors. They walked up to the enclosure and de-activated the energon bars. They took him roughly by the arms and led him down a long white corridor. He was directed into a room marked INFIRMARY where he was first entertained by the medic who severed his transformation relays and had his flight program taken off line. He felt very defenceless. He was then drained of some of his energon until he was at the level decreed. He hung his head dejectedly. He regretted coming here. He had no idea how long he was going to be kept as a prisoner. It could be days but most likely it would be years. He cringed inwardly at that thought, if he could only find away to escape.

He realised this was just a precautionary measure but it still distressed him. He had told them the truth why couldn't they go with that? He exhaled in a deep sigh. The medic hummed something tuneless while he worked. Starscream strained at the bonds, they would not budge. Abruptly he felt exhausted. His energy drain had now taken effect. He knew he would have to spend most of the day in a rest or re-charge cycle. The guards returned on command of the medic. His tasks were now finished. The guards grinned ruthlessly at Starscream. They knew he was at their will. The Autobot medic gave Starscream a re-assuring pat on the shoulder. The touch made the Seeker want to lash out and pound the medic’s head in, alas he did not.

The guards once again grabbed Starscream by the arms. They were rough. They pulled him violently to his feet. He made a small cry of surprise as they hauled him out the infirmary. He was astonished in the manner at which they handled him. It was unusual for Autobots to mistreat their prisoners, Decepticon or otherwise and he really did not enjoy being manhandled. He momentarily lost his balance, the Autobot squeezed on his right elbow joint in response. A sharp pain jolted up his arm.

"Do you mind?" he said sharply. "That's highly uncomfortable!"

The Autobots looked at each other and laughed. “He is thinking we are mistreating him," said the one on his right. "You want us to go easy on you? Show you mercy? Come now Starscream, you were the worst of the lot."

Starscream glowered at the floor.

"We should give him something to really whine about," said the second as he pulled his weapon out of subspace. He placed the weapon in the middle of the Seekers back. "Now shut up and get a move on, or I will fulfil the minority’s sentence."

Starscream was unsure of the validity of the threat, but he figured that these were not the run of the mill Autobots. They had guts and if he gave them any reason to, they would spill his. They would most likely blame it on an escape attempt, although he would not have the energy to sustain himself to get away.

He felt a sharp squeeze and a tug in his left joint. He was then led down a bright hallway. He tried to move more quickly but his legs would not respond at the speed the Autobot guard wanted. He sighed heavily shooting the odd sidelong glare at his escort. 'Perhaps it was psychological.' he thought. He'd been far lower than this back home. Then it was because he was working on all those projects. Also he had the option to stop and re-charge at any time he wanted.

The second guard opened the door as they lead him roughly outside. Starscream looked around himself. He did not recognise where he was. Several buildings stood around in varying heights. They formed a square which they were about to cross. The courtyard area had a huge rust coloured Autobot symbol laid into its surface. There were benches located in several locations around the perimeter; some were occupied by Autobot personnel.

The escort led him down the stairs of the tribunal building. A few other Autobot guards joined in with the march across the courtyard to a large seven level building. It was a gun metal grey with a few large windows. He thought if this was where he was being imprisoned it was in a very public place. He looked across the yard and in the distance saw something that struck him as familiar. The Blue Dragon. How he longed to be back on board that ship, flying away through the vastness of space back to the world, back to his freedom, which he had originally thought of as the world of his prison.

They entered the building and led him up a couple of flights of stairs. They opened the door to a large room and released him of his bindings. He rubbed his wrists where the energon shackles had been bound tightly. One of the guards laughed and shoved him into the room. Caught off guard, Starscream fell sprawling to the ground. The Autobots laughed as they locked the door behind him.

"You will have "free" roam of this building as of tomorrow," said the second guard through the open window in the door. There was a burst of laughter from several voices. The Autobot slid the window closed and walked away.

He looked towards the door, hatred seethed in him. How he wanted to encircle the Autobot's soft metallic throat with his fingers and squeeze the life and light out of him. Angrily the Seeker picked himself off the floor. His anger stemmed from his confusion, dismay and demoralisation. So much for the thought that Autobots would treat their prisoners well.

He stood fully upright and glanced around at his new surroundings. The room was quite Spartan. Light grey walls stood around a floor that was dark grey. Simple florescent lights hung overhead. Above the door was a red light. An alarm beacon he assumed. The room was furnished with simple chairs and a table in the centre. A hard couch on the far wall as well as an almost redundant recharge alcove. On the wall next to the couch was a computer access terminal. However one thing in the room stood out as nice: a huge window. It over looked Cybertron. Not the courtyard he had just walked through but a good view of the planet itself. The window gave the room a feel of being somewhat larger than it really was, this was comforting. The chamber was a far cry from his luxurious home on Guandonnaland, however plain as it was, it was better than his alternative. Strange, he thought, how he now really missed the planet he worked so hard to leave.

'We can still go back. It's more like home than here.'

"Yes," he agreed, "One day when this is all over we will go home", but for now he decided he'd like to rest. The past week had been harrowing.

* * *

Days spanned into weeks and weeks dragged into months. The Guanas seemed quite content with being shown Cybertron. Many had learned the language Starscream spoke and they could converse with the Autobots. Many took up learning more technology so they could return one day to their world and improve upon the improvements already there.

Starscream was bored with the movies and games he had to entertain himself with, bored with going to the library to research various topics and watching old news files. There were files covering various Decepticon outcasts and renegades, most of which had not been seen in decades. He was bored with doing nothing but waiting.

The Guanas were free to come and go and many stayed with him and talked about what they had seen. The images they spoke of made Starscream ache to go outside. He looked to the window. What Starscream ached for above all, was to be free, to fly, to feel the rush of wind against his wings and the sun warming his body. He felt like a bird in a cage, restless. Even if he could get outside, what would the point be? He could not go anywhere without flying.

More months went by and Starscream slowly stopped doing things. He spent ages looking towards the window deep in thought. The lizard people came up to see him and he shooed them away. He did not want them to see him like this, enervated, languished. "You are such a fool." He said to himself. "What in Primus' name were you thinking when you came here?" Even his scientist side was unhappy, the warrior usually could count on a bit of support from his alter ego but even he was sinking into the depths of despair.

He would sit alone. He twiddling his thumbs while he sat on the edge of his sleeping couch. For hours he sat like that: hunched over, elbows resting on his knees, rolling his thumbs over one another looking at the floor. With an enfeebled sigh he lay down and slept.

* * *

Teris was the only Guana who dared to intrude on Starscream when he wanted to be left alone. She was concerned. In the last few weeks he had not left the chamber to go with her to the library and in the past few days he had not even moved from the couch. Not even to the recharge alcove. He had told her of his longing to be back in the sky, but he had not told her why he was being held against his will. She could not understand the problem; the Guanas were allowed to go anywhere they wanted. Why would N'kosi be any different? She was perturbed by his overall lack of life and vigour. All she could remember was the very active, energetic god back on her own world. This was a thoroughly different being.

Teris did not often leave his side. She sat talking about various things she had found in the computer. He would lie looking up at the ceiling ignoring her presence saying nothing. His optics glowed a dull red. Every so often they would brighten a little as if she said something that might have interested the Seeker. She was not even sure if he was awake most of the time. Teris let out a sigh and leapt of the side of the couch she needed to find the one called Rodimus.

It was obvious to the Autobots that the female lizard seemed to have an attachment to the big white and red Decepticon. It alarmed them why would any living creature want to consider the Decepticon Seeker a friend. The rest of the Guanas when they were questioned also seemed to hold him in very high esteem. They considered him very wise and they insisted he was very good to their people.

The Autobots however, were not sure of Starscream's feelings towards the Guanas. He was naturally duplicitous and they thought he would most likely kill them or abandon them if his own hide was at stake, they thought. They hoped this would not be the case; anyway, he was not in condition to kill anyone.

They were apprehensive about Seeker’s increasing signs of depression. The Guana woman was worried that he would pine away. She had also informed them that he had not recharged in a couple of days. The Autobot leader wondered if he was being too hard on the Decepticon ex-air commander, but sadly enough it had to be this way. All Decepticon defectors went through this, but being this was Starscream they had to be absolutely sure.

* * *

The afternoon was dull as any normal afternoon he had recently. He turned his head to look out the window. So indeed it appeared Cybertron was starting to thrive again. Mass transport aircraft flew through the sky and vehicles drove the long roads on the steel landscape. For him, he longed to be free in the sky. Soaring, diving. There was still no news as to when and if he was ever going to get his freedom. With a resigned sigh he returned to snooze in boredom. There was nothing else to do.

He was awakened when the sirens blared. Red lights flashed at the top of the door. Starscream hissed as his audio sensors were assaulted with the whine of the air raid sirens. He sat up and scrambled to his feet walking to the door to silence the sound in the room.

Still the sirens could be heard throughout the building. He stepped over to the computer bringing up his news station. He regretted tuning in. He found out disturbing news. They were under attack. A group of Decepticons, lead by the Seeker Dirge, were heading in the direction of the Autobot headquarters. Autobots from all over flocked to defensive stations.

He suddenly had an idea, help them fight off the attack if anything to get him outside. In a sudden burst of energy he ran down the hall to the stairwell and to the entrance of the building. He yelled out trying to get their attention.

"Let me fight," he screamed. "I can help," He grabbed the bars of the door and shook them.

"How do we know you won't turn on us?" replied an Autobot. One of the guards he recognised as being un-cool about him being allowed to remain functional.

"Please, you'll have to trust me."

"Trust is not in your vocabulary, Starscream. Forget it." The Autobot turned, transformed and sped off to the fight.

Starscream was left watching. He felt renewed resentment of the Autobots as they went off to fight the enemy. Starscream was still viewed as an enemy. He still bore the insignia. The Seeker was disappointed but who really could blame the Autobots for not trusting him.

On countless occasions he had claimed to be disowned by the Decepticons and then attempted to lead the Autobots or a selected victim to their doom. He had led others into traps by complex lies and deceit but the one time where the truth was spoken it was not believed. Humans had a story that described it neatly. "Never cry wolf". An ancient story of a little shepherd boy who for fun called the villagers out to fight off wolves, but when it came to a time when he was really under attack and he cried for help no one came. The little shepherd’s flock was destroyed. With this thought he turned on his heel and returned up the stairs to his chamber.

Starscream resumed his watch on the battle. The battle had broken out. The Autobots fought bravely causing the Decepticon raid to fall back. There was a cheer then the fighting resumed as the Decepticons charged in with renewed force. There were casualties on both sides but the Autobots were taking a hard hit. It was unusual for the Decepticons to even bother with Cybertron anymore, but who knows what was going on in the mind of their mad leader these days. The preferred to attack outposts and smaller less defensible places.

The sirens stopped. However the sounds of fighting outside remained. A nearby explosion rocked the building sending Starscream to gaze quickly out the window.

While he was viewing the battle, he had a creepy feeling that he was being watched. It started with a prickle at the back of his neck that he tried to ignore. Slowly it crept down his back into his limbs ending at his fingers and feet. He could not ignore the feeling. There was something wrong, dreadfully wrong. He looked over his shoulder towards the door, it was cracked open. He scanned the room but did not see anything. Nothing but creepy silence. He felt very certain he was not alone.

"Who's there? Teris?" he asked. A touch of the uneasiness that he felt coloured his words. "Show yourself." He looked around him but he could not see anyone or anything but there was someone in the room with him.

A voice behind him spoke up, "Hello, Screamer, it’s time to take a tumble with Rumble! Galvatron wants your head and for you to stay dead!" The little blue warrior transformed his arms into pile drivers and started to pummel the ground. Starscream fell from his seat and crashed heavily to the floor. The open door slammed shut. He crawled to the door and attempted to stand up. The ground shook violently and he fumbled with the latch. The door swung open and he darted through. As he did, he heard the monotone voice that would only belong to Soundwave.

"Ravage, eject, operation extermination." There was a hiss and a growl and the black feline leapt from Soundwave and down the hall after the Seeker. With a shriek, Starscream scrambled down into an alcove and hid as the feline sprinted past. The black jaguar stopped, sniffed around and darted down another corridor.

A surge of panic set in. What was he to do? His back was pressed against the cold wall. He had no weapons. The Autobots had seen to it that they were removed and stored away until they could decide if he could be trusted, whenever that would be. How could the Decepticons have slipped past the Autobot security? How did this happen? 'Primus', he thought, 'Help me!' So many questions and no one could answer them. It appeared to him that the troop lead by Dirge was a decoy. And that another force had infiltrated through an unguarded passageway. No one had expected an attack least of all him. If he only had his transformation ability he might have been able to transform, smash out and escape.

He peeked around the corner. The corridor was empty, he crept out and he started to run stopping every so often in an attempt to open various doors. He was desperately hoping that he could find some sort of weapon for defence. Anything would do right now, a pipe or even a metal rod. He rattled violently on a door, hissing curses and obscenities at it. He felt it loosen, he sighed with relief. He turned, and pulled the handle. He cursed again. He had not opened the door, but broke the handle off instead. He regarded it for a moment, turning it in his hands, looking at it in disbelief. He exhaled in frustration. Suddenly, from behind came a sound like a growl, Starscream spun to face his assailant, his hands out to his sides and his feet apart in a stance of balance. Ravage leapt from one of the alcoves and Starscream tossed the knob at the feline. Not the kind of weapon he had wanted. With a swift movement he grabbed the cat by its front legs and threw him hard against the wall. The jaguar fell in a limp heap, it was stunned but not out.

He looked both ways and crept further on into the hall, checking for open rooms. Looking over his shoulder frequently. He knew that Galvatron would not stop until he had Starscream truly dead. He seemed to be that way inclined. Starscream had found out he had booted Blitzwing from the team. He knew he was hunting down Octane when the Seeker was a Spectre. Galvatron had a history of randomly eliminating his troops. With this thought, the white and red Seeker became very afraid.

'Fear. That's the feeling you get when you know that nothing you are about to do is gonna make a blind bit of difference,' he thought. 'It's erratic, it's irrational, it's a survival instinct.' Starscream was angered with the direction his thoughts were taking him. When Galvatron first destroyed him he was not afraid. He did not have time to be afraid. It happened far too quickly for him to stop it, but it was not a demise that belonged to Starscream. No, to him he was ignominiously executed, a public humiliation. Today on the other hand, he was very scared. He knew what the stakes were and he was lost in the building that was his prison, without any form of defence.

He was trapped unless he could find the point of entrance where the Decepticons broke through. He was afraid they would have that heavily guarded. All he had to do was look and keep from being noticed. 'Good luck,' Came a thought. 'Not with your colouration.' he suddenly wondered where he was. His mind was not thinking clearly and he could not remember what level he was on or where in that level he was. He could hear the fighting outside he knew he was close to an outer wall. He knew that the Autobots were fighting a diversionary attack while the main troops were coming through the back door seeking his blood.

Blood he thought. He did not have blood. Not the way the Guanas did, but he had small passageways that wove throughout his body that fed energon into systems that needed it most. Now he thought about it, he guessed it was his version of blood. It was fluid, like blood, and he could, if he ran out, die like any blooded creature. As well he also doubted that he could get revived if he did run out. O.K. then, energon was like blood. It seemed to be the same damned stuff. Only energon was pink and iridescent and made of condensed energy, whilst blood was red and opaque and made of organic materials.

The ground started shaking and distracted him from his thought. He fell to the floor. He took a deep breath, stood back up and hung hard to the wall. He knew he must have been spotted by the little runt Rumble. If Rumble was in here there was a chance that Frenzy and the other Cassetticons were loose. He left the doors alone and struggled to keep upright while he took off down another shaking maze like corridor. He was unsure of where he was headed. Panic was starting to cloud his judgement.

He stopped twisted another door handle. He was surprised as it swung open for him; he hesitated for a moment looking down: a stairwell. Choices, choices, too many choices. Up or down? He could hear the sounds of pursuit echoing through the stairwell. He looked over his shoulder and back to the stairs. He was unsure of the direction that the sounds were coming from or from what level. The building was seven levels high on the surface but it went twice that down into the planet. He should be able to lose them, he hoped. He looked up quickly; Starscream thought he saw a shadow move. He bolted blindly down the stairs skipping every other step and jumping the last three steps to the landing. His thundering footsteps echoed up and down. He cringed as he knew they could track him to the stairs.

He grabbed the railing with his left hand and allowed the inertia to throw himself around to the next flight of stairs. His feet pounded down the steps, he again jumped the last stairs throwing himself at the door, flinging it open with a resounding crash. He turned sharply left and shot off down the corridor. He could hear the rumble of feet coming from behind in the stairwell.

He was being pursued; he knew it and they had managed to track him. It did not really surprise him. He inhaled sharply. There were more sounds of running feet. As he looked behind him, his face twisted into a grimace of terror, Cyclonus and Scourge! They both appeared from separate halls. Trying to cut him off. They were calling after him, taunting him, insulting him. They chased him; their weapons drawn. They started to fire, lavender laser bolts shot past him. Starscream screamed out as pain lanced through his back, he stumbled forward. Three of the shots had torn into the middle of his back and a forth ripped through his right wing, shredding a hole near the upturned trailing edge. He stumbled again but caught himself. He twisted his body forwards and ran rapidly through the corridor.

"The hunt is on," said Cyclonus clearly from behind, "The quarry is now wounded."

"He leaves a trail, he'll be easily tracked," said Scourge looking down at the scattered drops of energon on the tiles.

Starscream turned sharply into another passageway. He had a feeling like he was in the middle of a nightmare. He was in someway; things were happening to him so fast that it felt like slow motion. Screams were sounding like whispers. Whispers echoed and reverberated like screams. The voices of the pursuing Decepticons echoed in the hallway. Bouncing off walls and corridors it sounded like they were everywhere to put a precise point of origin was impossible. His own cries sounded disembodied to him, like he was hearing it from a third person point of view. He could hear the other voices yelling orders to one another.

"Cut him off that way."

"Don't cut him off! Cut him down!"

"Don't even touch him, he is mine." The last voice was familiar and it sent such a burst of terror through his entire body that it paralysed him. Galvatron was nearby.

His mind went suddenly numb. All thought processes ceased for a moment. Terror coursed through him like an Arctic wind on a hot summer’s day. He stopped dead in his tracks for a moment, his electric pulse froze then quickened and the hammering in his chest was almost deafening. 'Run,' Came a disembodied thought. He shook his head to try to clear the angst from his mind; he bolted and continued to run from his pursuers.

Soundwave appeared from around a corner and stepped into the hall ahead of him. The tall blue mech stood silently regarding Starscream for a moment, his wide bulk almost spanned the width of the hall effectively blocking the Seekers passage. There was, fortunately for him, another junction just ahead of Soundwave. Where was he to go? Should he run left? Or right? Should he just charge for Soundwave? Again the choices overwhelmed the Seeker. There was no way back to the stairwell, Cyclonus and Scourge were way too close behind him.

He hoped when he took one of the joining halls, he might find an open doorway or even the storage locker where his weapons could have been hidden, where he could lock himself in and hide. His hopes however were fruitless. The Decepticon pursuers were now too close for him to hide unnoticed. There were shouts behind him and more laser fire. He stumbled. He pressed his hand against the corridor wall to rebalance himself. "Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide..." he whispered as he tripped and stumbled again. “Primus cut me some slack!" He gasped, feeling sickened by his sudden ineptitude.

He was panting. His breath was being drawn in short, sharp, gasps. He felt as if he was not getting enough oxygen in his fuel mix. He remembered suddenly, that he had not charged in several days. He had done nothing but lie completely idle; staring at the ceiling did not require much energy. He had not expected to suddenly end up running for his life through the halls. Again he resented Autobots would not allow him to fully recharge, their fear that it would only make him stronger. That he could overpower them. He knew they had a legitimate fear, he probably would have overcome his guard and escape rather than remain captive. He was still a Decepticon after all. And well known as a traitor, mustn't forget that. That was all he was, a traitor, nothing but scum. Someone no one would ever truly gave a damn about, no one cared! Why should he care? He thought as if he was trying to justify giving up.

'There was one who cared once,' a thought interjected.

"Not now. Go away." He wheezed back. His mind was filled with despair and terror. "Why *not* just give it up?" he gasped.

'But that is not your way, Starscream, never was. You're a fighter, a warrior. It’s your life; you don't want to give it up without a fight.' No, he agreed. He did not want to give Galvatron the satisfaction of an easy victory. Life was too precious to just toss aside and he had a second chance to make things right. But he still had no method of defence. He could only run and he was starting to lack the energy required to keep that up any longer. “Some fight this will end up being," he whispered anxiously.

The junction loomed ahead. Soundwave aimed his weapon and readied to fire. The fleeing Seeker made his choice and with a yell he threw himself into the right hand corridor losing his balance and fell face to the ground. His arms outstretched, he skidded to a halt. As he pushed himself up from the ground he had a sinking feeling. That sort of feeling that one might get when one realises that they have bitten into a wormy apple. That feeling where one knew that they should have, probably, turned left instead of right. An electric prickle shot up the centre of his back. He knew the chase was done, that he was finally captured. He had fallen at someone's feet. And he had an ugly feeling that he knew whose feet he had fallen at. 'It was a fifty-fifty chance,' Said a thought bitterly. He whimpered and his body shook with fear.

As he slowly lifted his head to look up, his optics focused on the dark shape ahead of him. Dread terror filled him once again, his body went like ice. "N-noooo!" he half screamed and half wailed. Panicking he attempted to correct his deadly error. Ahead of him, with his plasma cannon aimed, was Galvatron. His face smug and unsmiling, he looked down upon Starscream as if he was the foulest insect. The face of a true killer. A person with no conscience or any remorse. His optics twinkled with purest of hatred and malice as the cannon fired.

Starscream's metal feet scrabbled with the slick polished white floor as he attempted to rise and get out of the way. The blast hit him broadside and then the all too familiar searing pain of the plasma weapon's discharge, centred in his right. He could feel his metal body melting and circuits evaporating. Energon sprayed on the walls as he fell heavily, writhing and screaming, to the ground. His energon rapidly leaked out and pooled on the white tiles of the floor.

He was still alive. He gasped for breath and with each gasp, pain exploded in his chest. It appeared the blast had ruptured an air filter. He struggled to stand, grasping for the wall. Pain shot through his body. He moaned and whimpered as he finally got up to his knees. His other hand still resting on the ground, he coughed and gagged. A trickle of energon seeped from his mouth and dripped onto the floor. He uttered a low cry of anguish. The smell of scorched metal, ozone and energon stung in his nose. He could hear a nerve shattering laugh from above him, his body shuddered visibly.

He knew Galvatron was toying with him, as a cat plays with a mouse just before it kills it. He had not used his plasma cannon at full power, as the blast had only wounded him. Or if it was at full power it was not as effective as it was when he was transformed. But either way he knew he was being played with, tormented, and tortured. He gasped with each throb of pain that pounded at his mind and body. With each throb he felt a bit weaker; his fuel pump rapidly forced the precious liquid energy out of his wounds and onto the floor. "P-p-please... no," he stammered. He placed his hand, painfully, over his wounded right side trying in vain to hold the valuable fluid inside of him. He felt the warm energon seep between his fingers. It was sticky and thick, it shimmered. He glanced at his right wing. Energon seeped from wounds there too. He did not want to think of his back. Starscream could feel the warm trickles running towards the ground. He looked up at Galvatron. He whimpered. He knew it. He would soon be dead. "I don't want to die!" he said half to himself.

Shaking his head, he attempted to clear his mind of that sickening realisation. He slowly backed away from Galvatron until he was pressed with his laser scored back against the metallic wall of the Autobot prison. He had nowhere to run. He felt like a bird, netted, cornered and surrounded. He could feel his strength quickly ebb from his hideous wound. Soundwave, Ravage, Rumble, Scourge and Cyclonus closed in from all sides, their weapons readied with menacing expressions. His optics darted left and right. There was absolutely no avenue for escape. "Don't-please." he pleaded to Galvatron. "Will someone please—HELP ME!" he screamed the last two words in a terrified wail. He shook from the agonising pain of his injuries and terror that the huge Decepticon leader had filled him. Still no one made a move to his aid. He felt dizzy and light headed.

Galvatron took a step forward his face was menacing, "Do you defy death Starscream?" His optics glowed a brilliant evil red. "Do you defy me? I've killed you once and I shall again, and this time your laser core won't escape." Galvatron's face was enraged and a crackle of sparks shot from the side of his head. His face twisted into a sadistic grin. He stepped one more step forward. He leaned down into the terrified Seekers face. "I shall enjoy this, Starscream, I shall enjoy destroying you this second time very much indeed," he laughed.

"Galvatron—no! Please—I beg of you!—don’t kill me!" he shrieked with a sudden surge of fear produced electro-adrenaline, but it waned as soon as it came on. "Please!" he whined more weakly as he franticly looked from face to face in hopes that one of them might help stop his impending destruction. There was no sympathy. He did not expect any. If anyone showed Starscream sympathy they would ultimately die with him which was the way with Galvatron. The "new" Decepticon leader made Megatron seem very kind and generous and above all merciful. Galvatron had been known to kill Decepticons on the slightest hint of treachery or just because it amused him.

He sobbed painfully. One of his air scrubbers were filling with liquid energon. His voice became very raspy. "Please!—Galvatron—let me be!-" he sputtered with a gasp. "I have-no challenge to your position—anymore," he said between the agonising stabs of pain. Galvatron merely looked disgusted at Starscream's display of fear. The Seeker felt another massive swell of panic and terror. 'There would be no reasoning with this guy," he thought. Galvatron had only one thing on his mind, Starscream's destruction.

He looked down at the floor at the thick pink fluid that pooled on its surface. 'You're pathetic aren't you?' a distant thought chided him. 'Anyway look at the floor, your life fuel, guess what Screamer, you’re dying.'

He felt annoyed for a moment and responded to himself hoarsely, "I know. There is not much I can do to stop it." he coughed and retched. He spat out a huge quantity of the iridescent life fluid. It was laced with a darker liquid. It appeared he had a few other internal injuries. He breathed in with difficulty that triggered another bout of coughing. He sobbed as he doubled over holding his chest and wounded side. 'Why could he not get this over and done with?' An irritated thought came. 'Why did he have to drag it out?'

"I am not Megatron, Starscream," said Galvatron echoing Starscream's unspoken thoughts. "I don't show anyone mercy, especially to the likes of you." Galvatron took aim again with his weapon. "Now do us a favour, shut up and DIE!" He fired the weapon at point blank range. The blast was aimed for the Seekers chest. Time seemed to slow down for Starscream.

Starscream continued to plead for his life between gasps and coughs. Not that it was going to do much help now. 'Face him like the warrior you are.' that distant thought insisted. He looked up and faced his executioner. He braced for what he knew was to come. He raised his left arm to cover his face and optics and his right hand in a pathetic gesture that might ward off the incoming final blast of the weapon. Even, he thought, if his laser core did survive, he would never see another chance at a new body again he would have to resort to possessions.

It was not even a matter of a second before that blast hit him, however that moment felt like eternity. He saw the brilliant white - purple plume of the charge erupt from the end of the plasma cannon. His optics widened in a moment of pure terror. The blast expanded as it moved towards him. He glanced up for a nanosecond, and looked into the sadistic grinning face. He off lined his optics and screamed as the blast enveloped him. It burned and tore at him. He could feel his chest breaking apart. Suddenly he felt the floor smash against his face as his cockpit shattered. He had not realised he was falling. He could feel his energon pump sputter and fail. In his last moment before the blackness of oblivion took him over, he thought he had heard Autobot voices and laser fire. With a final, faint thought, 'Shame, they are—too late. Oh well, sorry old buddy.' Everything went black and all senses ceased.

* * *

The Autobots had burst into the hallway. Galvatron looked up and paused in his aim. "Autobots" he hissed to himself. A few laser bolts flashed by his head. He looked down at the quivering, blathering heap that was Starscream. He hated him. He despised him. He wanted to make his death as slow and as painful as possible, however it was not an option to give the traitor the lingering death that he so deserved. He fired the cannon. The blast struck Starscream full in the upper torso.

Starscream's chest exploded and he fell face down, sprawled on the white floor, his face against the tiles, his head twisted to the side in a glistening pool of pink energon. The glow in his optics flickered and went out. The pool of energon steadily grew larger as there was nothing left holding it in. Bits of his body lay strewn around in a large radius. He did not move.

Galvatron was satisfied. He would have preferred to have fired a second shot and slagged the worthless lump, but it was certain by the severity of the damage, Starscream was indeed dead. He would have preferred to have taken the renegades head, but he was being pushed back. "My job here is done, Autobot fools," he snarled as he turned and ordered his troops away. Several of the Autobots pursued.

The remaining Autobots looked down at Starscream. Rodimus shook his head in dismay and for once showed pity. The Guana woman walked out from behind the Autobot leader. She knelt beside the fallen Seeker, her hand resting on his torn wing.

Chapter 9 - Charr Chapter 11 - The Light and Darkness