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The Cause
Chapter 12 A Stigma

I'm talking to myself in public
Dodging glances on the train
And I know, I know they've all been talking about me
I can hear them whisper
And it makes me think there must be something wrong with me
Out of all the hours thinking
Somehow I've lost my mind

-Matchbox Twenty, Unwell

"He will be ready for release tomorrow morning Prime." Said Perceptor. "Do you really think it's wise to allow that Decepticon to run free on Cybertron? There is no telling what he will do."

"Don't worry yourself about it. He will be under surveillance."

"I think he would suspect that."

"Let him suspect. If he wants to remain uncaged he will do as we say. He knows we are not bluffing."

"Hmm, he had me help him remove the insignias off the back of his wings. He had already torn them off the front of them and when I had offered it to him, he refused our brand outright. As a matter of fact he looked revolted at the prospect. I haven't any doubt that he hates us for what we've done to him."

Rodimus chuckled lightly. "Decepticon pride still flows strong in him then. I would have been more worried if Starscream took them." He firmed up his tone and voice. "Well tell him this, he needs to take up residence somewhere else, I want him off this base in three weeks. He needs to find himself something with which to occupy his time."

"Yes, Sir," Said Perceptor.

The Autobot leader watched the scientist turn and leave. He hoped that he had made the right decision. What would Optimus have done with Starscream in this situation? Slagged him? Exiled him? There would be no real way of ever knowing.

* * *

Starscream laid still and waited until Perceptor had left for the night. Quietly he sat up and leaned against the wall. His head hardly hurt now and movement no longer created balls of coloured light to bounce into his field of vision. He looked around the room allowing his optics time to adjust.

Something did not click. Something felt wrong. Why save your enemy? What were the Autobots going to gain from letting him live? He knew the Decepticons would never have considered repairing an Autobot who was damaged, especially if it was potentially terminal. Not unless he had valuable information they could use.

'Perhaps they are just being good natured.'

"Think about it Mr. Logical." Starscream said to himself. "Doesn't it seem a little odd that they put me through that whole ludicrous war crimes trial, starve me, so to speak, and when I almost get killed, they suddenly give me what I wanted in the first place: Asylum, along with their symbols. I don't trust this."

'I recommend you run your internal diagnostics, look for unusual energy fluctuations that could mean a marker in your energon flow. Scan for foreign metals, they could also be tracking markers or worse a bomb. Check for redundant circuits, incomplete connections etc. I would also run several scans of you data banks. Since I am still here things do seem to be normal.'

"Nothing has been normal since you showed up."

'Turn your mouth off and your scanners on.'

Starscream accessed his self diagnostic systems and ran a thorough scan. He leaned his head back against the wall and watched the program analyse his systems. This was going to take the better part of the night. He awoke with a start about three hours later. The diagnostics were still scanning but they had detected an inconstancy in his life support system.

'There is a tracking element in the energon that flows through you.' said the scientist. 'I have been closely monitoring the scan. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done to remove this from our system save a complete transfusion of energon from a clean untainted source and this we can't do alone.'

Starscream cursed under his breath.

'On the bright side, there are no traces of elements or metals in you that would make up a bomb or any other form of disabling device.'

Starscream exhaled a sigh of relief.

'Don't worry too much about the tracer in your energon; it will dissipate in—oh, about ten months. It should not affect your normal functions either. All they can do with it is find out where you are at any given time, not what you are doing or saying,' Said the Scientist cheerfully. 'The rest of the scan is looking for tampered or dislocated memory files etc. You might as well zone out again, I will alert you if there is something wrong.'

Starscream leaned back again. "I need to think, I am going to have to re-plan my next attack. I've had time to ponder about it since I arrived on this world and I have second thoughts about running in with my guns blazing. I really am starting to doubt the power of my own Null Rifles. If I attack him and make one wrong move I've had it."

'Ah for once you are actually looking before you leap. You will need to either find more powerful guns or enhance the ones you already have. Both ideas are wrought with drawbacks. Firstly; you would never get clearance from the Autobots to construct such devices. Secondly; you would have a fun time locating parts for such devices. Thirdly there would be no real way to test the power of such a device. So if you did construct something you would be putting yourself at huge risk taking it untried into battle.'

"Can I enhance my rifles then?"

'Yes you can, however, it would be complex and cumbersome and probably un-reliable.'

"Then what do I do? Galvatron could find out about me and track me down." His voice was shrill with frustration.

'I think you have some time yet. At least if he does come back you can fly, fight and transform.' The Seeker sighed and allowed his mind to ponder possible methods of enhancing his own weapons.

He became aware of a knock on the door. The Seeker tensed as he held his rifle ready. The door slowly opened, Starscream was nervous and almost fired off a shot when Perceptor stepped in. He lowered his weapon and leaned his head back against the wall.

The Autobots optics flashed brilliant blue for a second before he spoke. "Ah you are awake. Did you have a good rest?"

"No, I was up all night," Starscream said softly, "thinking."

"Ah that's only natural, to want to collect your thoughts, perhaps to rethink about what you want out of life. Near death experiences do have a tendency to prod ones consciousness into over activity. Did you want to talk about it?"

"Not particularly."

"I mean you have a very unique experience, you have experienced death, your body was atomised, yet somehow, despite all odds, you were given back your life. What grabs my interest in you is what is life like after death? To clarify, what was the life like between this one and the last one?"

Starscream flicked Perceptor an annoyed look. "There is no life after death." He said through clenched teeth.

"You came back a ghost, how?"

"I don't know how and I'd rather not talk about it." He said sounding fairly irked.

"Does it not make you in the least bit curious? Your personal experience in all records is unique. There are no other records of ghosts." Perceptor continued to press the subject. The Autobot scientist started pull a computer out from the wall.

"I don't want to have to tell you again. Drop this subject, immediately. I am not comfortable discussing it." Starscream hissed angrily as his optics burned bright red.

"I'm sorry to have given you any distress." He said bringing the computer in line with Starscream. "Now what I am going to scan for is to see if your self repair systems have come back online or not." Perceptor attached a couple of wires to the Seekers head, chest and wings.

Starscream did not enjoy the Autobot's close proximity to his head and wings. He could have told him it was fully functional, it checked out in the scan. But he did not want to alert him with the knowledge that he knew that he was going to be tracked. The Seeker winced inwardly as the Autobot placed the last suckers against his wings surface.

He tapped on the number pad and flicked a small toggle switch. The machine hummed to life as a series of numbers and images flashed across the screen. Perceptor watched as he spoke. "I talked with Rodimus last night, he tells me to inform you that you have three weeks to move out of that building and that you need to get some form of useful occupation."

Starscream sighed. What work could a displaced Decepticon air commander do on a planet full of Autobots? He wondered. "What if I can't find an occupation, then what?"

"I don't know, I suppose you could be brought before the tribunal, or you could be sent deep into the planet to mine ores. Hmmm," Perceptor said leaning into the machine. "Well you check out fine, all your functions are normal." He unhooked the machine from the Seekers chest and rolled up the wires into neat coils and laid them on top of the machine.

Starscream thought about the 'bots words he would not want to see the inside of that tribunal again and he did not want to end up mining ore that was a slave's occupation.



"Look into Science." He said as he rolled the machine against the wall. "The universities are always looking for those who are scientifically minded as you are. I am sure you can find a place at one of them. There you go now, Starscream, you are done, leave, go, get out of here and I don't want to see you back." said the Autobot as he turned away and started pulling glassware off shelves.

The Seeker shoved himself off the table and stepped onto the floor and started for the door.

"One more thing, Starscream, don't use your weapons, don't even threaten to. Your continued existence will depend on your discretion."

Starscream's optics flashed in acknowledgement however he was quite irritated: more rules.

* * *

The Cybertron sky was bright and clear as the blue-white Star glowed with intense luminosity. He had a really weird feeling wash over him when he glanced at the sun. He shrugged and gazed at the buildings in the distance. Some of the old buildings had scaffolding as work was being done to repair the ruins. Things were looking, in twenty years of Autobot control, better than it had in millions of years of Decepticon control. He approved of the work that had been done, he did not enjoy the memories of it as the tattered and ruined world it had become during the war. Many great cities had been demolished.

He gaze strayed from the semi repaired building to rest on The Blue Dragon. The large blue spacecraft was still moored in the same place it had been when it had arrived. He smiled; if he had to move out he would prefer the comfort and the luxuries that his ships cabin would provide him.

He strode to it but as he got closer he realised that there were two guards standing watch over it. He grimaced then he forced himself to look unconcerned. Starscream had recognised them, Sandstorm and Overcast. He tried to ignore their presence and stepped up to the hatch. He had reached out to palm the door open when a laser bolt shot passed his head. He jumped in surprise.

"That shot was a warning; now get away from that ship 'con," Said the tan and olive Autobot. "The next shot will blow your head off."

"Come on, Overcast, no need to shoot or threaten him," said the other gently as he nudged the weapon's muzzle to point down at the ground.

"No, he is not to go near this ship, Sandstorm," Said Overcast as he tried to jerk his weapon back up. Sandstorm kept his fingers tight around the barrel.

"Why the hell not?" snapped Starscream fighting the urge to shoot at the Autobot. "It's *my* ship, after all" he glowered at the Autobots who now stood between him and his ship.

"You will only try to leave Cybertron," Said Overcast trying to free his gun from his partner's strong hand.

"No I wouldn't!" He retorted. "I want to make it my residence while I stay on this planet."

"Get lost, Starscream, orders are orders. This ship is impounded." The Autobot fired a shot that grazed Starscream's hand. The Seeker let out a yelp and battled his impulse to fire back. He turned away from the ship seething with anger and stomped off. He could hear a taunting remark from Overcast.

He reached the door of the building and glanced around. He wondered if his access code would work for him here now. His fingers lightly tapped at the pad, keying in the code. He shot a glowering stare over his wing at the Blue Dragon.

He had been disappointed. He would have preferred to have the comforts that the ship would have afforded him. It felt like his home away from home. But he knew he would have to return to that dismal place. Fortunately now he could leave whenever he wanted. The door swung open and he stepped inside. A cold feeling shot through him. He did not enjoy being here too many bad memories started to awaken. He forced his focus back to the door that closed the room that he had lived in for the past several months. He looked nervously around the room. I had almost been two weeks from the time of the attack. Everything was in order. Someone had come in and straightened up. He spotted a small grey lump in the corner of his couch. He held his weapon at readiness but his optics picked out a familiar outline of a nose.

'I told you she would be an important ally, didn't I.'

"Teris," he said softly, "what are you doing in here."

Teris moved and untucked her nose from under her arm. She sat up blinking, straightening her shirt pulling it tightly around her to give her some extra warmth. She sat with her arms crossed shivering slightly. "Your world is too cold in the morning."

Starscream cocked his head in amusement. "Well they did provide your people with climate controlled accommodations. Why are you here?"

"I was waiting for you." she replied somewhat stiffly. "I need to ask you a question."

Starscream scowled for a moment. "You have been asking a lot of questions as of late." He sighed, "Fire away."

"I am under considerable pressure to ask you when we are leaving."


"How soon? You said you would send us back if things became a problem."

"There isn't any problem, look, I need you and your people, please, don't leave me yet."

Teris bowed her head, "As you wish, N'kosi." She slipped off the couch and walked to the the door. "What are your plans now?" she asked as her hand rested on the handle.

"They have not changed much but I am sure I will need your help. Please bear with me."

Teris turned and left. There was more she wanted to say and he knew it, but she was not going to open up. Something was bothering her. Perhaps the whole attack. He wondered why she would spend the night in his quarters when her own would have been more comfortable. He sat on the edge of the couch thinking. He shot a look around the room. He did not feel comfortable here anymore. Not that he ever did feel at ease. But this whole place scared him now. He half expected Soundwave or Cyclonus to creep into the room and gun him down.

He walked across the courtyard and down a narrow alleyway. The walls were so close together that his wings almost brushed them. He knew he was being tracked yet still felt like he was being hunted. Paranoia? He looked over his shoulder and wing nervously.

'I don't know what you are worried about there is nothing out there, you big coward.'

"It does not hurt to make sure." He said nervously carrying on with his walk. A jet flew over head and the Seeker jerked in fear and drew back into the shadows. He recognised the plane as Silverbolt.

'You are far too jumpy, relax.' Starscream muttered a curse under his breath as he felt embarrassed by his reaction.

Starscream came to the end of the alleyway. It had opened up to a huge expanse of open space. He could see the spires of huge buildings, in the distance, of other great Cybertonian cities. He looked about. Aircraft and other vehicles abounded. The sun was bright and the air cool, in the distance he could see the dark reddish clouds that would result in acid rain. He would want to avoid that direction. He took a deep breath.

'Relax, enjoy yourself.'

He had not expected to feel the sense of freedom he now experienced; one that he had not felt in millions of years. Cybertron reminded him of the time before the war.

But what defined freedom? The condition of being free of restraints, that's what freedom was thought of as. If that was the case then he was not free at all and never was. He was limited by his design. If he was being chased or chasing someone who could fly at mach 2.9 he would either be caught or never catch up at his speed of mach 2.8. He was ruled by minute things that one would never think of. He was bound by the laws of nature. He encountered them constantly when he flew, when he walked he was being held to the ground by the planets gravity or when he fired his weapon he would feel it kickback, for every action there is an opposite and equal re-action. The laws of nature were accepted by everyone without any second thought.

The Autobots told him he could have his freedom with a few exceptions, he could not do what he wanted, say what he wanted, live where he wanted. What made it worse was they had a tracking device flowing through him so they could see where he was at any given time and a greater infringement of his freedom is they had not actually told him about it, therefore he had no real privacy.

The Decepticons would never let him be free for as long as Galvatron lived. Their leader would track him down and attempt to kill him wherever he went. So the little freedom he had was limited even more by his constant peering around ensuring nothing was about to threaten his integrity. Given all the natural and externally imposed restrictions, he did not have very much liberty at all. The only thing in nature that was truly free, in theory, was chaos.

He glanced up at the sky and ran a few steps forwards and jumped into the air, flew a short distance into the air watching the ground recede. Despite all the restrictions on his freedom he could fly and that was what, at the moment, meant the most to him. He transformed into his F-15 alt-mode and fired his jets and flew at traffic height and merged. He felt life returning to him, energy flowing through his body and feeding into his engines. How he had missed this. He twisted into a corkscrew spiral as he flew forwards. The cool air brushed over him as he laughed in pleasure. He had not felt this good since he had left Guandonnaland.

He found that, as soon as he entered the traffic, a huge space opened up around him. At first he thought it was a courtesy thing but it became evident that most of the other flying vehicles were avoiding him. His circuits cracked with muted fury. He knew they recognised him. It was probably not common knowledge that he was now a loosely termed Cybertronian citizen. They did not have to like it. They made it clear he was not wanted by giving him the space.

The speed of the traffic was too slow, air speed restrictions, he thought, if he were meant to go slow his creators would have created him as a Cessna not a supersonic jet. Starscream desired to stretch his wings a little more. He applied more thrust to his action starved engines, they whined with pleasure as he bordered the point of sonic speed. Yes this was more like it, he thought happily as he wove through traffic, tipping his wings left and right as he slipped through narrow gaps grinning to himself as some of the aircraft moved hastily out of his way, enjoying the feel of "freedom." He dove and darted. Everyone made room for him. He felt a bit reckless as he put his flying skills to the test. He was certain that his erratic flying behaviour made everyone around him extremely nervous. He sighed wistfully.

'Oh well, enjoy it while you can.'

He banked suddenly cutting through oncoming traffic, other aircraft shot up and down to avoid colliding with him. He laughed shrilly as he exited the main flow of traffic. He figured they would be pleased to see his vapour trails.

He discovered he was instinctively flying towards a distant city, one that had his ancient university located within the centre. He found himself puzzling as to why he was heading there.

'Skyfire.' Said a thought. 'You are "neutral" now so you are seeking Skyfire to ask him to take you back as his partner in science.'

"I take it you are leading me there?" He asked.

'You are lonely as all hell, Starscream. Skyfire, if he is indeed there, might be the only one who will accept you as a friend.'

"You think he will even want to see me after all these years? Is it possible that he even cares that I live? I mean I've fired on him several times, attacked him, and branded him a traitor amongst other things."

'You have nothing else to lose, Starscream, you have no friends.' The thought said rancorously.

The Seeker sighed and all thoughts quieted. He looked at the ground as it sped below him. Buildings, vehicles and robots merged together in a colourful blur. He delighted in the abstract colour and form that his dizzying speed created. He broke away from the normal traffic route and flew over the planet looking, searching and circling. He saw the true extent of the work being done, that whole cities were being rebuilt. Robots and aliens from all over had returned. He was surprised to see shipping canals again filled with clean water and boats laden with cargo drifting easily through locks and under bridges. Much had changed in twenty years, yes, much had indeed changed.

He arrived at city of Tavis. It seemed familiar yet different at the same time. The layout was almost identical to Vos but the buildings had been all been rebuilt so they were taller and airier. Huge spires touched the crisp sky. He banked and flew over a ruined area. Demolition vehicles and machines were smoothing out the torn landscape flattening broken buildings into the gaping wounds. The one city that could never be rebuilt on its original foundations was his home city. He was curious as to what would eventually be constructed there.

He transformed mid flight and landed in an open yet populated street. He walked by looking at shops and stores that lined either side of the road. Most of the people he saw were neutrals. They bore no symbol. Some had insignias from other worlds or other factions. It was interesting that so many groups of robots and aliens could co-exist. He, however, did not see anyone wearing Decepticon symbols. Although he was not wearing his insignia, he might as well have been. Some of the citizens scattered out of his way. His flying shape, before he had landed, was not foreign to them. No Autobots had the F-15 jet form, none that he knew of. It had appeared his infamy had preceded him.

"This is fun!" he whispered as he watched the robots recognise him and then suddenly take different paths. He glowered fiercely as he looked about himself.

'Starscream, It's not wise to scare them.' A thought interjected abruptly. 'I am not over keen in getting de-activated.' Said the scientist cautiously. Starscream had a keen sense that the scientist knew something he had not noticed.

"You're no fun," sighed Starscream. "OK then, let's find Skyfire." Starscream felt reservations about looking for the big Autobot. How would Skyfire react to his presence? Would he be angry? Resentful? Or happy?

Further into the city he walked and he still found that robots gave him a wide berth. He ignored it. He was sure none of them knew he was not, at the moment, in league with the Decepticons. His symbols were gone but not his history. He had been known as cruel, blood thirsty, murderous, cold hearted and very dangerous.

Looking up he noticed that he was indeed being watched. Autobot security was keeping pace with him, noting his every move. He now noticed a defensive laser turret tracking his path. He sighed. He was going to have to be very careful. So much for any ideas of tormenting air traffic again. It appeared that most of the Autobots would not have qualms about lasering him down in an instant should he provoke them.

'As I was saying, I don't want to get us de-activated. I have a hunch that that tracer in your energon will also allow for an instant lock on should they choose to fire.' Starscream looked up for a moment. 'Don't let them know you are aware of them look away, go to the subway we can get to the university through that.' The thought hastily said. For the first time today his thoughts sounded really nervous. He wondered if his reckless flying brought too much attention to him. He cringed inwardly.

He continued his walk to the subway entrance. It was busy with commuter traffic. The tube cars would arrive and hundreds of passengers would disembark. Another group would load the cars and they would shoot off in different directions through the planet. Many of the commuters looked at Starscream, with apparent shock and hurried along.

He realised another thing. Most of the robots that were commuting were not of a transformer model. They had only the one form and they were not well equipped to fight. Starscream was taller than most, broader, and his definite warrior build and the fact he was openly wearing weapons set them at unease.

He could hear them whisper to each other, they were not too subtle about it. He felt angry; living on this planet with his reputation was not going to be easy. He walked past a small cluster of smaller mechanoids. Only one in the group was a transformer and he wore no symbol aligning him with any particular group.

"A Decepticon.... Here.....?"

"Looks like Starscream, what in Primus name is he doing here?"

"Look at the size of him, he's frightening."

"How has he managed to get here? I thought security would not let Decepticons near this world."

"We should see if we could get him removed." There was a murmur of agreement from the group and they started off rapidly for the door.

The Seeker glared at the few others who stopped to point at him. They immediately looked busy with other observations. He felt like he was on display at a human freak show.

With a keen sense of disgust he entered a subway car. He noticed that no one else cared to join him so he closed the canopy and punched in his destination co-ordinates as he had once done every day for so many centuries when he was a scientist here. Back then people looked at him in awe not fear. They commended him on his accomplishments in the field of science. Now all they remembered was his questionable deeds with the Decepticons.

He punched a button and the tube sealed itself shut with a hiss as the air pressurised. It shot through an endless maze of tunnels past subterranean shops and schools where new robots were being taught basic knowledge like he had once been taught. None of the new robots had insignias. Some would join the Autobots others would remain neutral. Just a few would seek out other employment on other worlds. And a tiny few would join the Decepticons. He wondered what happened to those who did show Decepticon tendencies. Were they brainwashed? Or were they summarily destroyed? Did they have real freedom to choose? Did the instructors say you can't be a Decepticon, they are evil misguided people!

He could not remember his early days very well. It remained very hazy. He recalled that he did not show Decepticon tendencies until sometime not long after Skyfire had been lost. Fear, anger and hatred seethed in him from that point on unchecked and uncontrolled.

Bright colours danced hither and yon. Lights flashed and Starscream found himself going into a daze; mesmerised by the blur of motion. He was not very used to moving at high speeds and not being in control of it, in some way it made him feel ill.

He had to admire what the Autobots had done since he was last on Cybertron. Even with the infrequent Decepticon incursions they were indeed re-building and bringing Cybertron back to its golden age. A twinge of excitement pulled at Starscream's thoughts. Cybertron was richer in energy now than it was in its last golden age.

The tube car decelerated suddenly and Starscream found himself face first into the comm panel. He snorted, attempting to get a little more dignified composure. He had forgotten to latch himself into the car before he left. He popped open the canopy and the air exited with a rushing hiss. He rubbed his face, frowning with displeasure. He would have to remember to put the restraints on next time he rode the tubes. He placed his hands on the edge of the car and stepped out. The car sealed itself behind him and shot away.

He looked around. The University had not changed very much in all the eons. Over the entrance stood a sign.


Huge pillars stood between the ground and the ceiling. They were in a soft pink- red granite coloured metal. The steps that lead to the entrance of the university were bright white and freshly cleaned. Fountains bubbled on either side of the door and lights danced in the water. Strange fish swam in the water and flowering aquatic plants floated on the surface. Starscream leaned to take a closer look and a couple of the large fish swam to the surface. Their huge orange and white mouths opened to the surface. He could see the long moustache like growths on either side of their great maws: Koi, he identified.

Groups of robots and aliens had entered and exited, chatting excitedly about this and that. Others stood around in quiet conversation. Very few noticed the red and white Seeker which, for once on this trip, was very comforting.

He entered the grand building. It was the way he had remembered it. The lobby had huge cathedral ceilings and solid pillars reaching the ground. Bright lights hung over large planters where alien trees and plants grew. He looked at the one closest to him and he was surprised to see earth plants. Tropical palms in one section and desert flora in another. One of his tasks when he went with Skyfire to earth was to bring back plant samples. He never had the chance to get any. He shook himself out of the memory. He did not want to remember why he had left the university in the first place. He did not want to remember that hateful day.

He strode to the reception. He hesitated trying to think of an appropriate approach. Being as infamous as a Decepticon, he did not want to cause any unnecessary panic.

As he came closer he could see that she was a Seeker. How unusual. Almost all the Seekers that were ever created went over to the Decepticon side at some time; it was in their nature. A yellow-orange female sat so only her profile could be seen. Her face was like his, a little smoother and a little rounder, she was very familiar. She was typing. "Can I help you?" She said automatically without looking up. Her voice was alto and clear, but her tone was cold.

Something niggled him about it. "Uh... Hi..." He squeaked suddenly, recognising her. "Ahem.... I'm looking for a scientist, Skyfire? Is he here?" His voice returned to normal.

The female robot looked from her work abruptly, she had recognised the voice. "Starscream?!" She was surprised. "What the hell are you doing here?" Her tone hardened for a moment and her red optics narrowed as if she were trying to see the wall on the other side of him. "You're supposed to be dead," She looked around.

Starscream was taken aback by the hostility in her tone. He had not expected to see her but he had hoped she would be at least pleased to see him alive and well. "Uh thanks nice to see you too, Sunburst," he said sarcastically, "I'm looking for Skyfire." He mumbled cursing at himself silently.

"Right, yes—Skyfire, fourth elevator on the left, up to white level three then hang a right to lab forty seven: Exobiology. You can't miss it." She pointed to the elevators then glanced back down at her papers and continued to sort them out.

"Uh, ya—right, thanks," He muttered as he slowly backed away and turned from her. He felt nervous as he forced a weak half smile. Females, why was it he could not trust them? They served well with the Decepticons but he never really liked working with them. They put him at unease; they were illogical at times saying one thing meaning the opposite. They were emotional; swinging from mood to mood like a pendulum on an Earth clock. It was not that he did not like them, it was he could not trust them and only Primus knew the reason why.

She made a slight snort as she glanced up. She wore a slightly nettled expression on her face but she managed to smile and wave. "Yeh, See ya Screamer." She said flatly.

Starscream stopped to look back, but she had resumed her work. Her face seemed perplexed and a bit distressed. He wondered if he should ask her what was wrong but he wanted to see Skyfire, that was why he was here. Without further ado he walked to the elevator. He pushed the white and then the three button and waited. With a ping the door opened and he stepped on.

The Elevator vibrated for a moment and Starscream's knees buckled slightly as the lift started to move quickly up. The numbered lights at the top of the door illuminated in sequence, the trip seemed to take forever.

'She has not changed a bit.' A thought said. 'She is as nice as ever.'

"Changed? Oh she has changed, as for nice? I think absolute zero of outer space is warmer than she was just now." He thought for moment. "Hey, isn't she Windraker's companion. What is she doing here on an Autobot held planet?" He asked himself puzzled by the thought.

'Well... she is—was a Decepticon. That's for certain. I don't know where she was assigned, but I do know that she was occasionally a mission leader. She's fast, agile and fairly bright. She almost beat you for agility at the academy. That would have made you sick, beaten out by a female.' The thought snickered. 'What she is doing back here is a good question. Perhaps old Mr. Pessimistic has died.' He thought.

"I remember her flying. She was not as fast as me mach 2.7 if I remember right. Her failing was a design fault in her engines. Her agility was as good as mine: very nimble." It would be fun to fly with her for old time's sake. He thought to himself. He watched as the numbers in the elevator slowly counted up to level thirty three.

'We all have our limits that nothing we can do can change. Save a painful upgrade. She could have that flaw fixed by now.'

The elevator door slid open and he stepped out into a reasonably quiet, blindingly white hall. Muffled sounds of voices came to his audio sensors lectures behind closed doors. He cocked his head to try to listen; he could not make out what was being said. He looked up at the directional sign, 1 – 25 left, 26 – 50 right as the door of the elevator slid shut with soft thud.

He walked down the hall looking at the door numbers. The doors were spaced quite a distance apart. He came to the door marked forty seven in medium sized black numbers with Exobiology in large letters below that and, in a smaller font, Skyfire. He wondered whether or not he should knock or just walk in uninvited. Who would want to invite him in, he thought caustically. Quietly he opened it and stepped in.

The room was large, white and an utter catastrophe. A huge black topped table stood in the middle, precariously balancing all sorts of beakers and glassware clean and filthy. The air was shrouded in a thin purple haze that came from an unattended gas Bunsen burner boiling away at some purple fluid. Papers and datapads were scattered everywhere. Lumps of organic samples were strewn all over the place. The place was a mess, unusual for someone like Skyfire. Starscream grimaced at the clutter, what on Cybertron has driven Skyfire to this level. He remembered him as being very orderly and tidy.

Starscream wrinkled his nose as an acidic scent assaulted his olfactory sensors. He firmed his mouth into a line as he picked himself a clear path through the mayhem. This room was the embodiment of chaos, it was free of order, it appeared that the laws of nature had abandoned all hope of maintaining any form of rule in this place. Skyfire was sitting at a desk covered in all manner of things. He was writing something on a small desktop computer. Starscream inadvertently placed a hand on the table and into some sticky foul smelling solution, he shook his hand in disgust as his foot kicked something causing it roll noisily, bumping and clattering through the room.

The robot did not look up, he kept writing. "Please put the test results on the table, thank you and you're dismissed." His voice was soft but cheerless it had little life.

"I'm not here to hand you test results, I am here to hand you a resume." Said Starscream in the most sneering voice he could conjure. He felt the need to tease his old friend.

The other robot immediately stopped what he was doing. He twirled around on his chair. His face lit with surprise and delight. He stood up. The giant robot towered over the Seeker.

"Starscream!" He exclaimed. "You're really alive!" Skyfire said in a soft, yet loud voice filled with surprise and joy. "How did you get here!? I saw you dead. Killed by Galvatron twenty years ago!" Skyfire moved from his desk. Objects fell from the cluttered surface yet he managed to catch them and quickly place them back up.

"Then Rodimus has not informed you that I was taken prisoner?" He questioned, surprised and disappointed.

"Well, he had one of his lackeys contact me saying something like you brought a contingent of creatures from another world here." He sighed. "I dismissed that as low quality Autobot teasing. He knows of the friendship we *had* eons ago." He said sadly regarding the Seeker before him. "Then about a week ago or so, he came up with a story that you had been brutally attacked and almost killed by Galvatron. His lackey insisted that he wanted me to go see you. I declined the invitation."

"He was telling the truth. He's only just released me this morning, providing I remain a "good boy." I figure its safe to assume that if I am a "bad boy" they will simply destroy me without warning. I know I am being closely monitored. But why did you decline?" Starscream was hurt. He was never told that Skyfire was asked to see him. He was very upset although he did not let it show on the surface. Instead he looked around the room trying to figure the best way to get the place cleaned up.

'A nuclear warhead would be the most efficient.' Came a thought. Starscream only smiled, he did not want to answer his thoughts in front of Skyfire.

"Oh, I thought he was just trying to get me to visit him or something. I told him that you were dead. That the Seeker I once knew had been dead for millions of years." He said apologetically. "Why are you really here?" Skyfire asked suspiciously looking into the Decepticons red optics, the Seeker adverted his gaze.

"I came to find you, of course. I had hoped we might be able to re-kindle our broken friendship." replied Starscream unsure of what he read in Skyfire's eyes. He kept his voice level and cheerful. "I need to find employment so I wish to pursue science again. If I can't find something to do I fear I will be forced to slave in the mines, That's where the Autobots send their troublesome criminals isn't it? Since I believe there is no place left for me in ranks of the Decepticons. All my prior ambitions have been shot down, to put it mildly. I doubt that anyone would take me seriously, even if I did succeed."

Starscream had been down to the mines a few times when the planet was under Decepticon control. He knew what the Cybertonium mines were like back then. Cybertonium was as valuable as life itself so high security was needed to ensure it did not get into enemy hands, electrified fences, laser turrets, body searches, long hours and no personal time. One did not get an opportunity to keep up with general maintenance so the miners bodies wore out quickly and they were then sent off to be slagged. He wondered how strict the Autobots were with the mines now. He doubted that they would be as strict the Decepticons once were, but one could never tell with them and he did not want to personally find out.

Skyfire said nothing. He knew Starscream very well once, eons ago. But now the cruel Decepticon stood before him, insignia's removed, talking as if the years had not been so long as if prior words and deeds had not burned like a spray of acid. A part of him wanted to open his arms to his ex-colleague and the other part wanted to tell him to get lost. He felt joy in seeing his friend alive, but he wondered if there was an ulterior motive.

"I doubt it will be any meaning to you. As I am sure you have been filled in with oodles of stories about me from others. At how I lie, deceive and double cross etc. I don't deny any of those accusations. It will take me years, if ever, to gain the trust I have lost with either side. So I have chosen the path of neither. I figure it would be far easier and less risky to be with the Autobots now than with the Decepticons. I've sought asylum, I have also sought you." Starscream hesitated.

"You were my only friend I had from the moment after we re-activated you. It was almost like the old days. But then you turned against me and that stung me like a laser whip. I fired on you in my anguish that I knew we could no longer work together, that the war even separated best friends. I had to do that, I had to shoot you if not; Megatron would have surely de-activated or reprogrammed you once he learned that you were not of our mindset. I did not want to lose you again by either method. I know it was not a very kind thing to do to the friend I once had, but I had to do it. I ask you, Skyfire, please forgive me." Starscream lowered his gaze to the floor. His voice was choked and pleading.

Skyfire patted Starscream on the shoulder. He looked down at the Seeker and smiled. "I forgave you long ago lad."

Hours went by as the two discussed their recent past. Skyfire learned how Starscream's isolation caused him to re-discover his love of science, of helping to teach others to improve themselves rather than destroy themselves.

Skyfire was delighted but he still had some reservations about the honesty of Starscream. He had forgiven him but he could not sure he could forget some of the cruel things the Seeker had said or done. He was willing to try to brush aside some of the damage that had been done, to try to let the open wounds heal. His joy in having Starscream back alive outweighed some of the possible drawbacks.

"Before you go, I have something that might belong to you. It has your sign on it." He paused, for a moment looking through piles of papers on his desk. "I know you're around here somewhere." He opened a drawer and shuffled through the contents. He closed it and looked on a shelf. His hand pulled down a stack objects. "Ah here it is. Does this belong to you?" He asked handing Starscream a grimy flat black datapad.

Starscream's optics widened and flashed in surprise. It could not be, this had to be a joke. He turned it over in his hands. He brushed some of the dust off the corner and his saw personal sigil. No joke, this was his datapad.

"Is it yours?" Asked Skyfire impatiently.

"Where did you find this and have you opened it?" Starscream said surprised while looking mortified.

Skyfire chuckled nervously. "We captured Astrotrain after your ghost ditched him years ago; I managed to ask him a couple of questions about your whereabouts, days before you died. About five years later, I got the urge to go in and snooped around to see if you had left anything behind. I found that thing, dust covered, in a locked drawer. And no I have not looked in it."

"It—it is mine." He said as he flipped it upright. He hit the switch but it would not power up. "Batteries are drained." He said with a disappointed frown. This archive could have been very bad news to him if the Autobots had got hold of it at his interrogation. He was torn between wanting to keep it and wanting to keep it hidden where the real incriminating evidence of his said war crimes could never be revealed. "Uh thanks, this was unexpected." He slipped it quickly into a chest compartment. "I must be going; this has been a good day."

Skyfire extended a hand; Starscream looked at it for a moment and grasped it in his own. They shook and the Seeker exited stumbling over all manner of mess.

* * *

It was very late by Cybertron standards when Starscream left his old friend to return to his home in the "prison". He flew steadily through the cool night. Not racing or frolicking.

When he arrived, he was adversely greeted by Overcast. The Autobot sneered at him. He seemed to be trying to provoke a reaction from Starscream; perhaps he was trying to give the Autobots a reason to eliminate him. The Seeker ignored the comments and continued into the building and walked wearily up the stairs

The Guanas were pleased he was back to full health. They had heard from Teris that he had been almost obliterated. All of the Guanas had greeted him with exception to Teris. She sat away from the others staring at him in silence. Her eyes glistened; she looked like she might have been crying. Tears were foreign to him. Being upset and tears seemed to go hand in hand with many organic creatures. What on earth was eating her? His admission? He could not get Teris alone to speak to her. The other Guanas clung to him like burrs to a blanket.

When he managed to finally separate himself from the attentions of the Guanas, he had returned to his barren chambers. The Autobots were only going to allow him to call this place home until he could find quarters that were preferably off their base. The truth was, most likely that he was a security risk, he figured that they really did not want another Decepticon attack at their headquarters because of his presence there. He also did not want to remain here with the sneering guard outside and frightening memories in the halls.

He thought about his visit to Skyfire. He was pleased by the overall outcome of his meeting. Skyfire had promised that he would seriously think about his offer to join him in his scientific research. Skyfire was also intrigued enough to want to return to Guandonnaland to see how much had changed for himself. He was delighted about the rise of a sentient species. It would be incredible to compare notes from then to now.

Although it appeared that Skyfire still had a level of distrust in Starscream, it was not too hard to detect. And it coloured some of his words and actions. That much hurt the Seeker. But Skyfire had returned to him his most personal possession.

Starscream pulled out the black datapad. He looked it over in a half dazed manner. He pulled at a small wire in the back and plugged it into the wall. The Seeker brushed some more of the dust off and booted it up. Grinning wryly as he leaned against the wall, he typed in a password and was delighted when it was accepted.

Chapter 11 - The Light and Darkness Chapter 13 - The Scavenger Hunt