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Chapter 15 Irrefutable Evidence

Oh stop stepping in my way
Not quite what I thought you'd say
Never find, never mind, never peace god at least
give me strength just for one more try
Got to give, need to live long enough just to say
that I stayed to the end of the big time

-Default, Slow Me Down

Five nights later:

Starscream finished with what he hoped was to be the final tweak of the power pack. It was time again to test. He opened a can of energon and had a few deep sips. He was hoping that this time the whole pack would not blow up. Parts were going to be hard to get inconspicuously at this rate. Tidying up the lab before Skyfire arrived three days before had been difficult. He avoided both Sunburst and Skyfire by working alone after hours.

He had managed to get through the past five days by scavenging energy from various sources around dusk or sunrise, when the light made it difficult to see what he was doing clearly enough. He would refuel then return to the hovel he called home to rest until the sun had set for the day.

Starscream figured that Skyfire knew he was working late at night, as was evidenced by the fact he had found a datapad with a message addressed to him when he had arrived.

'Starscream, what on Cybertron are you doing? Go home and if I find another burn mark in my lab wall, Decepticon, Ah, I cannot come up with a threat that will scare you enough. Just go home; your absence has also been noticed by higher authorities. -Skyfire.'

Starscream chuckled at the note but he did not reply. He did not care anymore who knew where he was. He just left the datapad on the desk with it marked as read. Unfortunately he was going to have to test his pack at least one more time before he could leave return home. He hoped, by now, his point would have been made; he needn't answer to anyone.

He reached for his laser rifle and drew it forwards. He took a screw driver and opened the casing. He picked up the pack and connected a pair of wires to a pair inside the charge chamber. Then came the tube that connected the rifle into his own personal energy supply. This was the area of concern.

He puzzled over it at night in the lab and scrutinised his schematics on the datapad by day. He thought until he had it figured out. His inner ego had suggested that his tests had shown the packs should work fine with his energy signature. However the Autobots had introduced a foreign element into his energon. This did not affect him under usual day to day circumstances. It affected him slightly when he fired his weapons normally. It would draw slightly extra power to burn the impurities out before it could discharge. There was an almost imperceptible delay from the moment. He gave the impulse command to fire the weapon to the time it discharged; almost imperceptible, it effected him only if he moved his arm too soon from the target. His aim ended up off centre.

It had more dire effects when he tried to incorporate the pack to work harmoniously with his systems. When the rifle was hooked up and charging, it continuously sucked at his energy like a vampire. Power was lost purifying the energy and if the filters became clogged; the pack continually charged until the thing overloaded and blew up. Starscream had to spend the remainder of the third night repairing his rifle and trying to remove the resultant scorch marks and shrapnel from his shoulder and wing.

There was one beneficial side effect however it too was slightly worrisome. It helped remove the element from his system. The downside of this was it would alert the Autobots to his research as they would soon find it difficult to track him. He was worried that they would re-capture him and insert more of that baneful element into his body. The other downside was that he had to continually adjust the setting to accommodate the amount of element left in his system to maintain peak performance of the weapon and pack.

All he needed to do was write some programming to integrate the pack to his regular systems; as a weapons subsystem file. In reality it was far more complicated than he had first anticipated. He wanted to maintain his weapons original primary function; laser rifle and secondary function; null rifle. Starscream did not want to overwrite the original programming and make the plasma rifle the primary function and he did not want it to be the secondary function either. He was used to those functions as they were so it had to be the tertiary function. The only problem was his programming did not have an open space for that and it was not wise to re-write one's own programming.

The only way he could get it to change from original to enhanced, at the present moment, was by a manual override. But if he needed speed this was not going to be the way. He would have to get something sorted out so that he could trigger with his intention and reflexes. A slight hesitation in a decision could mean the difference between life and death.

He made the final connection. He covered the pack with a case that he had made. He placed the rifle down on the table and went to the wall which had the burn mark in it. He brought out another sheet of armour.

'It's a shame that this one is not as tough as the first few pieces. Skyfire might just find a new entrance to the next lab.' Came an amused thought.

Starscream chuckled. "Well, let's just hope all it does is make the armour melt and the wall blacken some more."

'Lets hope it does not blow up in your face again.' The thought teased.

Starscream frowned as he stood away from the wall eyeing it as if he had never seen it before. He reached back and grabbed his rifle from the table looking it over just before he hooked it on. He held his arm out straight as if to fire. The rifle whined loudly as the pack charged its plasma chamber. He ran his internal diagnostics to monitor the energy usage. It seemed stable if still a little heavy on the draw. He waited a moment to see if his weapon would start that un-nerving vibration and whine that preceded an explosion.


He mentally triggered the firing mechanism and the rifle discharged. He could feel the heat of the plasma bolt as it left his weapon and hit the plate. The plate glowed red, sagged and melted. Behind the metal plate the wall glowed dark red and the scorch mark grew in size. Indeed Skyfire was not going to be impressed, but the test was a success. He had calculated around the impurities in his energy. That took a little doing: he had to run some small tests on samples of his energon before and after the earlier tests when the element became suspect.

Starscream opened the small valve in his right wrist and drew out the clear hose. He held it into a glass test tube and let several drops of energon drip slowly into clear container. A few more tests of this nature and he could have the calculations very accurate. Now all he needed to do was to write that program and to make minor changes on his rifles so he could connect and disconnect the packs in a hurry. He still did not wish to leave them on as a permanent accessory, they were still dangerous and unpredictable.

Again he removed the pack from his weapon and prepared his notes. He cleared up his bits and put them away into the subspace toolbox. He glanced again at the scorched wall with a slight grin.

'No point in trying to hide that,' he thought, ' Skyfire already knows it exists.'

"I'll see him in the evening tomorrow. Tonight I shall go home." He was tired of hiding out in the ancient ruins.

He turned from the table, taking his rifle in one hand and the plate in the other hand. He glanced around one more time.

He locked the lab and left.

* * *

Overcast looked at his tracking scanner. Indeed Starscream was on his usual approach. He watched as the purple blip moved across the screen towards his rough location. The Autobot Pinzgauer had built up a blind where he could watch and get some pictures. He had several disks filled with the Seeker's nightly activities and he continued to watch. He did not have any images of what he was doing late at night in the university but he had several good images of the burn mark that he bore on his shoulder and wing. The Decepticon was up to something. Something that could cause him bodily harm.

Once he got the frequency for the tracer he found it easy to locate the Decepticon. He had located Starscream huddled, asleep, in a hovel that he had hastily built in ancient Vos. It was apparent to him that he was no longer residing with Sunburst. Overcast chuckled, like anyone would want to remain housemates with Starscream.

There was a very strong urge at that moment to shoot the Seeker full of holes. No one would have known who did it and he doubted that anyone would really care, much less investigate. He would not have considered it murder; he would have simply considered it more along the lines of exterminating a rat or another type of noxious vermin. But taking the Seeker out while he slept would not have been very gratifying in the least. No, he still wanted to take him on hand to hand and the thrill of the ultimate challenge.

Overcast had witnessed Starscream raiding energy behind the university as well as a few other scattered locations around dusk or just before dawn. However during the dawn raids he gathered several cubes and took them away with him. He consumed them voraciously in the morning hours. One had to be careful in consuming raw energon. It hit the system really hard and fast, like alcohol to a human. The Seeker had probably fed in the morning so he could sleep off the effects during the day.

He could hear the roar of the Starscream's engines closing in on the landfill area. Overcast knew his routine. He would drop the damaged plate bury it and dig around for a new one. It was obvious that the plate had to do with the damage of his wing and arm. That was the night that he did not bring a plate back. So Overcast had to track him to Vos.

He remained silent as the Seeker landed nearby and dropped off his damaged cargo. However unlike most other times Starscream leapt into the air immediately after and transformed. He cursed as he watched the red and white jet fly away. He was flying in the wrong direction too. Overcast left his hideaway and kicked angrily at some tires that lay nearby. Oh well, he thought, he would follow the Seeker later.

* * *

He stood outside the doorway looking at the number pad. His thoughts ran rampant as he hesitated. There was the distinct possibility that she could have changed the ID code, if so it would be safe to assume he was not welcome. However, Skyfire had told him, in the message, to go home. This place, for lack of a better location, was home.

He had grown tired of living in the old ruins, it was not his style or his way. It was cluttered and dismal. Starscream had 'wealth' once. As the Decepticon Sub Commander; he had his quarters away from everyone else. He had his own private supply of energon so he did not have to go to the public re-fueling area. He had, at times, control of an entire army.

He wondered again about the choices he had made in the distant past. There was no way he could change the past, not unless he could find a machine that would send him to a point in his life that he thought would change the outcome of his future. He doubted, if he did find such a device, that he could convince his past self to alter from his suicidal path he had unwittingly taken. That was why people had said to forget the past and just live life now as it unfolded.

He was still perplexed as to why and how his lasercore had survived. He was grateful for that fluke of nature. Humans often had stories of ghosts. Many different interpretations about why or how they existed. Some said they were an energy life force: Their soul. It was similar to the spark of a transformer. He could accept that idea.

Another group would suggest that ley lines on Earth had a lot to do with whether or not a ghost could leave the mortal plane after the body dies. Some areas of that dismal planet had numerous ghost stories such as England and when he looked into it there was supposed to be numerous ley lines. He dismissed that idea; there was no scientific proof, pendulums and divining rods; that was metaphysical rubbish although there was something significant about the positioning of ancient monuments and their more modern buildings such as their churches.

Some said that the ghosts were nothing more than an aural projection that just remained behind mindlessly walking the paths that they had walked in life and had no actual sentience. This would seem to explain why they floated through walls in new buildings. Starscream as a ghost could walk through walls, disappear and reappear, possess others. He could also plot, plan and think. To be truthful he felt almost alive. To him he seemed solid enough, until he tried to interact with something on the mortal plane and passed through without resistance. He would have preferred to have been fully alive or fully dead, not trapped as some ethereal figment of everyone's imagination. So he did not agree with the people saying that the ghosts had no sentience, he did.

There was another suggestion that depending of the weight of good or evil upon such an organic spark would depend if it would go to their heaven or hell. Those that were almost equal in balance remained trapped forever or they chose to remain behind until they could resolve an unfinished task that was set before them while they were alive, especially if they were taken out of turn. Starscream wondered if that was the idea that fit him the best. He did not know. He doubted he would ever know the answer, and he was not sure he cared to know the answer.

He reached down with a blue finger and punched in the passcode. The door unlatched with a soft click. He pushed the door open and entered the room.

Early morning light spilled into the lounge. He took a deep breath and he could smell the earthy scent coming from the moist soil from the potted plants. He looked around expecting to find his various possessions scattered about the place. Upon looking he could not find anything that did not belong. Quietly he looked into his re-charge room and noticed his shelves were neat and organised. Sunburst's door was closed.

He returned to the lounge and sat looking at his datapad pondering how to write a program to allow him to use the third weapon function. After that was done he would have a few more late nights to create the second pack, a few more test runs and he would be ready. It would not be much longer now. He leaned his head back in thought for a moment and fell into a doze.

"Starscream?" Said a firm voice as a hand reached out to shake him.

He awoke instantly, his optics flashed on bright in surprise for a moment as his hand lunged out to grab whoever it was who had touched him. His laser rifle oriented along his arm in readiness, he narrowed his optics as he focused on Sunburst who for a moment looked utterly terrified. He let go of her and she backed away unsure of his motives.

"Sorry, reflex." He chuckled. "I don't recommend creeping up on me like that; you are likely to find yourself shot." Starscream placed his datapad that had slipped out of his hand onto the floor while he had dozed off, back into his chest.

"Why have you come back?" She asked, coldly crossing her arms in front of her defensively.

Starscream's mouth fell into a frown, hurt, he moved to stand up. Sunburst placed a hand on his shoulder and stopped him from rising. "You don't want me here; you never did so I will gather my personal effects and leave." He stated attempting to rise again. Sunburst maintained a strong hold on his shoulder."

"Skyfire told me there was evidence of you working in the lab after hours. Burn marks in the walls..." Sunburst had noticed his right wing and upper arm. There were a few minor stress fractures and visible scorching. Her optics narrowed in a brief flash of concern. "I had thought you had fled to Charr to battle, The Guana people have been looking for you."

"I was just preparing files for my trip back to Guandonnaland." He lied, not wishing to reveal his activities. "Which is something you might think about as I would like you to come with Skyfire and myself, we will be returning. There are a lot of fascinating plants that need to be categorised." He suggested.

"You are not telling the truth; can't you explain why you have that burn in your shoulder and the condition of the lab?" Her tone remained cold although it had softened some. "I want a promise that you won't return to Charr."

"No." He threw her an annoyed, don't you even go there look.

Sunburst just glared at him. Her red optics brightened in frustration. "And why not?" She dared to question him again.

"Because it's a promise I can not keep." That was the truth; he did not like to make promises. He was never good at keeping his word. She still persisted to aggravate him with questions. "I am truly sorry in that Sunburst. I cannot keep running and hiding forever. As I have said before, one of us is going to go down and I would prefer it to be Galvatron. It's not about power now, it's about revenge." The aggravation faded from his voice.

She let out a hefty sigh. "Well I have to go." She threw up her hands in slight irritation. "You're welcome to stay if that is your desire." Sunburst quickly turned away and left the apartment.

Starscream frowned unhappily. He knew they were still at odds. He had answered many of her questions yet she still did not answer any of his. Quietly he made his way to the recharge chamber for a bit of proper rest.

* * *

Three weeks after his return; he was still fighting the usual battles and arguments over his desire to keep his laser rifles close at hand. They did not diminish until Starscream, in desperation, threatened to drop her houseplants along with her research off the building. He insisted that he could feel attack was imminent therefore wanted his rifles nearby at all times. Two weeks after that; he had thought he had seen the Combaticon, Swindle. When he went to take a closer look he saw nothing. Once again he was set to feeling ill at ease and very paranoid.

With this in mind he re-doubled his efforts with writing the weapons tertiary sub-routine and made the second plasma pack. He was looking for a plate to test his new power pack when he spotted Overcast hiding in the ruins. He quickly dropped the plate and flew out. He wondered how long the Autobot had spent in the ruins. He hoped it was an only a coincidence that Overcast was present at that particular place at that particular time.

He often went to visit the Guanas. Teris inquired a couple more times when he was deciding to leave. He told her that he had completed the weapon as well as the necessary programming to operate it and that they should leave within the next thirty or forty days. Teris obviously was delighted.

He had been spending many hours at the university helping Skyfire with preparations to leave for Guandonnaland. They had uploaded necessary ancient files to the ship along with notes of things he wished to test, experiments that they wanted to run and a couple of theories he wanted to prove. He wanted to find out what were the direct ancestors of the Guanas of today. He had spent so much of his time with his studies that he could not spare more than a brief visit with Teris and her people.

* * *

Sunburst was still asleep in the other chamber when Starscream awoke from his recharge cycle. It was very early in the Cybertron morning. Relative to Earth it would be about quarter to four. He was nervous. This was the day. He brought his optics on line and stared up at the ceiling and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself: it did not work.

He wanted to delay this day, he had dreaded its arrival. But he had to face it. One way or another he would face his nemesis and he preferred that it would be on his own terms; when he was ready. Although his second plasma pack was untested the program was fully integrated and functioning. He had spent time practising switching between modes until he was used to the tertiary function.

Starscream stretched and silently sat up on the sleeping couch. He looked around the room for a moment thinking quietly to himself. He had doubts that his internal thoughts quietly reassured that he was doing the right thing. It was now or never; somehow he had known his time was running out. He reached down to the floor and grabbed his rifles, resting them on the top of the re-charge bed. His other hand opened the drawer and removed the packs. He hooked them to the adapters on the butt of his rifles and with shaky fingers reattached them to his arms.

He was ready.

He fought to suppress the jittery nerves. He did not want to appear weak. He wanted to look menacing and dangerous. He stopped and glanced into the room where Sunburst rested in re-charge. He had to leave early; he did not want her interference. "Good-bye Sunburst, I might not be back." He whispered almost silently as he regarded her sadly for a moment silently wishing things could have been a bit different. He had no room in his present agenda for a female. Not unless it suited his purpose and at present she had no purpose for him.

He quietly crept into the living room area and found the datapad. He printed a small message. It hopefully would buy him a few hours to escape. He was often disappearing for a day or two with Skyfire. It would give him about a day's head start before she found out the truth when Skyfire arrived looking for him. By that point he figured that they would wait to find out whether or not he returned.

The note was simple:
Gone on a research trip on other side of planet. Be back in a day or two. S.S.

He put the pad down on the table as he crossed the room quietly. He passed the private re-fueling area of the apartment and his hand snaked out and he grabbed two cans of a high energy energon beverage. He held them tightly in his azure fists as he walked to the door. Taking a deep breath he stepped out of the apartment.

The hall was dimly lit. There was nobody around this early in the morning. He walked towards the door at the end of the hall that led to the darkness of the roof. He was on a mission, one he had planned to do from the start. He opened the beverage and took a deep swig. He felt the high energy drink course through his body as it gave him a burst of nerve calming power. The other can he placed in his chest compartment. He would need it when he arrived on Charr.

He stood outside, alone in the early morning darkness. The stars were bright. He looked above him. High above he saw a glimmering pinpoint of yellow fire, Guandonnaland, he thought. He downed the rest of the energon; crushed the can in his hand and tossed the crumpled remains into a waste receptacle. He took another deep breath and leapt into the starry sky. He transformed into his jet mode and flew high and fast. There was something more he needed to do before he left Cybertron, perhaps for good.

* * *

Starscream arrived in Iacon at the barracks where the Guanas lived. They were settled in asleep at this time. He located Teris' room. She was curled up in a thick blanket. Although Cybertron's climate was fairly regulated, the Guana people were far more used to a very hot, humid environment. She moaned softly as she awakened and her big amber eyes flickered open. Her pupils dilated suddenly as she recognised Starscream.

"Go away, it's early." She hissed groggily.

"Teris, I need to talk..." The Guana woman rolled over and slapped a pillow on her head. Starscream pulled it out of her grasp and tossed it aside "Seriously Teris...."

"I am tired, come back later." She responded in annoyance. She did not want to seem like she was disrespecting Starscream, she was just not in the mood to be disturbed.

The Seeker needed to talk to her as he had suddenly realised he did not have a hope in hell in succeeding in this plan. He wanted to say good bye at least. She rolled away from him and he reached down and caught her. He looked straight at her and sighed. She wriggled in his grasp. He held her firmly.

"What the hell has got into you?" He asked exasperated as she tried to ignore his presence.

Teris just looked at him coldly. "You want to know what has gotten into me?" She hissed "Tuli, that's what. She pressures me every day. She wants me to take the ship. I insist we wait until you are done. What about us, Starscream? We want to go home!" She sounded plaintive.

"We will be going home soon, I promise." This was one promise he could guarantee, if not for himself, for them. "I am planning on doing the task that brought me out here in the first place." He sighed. He thought he had felt some tension in the room when he was around Tuli. Teris had been loyal to the core and he had wished he had some way he could reward her loyalty. She knew him for what he was and saw past that.

"You're going for Galvatron?" She said suddenly and stopped wriggling in his grasp her eyes growing large in amazement.

"Yes." He said simply.

"When will you be back?" The Guana asked her interest now peaked.

"A couple of days at the most." He figured on the positive side.

"And you worry that you might be killed?"

Starscream frowned with displeasure. "Um... truthfully... Yes." He replied feeling interrogated, "although I hope I have the element of surprise and it won't come to that." He felt the flutter of nervousness deep within himself.

"Sunburst, will she be with you?" Asked the Guana.

"Not if I can help it," Starscream replied. "I would like you to see to it that you ready the ship for launch in two weeks." He changed the subject from Sunburst. "Prep it so we could leave earlier if we can make it. I don't plan on getting killed."

"Can I go with you then?" She asked hopefully. She did not really want to hang around Tuli. The tension had increased in the past few days and there was a whispering that a battle challenge would be soon issued.

"Too dangerous," said Starscream. "As I have said, Galvatron could very well destroy me and that would leave you stranded." He reasoned. Starscream did not want her to be stuck on the cold, burnt-out world of Charr. "It would be safer if you stay here. If I don't return, leave in two weeks." He said with a creepy feeling crawling over his mind. He would have to re-focus on the mission rather than the possible ifs. If he was to succeed he would have to think positive.... easier said than done.

"When are you leaving?" She inquired satisfied with his reason for not allowing her to go. She did not relish the idea of being stuck anywhere.


"Right now, now?!" She could not believe the short notice he was giving her.

"Before I change my mind." Said Starscream grimly. He felt a bit like he was about to march off to a funeral. His own funeral. He placed the lizard back onto the cot. He stood silently for a moment fighting off the uneasiness that threatened to overwhelm him. The Seeker had a burst of fear that made him feel as if he wanted to turn and run. He took a deep breath, and pushed the erratic feeling away from his mind.

Teris sat looking defiant. She hated his plan. She wanted to run after him and scream at him to stop. She was afraid of losing him. He meant a lot to her people. He had brought them prosperity and better lives. She knew what he was up against. He was much smaller than the evil Galvatron and he was only one against a possible many. She had seen the results of his previous encounter first-hand and that memory lived forever in her dreams, haunting her. Teris kept her tongue firmly in her head.

Starscream forced a smile, patted her scaly head and turned for the door. He stopped for a moment looking back at her then he closed the door behind him.

Teris turned for the computer and composed a message. "Stop or help Starscream, please! He's going on a suicide mission – Galvatron.– Teris." She hated this plan utterly and she did not think he should go alone. She punched the send button and sent one to Skyfire and one to Sunburst.

The Lizard lay restless on her cot feeling worried. She could not return to sleep. A few hours later she walked down to the Guana common room looking for food and something to drink.

Teris walked into the room and stopped in the doorway when she spotted Tuli. The other lizard was angry, her teeth were bared and her mouth pulled in an ugly snarl. "Enough, Teris, I think I stand for the betterment of our race when I say this, you are too weak. Shamans have never made good leaders. Look at how your father brought this upon us! We had a simple but good life!" Tuli spat her words at Teris. Her sharp clawed finger angrily jabbed Teris in the chest. "I challenge you to a duel. The victor becomes leader as has been the tradition of our people!" Tuli grabbed the pendant that Teris wore and tore it off flinging it aside.

The other Guanas stopped what they were doing and looked over at Tuli. She had issued the challenge. The lizards spread themselves out to encircle the pair. Umfolosi stopped to pick up the gold Decepticon insignia and placed it in her pocket. She would return it to Teris as soon as the fight was over.

The thick chain had cut into Teris's neck. She placed a hand to her wound and snarled. Her lips were pulled back in a grimace exposing many razor sharp teeth.

"Hand to hand." Said Tuli defining the rules of engagement as the challenger could. "Claw to claw, tooth to tooth."

Teris nodded in agreement. If she declined the challenge, Tuli would take control of the lizards immediately. This could not be allowed: her loyalty was to N'kosi and her people. Tuli was loyal mostly to herself. She looked around the room at the other twenty eight Guanas. They backed away loosely forming a ring.

Teris and Tuli stood in the middle facing each other, teeth bared and claws extended. They watched each other intently eyes locked.

"I don't know what you see in him." Said Tuli as they started to circle each other hunched in a ready position. "Have you even looked at what his kind is? Have you read the stories, Teris?" Her words were angry and loathing. "HAVE YOU!? Do you really want to be known as a Decepticon supporter?"

"Yes." Said Teris firmly, answering both questions at once. "I have read the stories and I have the wit to understand it is only one side of the story twisted in the Autobots' favour. It's a territorial battle, much like we have now. You will tear our people asunder as their wars have torn theirs!"

"It's time for a change Teris! I have followed you long enough. I am the oldest female on this ship." Tuli lunged for Teris, slashing out with a clawed hand. Teris, surprised, leapt back but not quickly enough to avoid the longest finger on her opponent's hand. Blood welled up from the fresh wound on her arm. Teris only snarled in discomfort. "You are a pathetic slug, Teris; you are willing to betray our people! Lead them into slavery." Tuli continued to goad Teris.

Teris's vision went red with fury; she opened her mouth and lunged at Tuli. She knocked the other down and brought her teeth down to bite. Tuli reacted suddenly, balling her hand into a fist and punching Teris in the snout. She flew off and landed on her back with Tuli leaping after and landing on top of her.

Tuli tried to get her claws at the big vulnerable eyes, Teris fought her off with her hands, hissing angrily as Teris kicked her footwear off and used a sharp claw of her toe to dig into her opponent's leg, tearing it open. Abruptly they jumped apart. They were both bleeding from their wounds. Again they circled.

Tuli had her head cocked, her eyes glowering with hatred. Her mouth opened slightly. She limped; Teris' attack had left a deep gouge in her thigh. She also shook her feet free of the restraining foot garb. Her tail lashed angrily back and forth as the blood stain on her clothes grew larger.

Teris and Tuli both lunged and they collided with a massive thump. Entangled, they fell to the ground and rolled across the floor in an angry ball of red, grey and green. They hissed at each other in their language, the curses were lost between the snarls and hisses as they bit and slashed at one another. To the spectators it appeared the duel was going to be set to the death. Their hatred of one another had become too intense.

The tension between Teris and Tuli had become so heated that Zumbo feared this eventual outcome. Tuli had been talking for the last few weeks about challenging her leader. She was angry because they were still on Cybertron. N'kosi had rarely been to keep them updated personally and Tuli decided she was going to assume leadership and take the ship back home.

Zumbo zoned out and thought about the mild argument he had earlier in the morning.

"We are all needed!" Zumbo had insisted.

"The ship can manage with less crew if necessary." Hissed Tuli. "I had hoped that our scavenger hunt would have allowed us to leave Cybertron faster!"

"Tuli, you can't possibly issue a challenge against Teris, she has done so well for us."

"Has she? She's at the beck and call of that—that creature. She cares nothing of us: if she did she would have returned us home!" Tuli pointed suddenly at machine in the corner of the room. "I have my egg to worry about now. I want to take it home. I don't want my offspring to hatch off its native world!"

Her maternal instincts were clouding her judgment. Female Guanas often went into uncontrollable rages when their young were at stake. "Tuli... if you battle Teris our offspring might not have its mother." He pleaded for her to ditch this crazy and dangerous idea. She was diligent, hardworking and loving: all the characteristics of a good mother. Zumbo loved her very much or else he might be thoroughly angered with her hatred of Starscream. He had two conflicting loyalties.

"HAH! I will succeed, Teris is weak. Her whole line is weak. Shamans were never the toughest stock." She had turned and stormed out the room to hunt down Teris.

Zumbo kept his mouth shut. There was no point in arguing with her once she had her mind set. He could only hope for the best.

A ball of green and grey rolled across the room towards him distracting him from his thoughts, the challenge had been issued and it was between the combatants: the leadership issue would be resolved shortly.

Teris disengaged and rolled aside. She had a slash across the tip of her snout. She eyed Tuli with fury as the other ran to her. She lifted her foot and spun around lashing out with her tail. All her strength and body weight was in that movement. Teris's tail connected and she could feel Tuli's head whip to the side as the force of the blow sent the older lizard reeling to the ground with a scream. There was an appreciative hiss from the spectators.

Teris completed the spin and faced her opponent, blood dripping from her nose, hands out-stretched in readiness. It was not over yet. Tuli picked herself up with a slight shake of her head. Several teeth were broken; not a major wound. They would grow back again if she survived.

Again they circled both limping and hurting from their wounds, both weakening from pain that they refused to acknowledge. Teris spat at the feet of Tuli, insulting her. Tuli charged, her mouth wide open, wet blood stained teeth glistening in the light. Teris dropped to her knee, rolled aside and stood up. She spun rapidly around and knocked Tuli, who had turned to meet her, off her feet with her tail.

Pain lanced through Teris' tail. She knew she had broken or crushed one or more bones in it when she connected with her opponents strong legs. She winced; she could see Tuli smile maliciously. She knew that she had just lost a valuable weapon.

Tuli seeing the weakness leapt at Teris with her great jaws open. She was too slow to step aside and was thrown onto her back with the enraged Tuli upon her. Suddenly she felt teeth sinking into her throat as the pressure increased. She hissed in surprise and pain.

Abruptly she remembered something in her pocket. Something that Starscream had given her months before. She slipped her hand into the pocket as she fought to draw breath. Tuli was heavy. She pulled her hand out and pointed the object up at Tuli and pressed the button.

A bolt of lavender energy exploded from the pistols tip. It burned through Tuli's shoulder. Tuli screamed in annoyance as she flew backwards through the air. Teris' throat was bleeding from many small puncture wounds. She looked down at the pistol in her hand and looked at the setting. Normal strength. The smell of burnt flesh hung in the air.

Tuli unsteadily stood up. "You cheated!" She screamed in disbelief.

"You did not specify that no other weapons were to be used." Teris had a small loop hole. However she knew traditional fights were usually fought with traditional weapons. Starscream's pistol was not a traditional weapon. The fight had been close. As much as Tuli irked her she did not want to render the unhatched spawnling motherless. She was within her right to kill Tuli at this point if she desired.

Teris watched on as Zumbo walked to his mate and slung an arm around her to comfort her. Teris took a deep breath and turned to walk towards the edge of the ring. The battle was over. She had won.

"YOU! Don't turn your back on me!" Tuli lunged as she screamed, breaking free of Zumbo's grasp.

"Tuli—NO! Tuli! Teris has won, she is our leader!"

Alerted by the shouts Teris flipped the settings. She spun around on her foot and fired. The bolt of lavender blue light encircled Tuli; she screamed and fell into a heap. She caught Zumbo's horrified stare. "Zumbo, get your mate out of here and to the Autobot's infirmary, she's only stunned, not dead." Teris hissed angrily as she staggered to the door to find a medic who might be able to help set her tail.

* * *

He looked back at the closed door with a helpless sigh. He figured it might be the last time he saw Teris. He tried again to hold a positive outlook. 'Oh cyber-rats.' He thought. He still did not expect to return from his mission. Galvatron was always a hard opponent to deal with. Galvatron had a way of returning Starscream to his base elements with his Plasma cannon. Be it turning him into black ash or a quivering heap of fear and incoherence. He proceeded to the door and the outside world.

The sky was beginning to fill with flying transformers or vehicles of those who could not transform or fly. 'Tough luck to them.' He thought with an edge of hostility. The air was clear and the stars were still bright. The blue sun was just starting to peek over the horizon. He took a deep look at the vista around him. He expected this would be last time he set foot on his home world. The buildings and the smell of the air made him almost think against his task, but it was now or never. He drew upon some hidden reserves of courage as he transformed and took off for Charr.

The Seeker's engines roared with full power as he blasted away from Cybertron. The ground diminished swiftly and he broke through the Cybertron atmosphere; he knew he broke a cardinal rule that the Autobots had imposed. He was not to leave Cybertron without their consent. He did not care about their rules anymore. This was his fight and not theirs.

Around him the star formations changed and danced around, as if they were alive. He often admired the beauty and freedom of space, once he had increased his speed enough then with the odd addition of thrusters he could maintain it almost indefinitely. He flew towards the sun so he could use its massive gravity well to expedite his progress to Charr.

Starscream thought of the distant stars. He knew them for what they were, huge balls of hydrogen being fused into helium releasing massive amounts of energy and radiation into space. He could feel the solar wind against his sleek body. His body felt the extremes of temperature; one side was searing hot, while the other side was frigid. It made him feel somewhat uncomfortable. He rolled slowly exposing one side then the other. His mind drifted to the thought of his home world's star.

Cybertron's star was nothing spectacular as regular stars go. It was small, very bright and towards the blue-white end of the spectrum. If it were a blue giant, it would have burned out or gone supernova eons before robotic life could have a chance to evolve on Cybertron. The star, however, was without a normal classification, which made it very interesting. It was small enough to be classed as a dwarf; it was blue in colour due to the extreme temperature of its core. But Dwarf stars are not known to have any hydrogen left to burn. They were cooling dead stars, whose cores were reduced to iron from the final burst of their lives. Cybertron's star, however, seemed to burn endlessly. It was figured to be many billions of years old and would continue to burn for many more billions of years. The Cybertron star was far older than Earth's Sol.

Starscream's mind began to swim. He was not an astronomer. He could understand the basic concepts but he knew only enough about stars and stellar charting to navigate in the vacuum of space. He was more interested in alien biology, if there were intelligent species, alien history and culture. He knew how to use such information to his advantage; he also knew if he understood the internal workings of a race better, that race could be easier to destroy if it was necessary. And he was also interested in geology and geography.

No, the secrets of Cybertron's star remained hidden. Probes from scientists, Autobot, Neutral or Decepticon all failed to turn up anything useful on the composition of their sun. Most probes melted before they got to the corona. One theory remained... it might be an artificial sun, but what fueled it?

His mind gave a short sharp throb. Astronomy was not his field so why was he dwelling on it? Could it be due to the fact he had spent a lot of time drifting through the cosmos in years gone by?

As he shot away from Cybertron and its star he could feel the gravity of the system diminish and let go. He felt his momentum speed up as the gravity from another distant system grabbed him, pulling him towards it like a hungry beast. It was a huge distance for him to cross. At his present speed and the closeness of Charr, it would be but a day's flight.

The Seeker's mind started to drift. He became drowsy; boredom filled his mind with erratic and occasionally disturbing thoughts. He decided to allow himself the luxury of a brief rest. He scanned the route ahead of him checking for any possible hazards. He left his radar on and he allowed himself to go into a light rest cycle.

* * *

"And so you see Rodimus, these have been his activities over the past eight weeks." Overcast ceased his slide show. The evidence was irrefutable; Starscream had failed to hold up to his ends of the bargain. Overcast smiled smugly. He had managed to ward his leader's anger to insist he was only spying for the good of the Autobot race.

It had become known to the Autobots that the Seeker had gone missing for about a week when the Guana Teris had inquired if anyone knew where he was. The Autobot leader was annoyed when he inquired with Skyfire about the lack of information. The giant flyer simply stated that Starscream needed to have time alone. He seemed unworried about the Decepticon's motives.

Now Skyfire sat watching the pictures shamefaced. The melted plates, energon cubes and the scorch marks on his wing and shoulder. Upon his return Starscream explained that he had mixed incompatible substances by mistake due to fatigue and the experiment exploded injuring him and damaging the wall.

"Skyfire, since you ensured you would report all of his activities would you care to explain all this?" Inquired Rodimus.

The flyer sadly looked over the small group of Autobots present, Rodimus, Ultra Magnus, Springer, Upland and Overcast. He raised his hands in defeat as he spoke. "I had no idea of his activities. I assumed he had just taken time off and I was led to believe that it was a botched up experiment that had injured him." He hung his head.

"As he is a very dangerous Decepticon I can no longer allow him to remain free on this planet. He poses too much of a threat. But to be fair, raise your hand if you wish to see him re-captured." Everyone excepting Skyfire raised their hands. "I will need your help, whether or not you wish this, to help capture him."

"What do you intend to do with him once you have captured him, de-activate him?" Inquired Skyfire with suspicion. Overcast grinned at the possibility.

"No, he will be sent to the mines until we review his case." Stated Rodimus.

"You can't do that to Starscream, sir, most Seekers are inherently claustrophobic. Sending him down there would be a death sentence to him. Deactivating him would be kinder." He did not like either option.

"I am sorry Skyfire, that is my final ruling. He is not an Autobot or even a Neutral for that matter. He is a Decepticon and always will be. If you cannot bring him in peacefully, you may use whatever means necessary."

Skyfire was torn between the ancient friendship and his loyalty to Cybertron. He looked down at the insignia on his chest and took a deep breath. "Yes I will assist you to capture him alive. But reconsider your choice in sending him to the mines. You can find him this afternoon at the University." The flyer stood up and left.

Chapter 14 - Falling Down Chapter 16 - Dead mechs tell no lies