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The Cause
Chapter 17 The Bridge Over The River Acheron

I wanna heal, I wanna feel
What I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I've felt so long
Erase all the pain 'til it's gone
I wanna heal, I wanna feel
Like I am close to something real
I wanna find something I've wanted all along
Somewhere I Belong

-Linkin Park, Somewhere I Belong

Starscream hauled Sunburst and Overcast outside. A large grey cloud blocked the red sun causing Starscream to refocus in the dulled light.

"Skyfire?!" He called out as he let Overcast's arm drop limply to the hard cracked ground.

Skyfire had appeared from behind some ruins where he had been hiding. "Starscream, it's you! I am relieved. I had heard weapons fire and was worried about..." Skyfire stopped mid-sentence as he looked at Starscream's damaged body, at Sunburst who he carried and at Overcast who lay dead at his feet. He was lost for words. He knelt down and took Sunburst from Starscream's hands. Intense sadness replaced the relief on his face.

"We need to get Sunburst to Cybertron and Overcast was killed by a Sweep. I could not save him, it was too late." Starscream said, attempting to sound concerned for the others.

Skyfire looked over Sunburst in his hands and glanced deeply at her wounds. "Hmm," he muttered thoughtfully, "She has had a wound like this before; when I found her dying on Mars. Who shot her?" He was concerned for her survival.


"Megatron must have shot her then. We must get her off this place." He handed her back to Starscream.

"I wonder why she was near Earth in the first place." Starscream muttered rhetorically. He knew he was not likely to get the answer.

Skyfire, realising the desperate situation, transformed and awaited Starscream to bring aboard Sunburst and the lifeless remains of Overcast. The Seeker sat in the co-pilots seat looking into Skyfire's cargo area at Sunburst as the giant flyer blasted off for Cybertron. Many thoughts rattled across his frustrated mind. Things seemed so different now. He was hoping that Galvatron would no longer be a threat to his life. He was hoping that he could return to the Decepticons and take his rightful place as their leader.

"I am your prisoner now, am I not?" Inquired Starscream of Skyfire, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

The large mech sighed causing his hull to shudder slightly. "In some way, yes, you are, but it's under protest; I don't agree with this. I'll try to convince them to be lenient."

"What is my present sentence?" He asked with worry. Overcast had hinted to it but he was unsure if the Autobot was speaking the truth or not.

"Work in the mines."

"I trusted you Skyfire!" Starscream's worst fears had been confirmed; he would be going to the mines. The little bastard Overcast was telling some of the truth; he was with Skyfire to collect him. If it were not for him he would still have freedom.

"You did not trust me enough Starscream! You could have told me what you were doing. I could have helped you!"

"You would have stopped me!"

"No, I would not have. Sunburst left eight hours before I did. Only with my speed did I manage to overtake her; I was trying to stop her, not you." Skyfire's voice was full of regret. "She is laying there because she wanted to help you." Skyfire sounded hurt and angry.

"She was not helping to arrest me?" He was surprised.

"Starscream, there is something I should have told you, but I have no idea how you would react." Skyfire paused for a moment to allow himself to gather his nerve.

"No, she did not want you to go on this quest. None of us did, you are being selfish; the battle is pointless and look what it has brought you." Skyfire admonished. "Sunburst, believe it or not, cared—cares a great deal about you."

"Could have fooled me," said Starscream bitterly, "after what I've done to her? After I tried to strangle her? Does she like punishment? ARGH! It makes me sick that you even suggest it, Skyfire." He refused to believe that she would even consider stopping him. It did not agree with his personality that someone would carelessly risk their life in such a manner. Not after all his attempts to force her to keep her distance.

"You must help her!" Skyfire pleaded.

Starscream abruptly became incensed. "Why? Why should I bend for her? She was the one who ran into the blast. She did not need to interfere; I had things under complete control until she arrived!" Starscream could not contain his anger any longer. "If she did give a care why did she tell you and not me? Why all the slagging secrecy? Why did she even bother? You should know better! She should know better!" He shouted loudly. He placed his elbows on his knees and his head into his hands. He knew why all the secrecy, he had told her on a few occasions not to bother him about such issues. It irked him to find out she still toyed with the idea behind his back.

Skyfire said nothing as he let Starscream vent his frustrations.

The Seeker remained this way in silence for a few minutes until he heard a soft moan from the back. He lifted his head and shot a glance over his damaged wing. Sunburst had awakened. She slowly rolled her head awkwardly from side to side as she weakly lifted her hands. He groaned inwardly.

"She should have known that I don't have time for such nonsense. Argh!" He felt another swell of frustration. He was in an incredible amount of pain himself and there was no one here who could relieve him of it or start the necessary repairs. He was on his own and he felt resentful. If she had not barged in he would not have taken those hits. If she had not barged in she would have not taken the ugly chest wound that demanded his attention. "After all I've just been through, this is the last thing *I* fragging well need."

"Help her, Starscream, or you will have her death on your hands as you have Thundercracker's and Skywarp's."

"I have every intention in helping her. Also, I don't see why you need to lay this guilt on me." Starscream snapped sharply. He stood up, clenching his teeth against the grinding pain of his broken cockpit canopy. He felt emotionally unstable. He was not sure what he really should do. Part of him screamed to do nothing to help her. The other part was moved by Skyfire to try to save her. He sighed deeply. He felt very confused. Emotions he'd rather keep buried threatened to surface. He could not let those feelings out; he did not want them to be known, not even to Skyfire. He knew that they would only become a problem, one that would only get in his way and play havoc with his judgement.

Starscream noticed as her hand moved that there was a sizeable pool of energon under her. Her wounds must have been damaged further when he had moved her into Skyfire. He felt a deep pang of sympathy drift over himself. 'Why did it have to be this way?' He cursed silently to himself as he knelt down on one knee beside her. She stopped moving and faded into unconsciousness.

It was the first time he was able to get a real good look at the extent of the damage. It appeared to be much worse than he had initially thought. He realised he should have attempted the first aid repair while he was still on Charr rather than letting it wait this long.

"Sunburst, why did you come? Why did you endanger yourself?" He asked rhetorically as he looked out the front window watching as the darting stars shot past. He felt confused with the conflicting emotions. He realised that she would soon die from her wounds if she did not get proper help.

"Screamer, you got him didn't you?" Asked Sunburst abruptly as she returned to consciousness. She laid her orange, energon coated hand on his forearm.

Starscream glanced down at her, his face softened. "Yes, I hope so. Keep quiet and conserve your energy." He said softly. He looked to the ceiling and off-lined his optics. "Primus help me!" He whispered trying to think what to do next. He returned his gaze to her; her optics had returned to their dull unconscious state.

He took a deep breath and set himself to cauterising her bleeds and leaks with the laser he had in his index finger, much like he had back long ago on Guandonnaland. He grimaced at the enormity of the task. There were hundreds of tiny ducts that were severed and leaking from all locations. Her self repair system was also damaged so she was not getting much help from that. He leaned in and carefully severed and sealed a major conduit that fed most of those little feed ways.

It took the Autobots nine days to repair him from a similar injury. He could not quite remember how he felt during that time but he had a good idea of what she was going through and it would not be pleasant. He had no method of numbing pain receptors and he had no tools. He was good at building or re-building things but he needed parts. He had no parts to fix her with. Starscream shot a glance over at the dead Autobot. He did not think he could get compatible parts for her from him. Anyway the whole idea of using dead Autobot parts in a Decepticon was revolting to him.

'Autobot parts don't mesh very well with a Decepticon.' He thought distantly.

Skyfire flew steadily through space not speaking. He did not want to disturb Starscream's progress. He monitored the Seeker's work listening to him as he silently muttered under his breath, cursed or snarled in frustration. He knew Starscream was having a tough time with the limited tools he had on hand and no spare parts.

Skyfire also regretted telling Starscream about Sunburst having a feeling for him. He had insisted in Sunburst keeping a safe distance from him, to not pursue the issue and he brought up the very subject he wanted to avoid. He needed to get through to the Seeker that he was not entirely alone in this issue, that the only one who was really against him was dead in the back. He did not entirely believe that Starscream did not personally kill Overcast, but he could not accuse him of it; only proper tests would show if the death was indeed from a Sweep.

He felt guilty about bringing up his past with Skywarp's and Thundercracker's demise. But he had to shake some reality in to him. Starscream could repeat his past; adding more salt to his injuries or living on with the knowledge that if she died he had at least tried.

Starscream felt pain dart through him every time she woke up during his repair attempts. Her face was etched with agony and she seemed less and less aware of her surroundings.

Starscream stopped his work for a moment. He had a suspicion he was being watched; the feeling was lingering as if someone was standing behind his wing and shoulder. He darted a furtive glance over his shoulder. There was no one there yet the feeling remained.

He worked in an uneasy silence sealing leaking energon conduits but some were far too damaged to be repaired in that manner. "Her energon is too dangerously low for her to bleed like this. She will die if we don't get her back Cybertron fast." He whispered to Skyfire, his tone tinged with fear. "Did you happen to bring any extra energon along?" Inquired Starscream.

"I have enough to get us back to Cybertron. I'm very sorry, I can't spare any for her. And you know I would if I had it to spare." Answered Skyfire sadly.

Starscream remembered he had grabbed two cans from Sunburst's personal stash before he left for Charr. He had been saving it so he could get the extra energy boost he needed when he left Charr to return to Cybertron. He reached into his chest compartment and removed the can and placed it at his side.

He shook Sunburst gently. Her optics glowed slightly brighter but she did not seem to recognise him. Starscream grabbed the can and opened it. He manoeuvred himself so she was semi-reclined against him. He opened her mouth slightly and slowly poured the liquid energy into her. She did not swallow, the fluid seeped from her open lips instead. He snarled in frustration as he tipped her head back trying to force the fuel duct to open.

"Skyfire can't you fly any faster?" Asked the Seeker in anger. "Swallow slag you!" He cursed as he tipped her face slightly forwards. She coughed spitting some of the fuel out while the rest drained into holding tanks. Starscream quickly gave her more.

"Going at top speed now. It will still be several hours yet..." Replied Skyfire apologetically.

"She does not have the luxury of several hours!" He hissed fearfully watching the rest of the fuel trickle out of her mouth. Starscream frowned as he laid her back down again. The efforts of forcing energon down into her were not working. He had spilled more of the energon on himself than he managed to get into her: it was wasteful. 'What can I do?!' He thought plaintively drinking the rest of the energon.

"You have it within you to help her." Skyfire's voice sounded suddenly very odd to him, like it was behind and over his shoulder rather than surrounding him. It, in some way, sounded more like a thought than a vocalised word but it was not one of his thoughts. He looked around past his wing. Then he wondered how Skyfire knew what his unasked question was since he had only thought it rather than verbalised it.

'I think he is telling you to do a mech to mech transfusion of energy.' Came a thought. 'It sometimes works in desperate situations.'

"Is there no other way?" He asked himself quietly. "What about my own injuries?" He complained, "surely I can't spare her my own energy. I am low enough on it as it is."

'It's the only option at the moment. Unless you care to pitch her off Skyfire like you pitched Skywarp and Thundercracker.' Said the thought with rancour. "Survival of the fittest."

"You enjoy reminding me of that don't you?"

'Just for once, do it. You won't die; I will prevent it.'

"There is no other way?" He asked again.

'None whatsoever.'

He was afraid of that; there was only one option. If he wished to try to save her he would have to at least try. Since Skyfire suggested it, he would give it a shot. It was a very long shot at that. He opened an aperture on his left wrist and brought forth a brightly glowing pink hose. He knelt beside her and opened a similar aperture on her chest and plugged the glowing hose in. He felt his energon transfuse into her, slowly bleeding away.

He wondered again why he was doing this. He was risking his own life by allowing this transfer. He initiated the safety protocols that would cease the transfusion before he could become critically depleted. If he could not help her in this manner he would rather let her go than allowing himself to die keeping her alive for a minute or two longer than him. Starscream lay down beside her and shut down most of his non-essential systems. He went quietly into a state of voluntary unconsciousness.

Skyfire flew on oblivious to Starscream's activities.

Skyfire arrived on Cybertron. He had radioed for a team of medics to be standing by. They stopped for the briefest moment looking at the grim spectacle. Overcast's grey body lay carelessly heaped in the back of Skyfire.

A fairly damaged Starscream lay next to a very faded Sunburst in a large dimly glowing energon puddle. The tube between them was empty of energon. Starscream's programming had shortly before ceased the transfusion as it now risked his well being. His body remained in stasis. The medics rushed up and quickly scanned him. He had very faint life signs.

Sunburst's own energy signature was very weak, almost imperceptible. The Autobot First Aid ordered her out first; the next group gathered Starscream up while another group carried Overcast's lifeless body out.

Skyfire transformed and Rodimus, who had only just rolled up, ordered him to the briefing room. He wanted a full report.

* * *

"What exactly happened?" Rodimus asked.

"Starscream followed through on his plan."

"Galvatron is dead?" He asked disbelievingly.

"I don't know, Starscream thinks he is. He's quite hopeful he has succeeded. He's dead if he failed."

"He won't get a chance to be dead by Galvatron if he lives, Starscream must leave Cybertron as soon as he is able. I am sorry but Sunburst must also leave with him as soon as she is repaired. I will have the Guana's standing by to take him back to that world they came from. They are welcome to return. Starscream and Sunburst are never to return."

"But sir! This is their home world. Starscream is my friend, Sunburst is my student! You can't force them to leave."

"I have, I will, and you can join them if you wish. However you are free to return when you want. I'm sorry, Starscream is too dangerous to keep here even in the mines. I've contemplated having him de-activated but if he has indeed killed Galvatron; that would be an inappropriate method of thanking him. That is why he is to return to exile. He does not need to remain on Guandonnaland, he is just not allowed near Cybertron. Orders will be given to shoot him down if he comes within eight million kilometres of this world." Rodimus stood with his arms folded across his chest. "You are dismissed."

Skyfire nodded sadly and left the room to find the repair area that Sunburst and Starscream were sent to.

* * *

The medics only replenished Starscream's personal energon reserves and gave him a bit of a sedative to help numb the pain that he was in. They could do no more for him at the moment. It was Sunburst who was a higher priority. He accepted this reasoning with only an annoyed grumble.

He stepped into the observation room that was outside the surgery where Sunburst was being attended to. He found Skyfire and Teris waiting for him.

He shot them a glance. "Where is she?"

"She's in there." Skyfire said nodding to the large window that had blinds drawn so no one could see in. Starscream turned for the door. "What are you doing, Starscream?"

"I know more about Seeker repair than they do." He stated with annoyance.

"They are medics. You are not!" Responded Skyfire.

"They're Autobots! They don't repair Decepticons, they kill them! I remember bits and flashes from when I was in there."

"They can help her." Skyfire had his hand on Starscream's arm.

"Get your hand off of me!" He shouted angrily. "I am the best mech for this repair job."

"Starscream leave her be, you can't do anything for her!" Skyfire yelled as he spun Starscream around. He held his arms tightly to his sides. He was furious with Starscream and his stubbornness.

"I created the slagging Combaticons, don't tell me what I can or cannot do." He yelled back. He felt insulted by the implication that he was incapable of helping. Most Decepticons could do minor repairs to one another. Some were indeed better skilled or adapted to that sort of work. Hook was one of the best, if a bit towards the extreme end of perfection. With him one was pretty much guaranteed full recovery in a few short days. Decepticon physique was slightly different from Autobot; they could do so much damage thinking they were helping. He knew that they had managed to pull him through far worse damage, but he suspected that they took so long because they had no idea what they were really doing. "I am a Seeker. I've done repairs to many Seekers in my time; give me the damn tools and I can get the job done!" He jerked himself sharply and broke free of the much larger mech's grasp.

"They don't want you in there." Skyfire said firmly.

"No one wants me anywhere!" Starscream shrieked angrily.

"You fail to understand..."

Starscream cut him off. "Don't you call me a failure!"

"You're not listening; they don't expect her to live. You know that for yourself." Skyfire reached out to place a reassuring hand on the Seeker. It was he who really wanted the reassurance.

Starscream angrily batted it aside; he did not want to be handled. He did not want to be reassured.

"I don't have to believe it! Why is it that everyone I know is taken from me in one way or another?!" He yelled in frustration feeling slighted by the universe. Yes, he knew her chances for survival were minimal. He wondered for a second is he was a toy for fate but then again he did not believe in all that superstitious rambling. He did not believe in fate, that things were predetermined, that the future was already written. It was unscientific and there was no solid proof. He felt that he had more than his fair share of misfortune and those around him often paid the price. "Why does everyone I know have to die?" His red optics were livid. "She will have a better chance if I can help! Anyway, they thought I would die. I lived. She will pull through if I can help." He pulled away from the larger mech.

Skyfire reached out and jerked the Seeker back by the wing joint. "I haven't died! What about me? You selfish bastard, what about our friendship? Do you want to lay that to waste also?" Skyfire said feeling hurt. "Stop wallowing in your self pity and think about others for once in your wretched life. Let them do their job. Anyway, you are far too irrational to make the right choices right now."

Starscream's mouth twisted in an ugly manner, his optics flashed brightly. "Go to hell, Skyfire and don't you ever handle me in such a manner again! As a matter of fact keep your fragging hands to yourself from now on." He warned threateningly. Skyfire let go of his wing, shocked at how Starscream had addressed him.

"Who do you think you are, Skyfire?" Starscream turned to face the larger mech. "Have you even tried to understand what it is like to live my life? Have you even stopped to see and think about what I have been through? I've been killed, resurrected, marooned, captured, tortured and almost died a second time. I've had endless rules and regulations on how I am supposed to live my life. I've tried to accomplish my goals here peaceably, I've been tracked, spied upon, followed and hunted. How dare you call me irrational and selfish after I've been put through all that! It's more than any one mech can or should handle. You're the one who wants to bring me in so I can meet my end in the mines and you worry about our friendship breaking?" Starscream's voice sounded sickened at the hypocrisy. "I had trusted you! I came to you because you were the only one who I thought could help me. You also should know when my survival is at stake that I'll take care of myself first. I won't be captured, I won't be imprisoned again! Never! If it means killing you to maintain my freedom, I will. I shall destroy anyone who comes between me and the sky!" Starscream's body shook with rage.

Teris had withdrawn to the furthest corner of the room. She was beyond shocked. She had never, ever seen Starscream so angry before. She thought he was irate when Madba crossed him; that was nothing compared to the uncontrolled fury she was witnessing in him now.

"That's not what I mean!" Skyfire realised he had grossly underestimated Starscream's present temperament. He was taken aback by the vehemence in the Seeker's voice and rage.

"You've betrayed me. You lied to me the whole fragging time!" Starscream was angered beyond belief. Everyone he knew seemed to be against him in one form or another. He had no one left he felt he could turn to. He snarled angrily as he wrenched the door open. Two Autobots standing guard on the inside of the room caught him by his arms, holding him back with difficulty. "Let me go!" He demanded with a scream, struggling against the hands that held him back. "Let me help that Seeker before it's too late!" He shouted angrily.

"It is too late. She died just minutes ago." Said First Aid wiping energon off his hands onto a cloth.

"Oh no, not again!" Skyfire muttered weakly from behind Starscream. He felt a gouge of anguish slice through him like a hot knife and his knees almost gave out. He had been friends with her for almost forty years and she was an apt pupil. The loss would be greatly felt at the university.

"You're lying Autobot! You can save her, bring her back! I was brought back, I was dead, she can still be saved..." He managed to break an arm free firing his null ray at First Aid. As the Autobot fell he could see the greyed figure of Sunburst lying on the table. "It can't be." He said weakly as his mouth dropped open. His body went ice cold then numb.

"Let him go." Spoke Skyfire softly to the guards. He watched as Starscream's wings drooped slightly as he froze in his spot.

Starscream numbly felt the Autobots release his arms. He stepped forwards to the body on the table. He could not feel his feet touching the ground and his head felt heavy. All thoughts stopped as he stared dumbfounded.

"She can be fixed." He said flatly picking up a tool looking at it blankly. "She's not gone yet I can still bring her back."

"It happens, Starscream, there was nothing more they could do! Let her go, she's gone."

"Huh?" He looked over his wing at Skyfire, his face expressionless. "No, she's going to be ok. It's just a simple repair really." His voice felt like it was ten feet over him.

The Autobots stood around watching the thunderstruck Seeker.

"Starscream!" Skyfire called. "Give it up, she is dead there is no coming back."

"Isn't there?" He put the tool down slowly turning to Skyfire. "I'm nothing more than a ghost?" He watched through dulled optics as the Autobot, he had shot, stood up shaking himself slightly to regain feeling in his fingertips.

"You were a unique situation. I need your help now." Pleaded Skyfire.

"Wha? I—I could have helped her if I was given the chance to help." His voice remained flat and emotionless. He thought of something, the first thought that he had since seeing her dead. He realised that he too could have let Skywarp and Thundercracker work with him closer. He realised he could have even worked more closely with Sunburst. He could have been better friends to all three but they died because of him and his ambitions. "I could have saved them." He said dully referring to Skywarp and Thundercracker. "I—I could have been a better friend to them." His tone had no inflection.

"You tried your best to extend her life." Skyfire was stunned at the abrupt change that had come over the Seeker. One moment he was enraged the next moment he was shocked into an eerie unnatural calmness. He had not expected him to show remorse in this manner.

'I'm cursed.' He thought as he turned his head slowly to glance over his wing at Sunburst. He reoriented his head to the front, hesitated as his vision hazed; he then took a step towards Skyfire and abruptly collapsed.

The Autobots lifted him to another table.

"He's gone into shock. Let's get him repaired." Said First Aid.

"Patch him up and get him awake." Said Rodimus as he entered the room. "Take Sunburst to the Decepticon crypt and have her interred."

He turned to Skyfire. "Have you told him yet he is to leave?"


"He still has to leave Cybertron. Just give him some time to get over this. We don't want him resenting us for exiling him while he is in this condition." Rodimus pulled Skyfire aside and spoke softly. "I give you my condolences; I know you were very close to Sunburst. Which makes me say this: we were aware of the tentative attraction between Starscream and Sunburst. It surprised me after finding out you had her take Starscream in as a house mate."

"She is—was my student. Why would you be surprised? I was helping out a friend; she was doing it for a friend. There should be nothing unusual there." Skyfire tipped his face down sadly. "Her death has had a profound effect on me. I must remain level headed to get us both through it." Skyfire turned from the Autobot leader. "Now if you will excuse me I have stuff I need to get done."

* * *

Teris had called the Guanas together into the chamber where she and Tuli had battled almost to the death a few days before. Her tail was bound in a very light weight cast and it was healing rapidly with the help of medicines that were far more powerful than they had ever seen on her home planet.

Again around her neck she wore the Decepticon insignia.

She had spent the remainder of the day, immediately after Sunburst's death and Starscream's fall, with Skyfire. He was beside himself with grief and worry. She had found out that he had viewed Starscream much like a close brother and Sunburst like that of a sister.

Skyfire was very upset about what Starscream had said. Indeed when he had spoken to her, he explained some of the things the Seeker had said and why they were said. He also went into descriptions of the way Starscream was before the war and the scientific achievements they had earned together in the realms of exploration and exobiology.

He then explained his meeting with Sunburst. Teris discovered that Sunburst and Skyfire worked secretly together rebuilding the university before the great battle of Autobot city. They had checked out the great arboretum, cleared the overgrown plants taking care to thin out other species. He and Sunburst spent a great deal of time attempting to identify the verdant growth. It was through this that Sunburst developed her love of green growing things.

They were eventually discovered by the Decepticons and questioned. As it turned out one Autobot exobiologist and one Neutral botanist were nothing to be concerned with. They were released and resumed their work. They managed to attract the attention of other science minded mechs and the University of Alien Cultures was re-born. After the Autobots pushed the Decepticons to virtual defeat the university flourished. Many species of sentient beings from all over the galaxy flocked to learn exobiology and geology, history, palaeontology and other foreign sciences. It had become the foremost in exploration.

When it became apparent that Starscream had lapsed into a coma due to some undetermined internal damage, Teris had to rethink what she had to do; he would remain this way for an undecided amount of time. The Autobots could not detect the reason for the malfunction. The Seeker's main operating system went into standby and most of his synaptic activity settled into one area of his brain. The only thing that was running at full capacity was his self repair system; it was repairing some internal damage they reckoned. Starscream had shut down. Skyfire suggested when it was safe to move him that he would take the Seeker back to Sunburst's home for recovery.

She was sad and the others looked at her expectantly. She realised that she had been standing there in silence. Teris blinked as she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, calming herself in a quick meditation that her father did when he was stressed. She looked across the room and spotted Tuli. The older female sat caressing her egg lovingly while Zumbo sat next to her resting his head on his hands. Tuli had learned her place. She did not have to like it but it was their way and she honoured the Guana laws.

"We leave Cybertron for home in about seven days as N'kosi instructed me." It was a hard decision. She felt as if she were deserting someone who might need her help later. He had told her to take her people and leave if he did not return, and in some way he might not return. She could wait and see if he recovered quickly, or she could leave and hope he would return at a later time.

"What do you mean Teris, is he not coming with us?" Asked Empangeni with surprise. The other Guanas also reflected this sentiment.

"He will follow on when he is ready." She replied keeping her voice level.

"Why is he not ready? We've heard the news, the quest was a success." Asked Zumbo from the back.

"He had success... but it came at a price, Sunburst died. I feel responsible as I had asked for her and Skyfire to stop his quest." Teris hung her head.

"How will he return?" Inquired Tuli.

"The Autobots said they would give him a cruiser when he is well enough to take command of one. They wish him to leave; they see him as a threat." Teris was annoyed at the Autobots. She had found out that one of their number had persecuted Starscream from the start. Fortunately he lay dead, killed by a Sweep. "Get yourselves ready. I want all stations up and running and all reports handed to me." Teris turned away from the rest and strode through the hall feeling lonely and very sad.

The Ship fired it's thrusters. Teris stood in front of the massive unoccupied command chair. She held her hands on the railing while the ship lifted off Cybertron. Tears rolled down her face. There was no word on Starscream's progress other than he was still in an unconscious state. Skyfire had handed her a list of botanical specimens that the university desired. He had told her that if she felt there was something of great value that they thought should be added to pop them in as well.

She looked back over her shoulder at the chair. She sighed, more tears trickled out of her eyes. She dashed them away with the back of her hand. She pushed her emotions back and thought of how wonderful her planet would be when they arrived and how glad she would be to see her father after all this time.

* * *

Starscream banked over the white mountain peaks with Skywarp flying alongside. The Sun was shining brightly overhead, stroking his ice cold body with its warm rays. The Sun's meagre warmth did not help against the cold emptiness within him; that had nothing to do with the frigid minus thirty three degrees centigrade or the wind chill factor brought on by his speed in flight. It was that his world had once again come crashing down around him and he was tiring of it.

Every instinct told him to go fly alone as he always had but something deep within him told him to bring along a companion, at least this time. He simply had spotted Skywarp standing nearby and said, "Skywarp, come fly with me." The black Seeker cheerfully agreed; Starscream was surprised at his willingness. He was glad that Skywarp had agreed to this flight. He somehow had expected the Seeker to tell him to get lost or blow it out of his afterburner. Instead he followed behind as a loyal soldier would follow his officer in charge. He felt it was perhaps time to show him more than the indifferent face he had usually given his wingmate.

Starscream glanced over at the sleek black jet flying smoothly beside him. He wanted to show his wingmate that he was more than just a warrior; he wanted to show him that he really had cared. But how could anyone believe him that he cared after such violent acts or wrong doings?

The wind whistled past him as his engines roared with their power. Skywarp kept up with his speed saying nothing. He flew over the highest peak of the Himalayas. Starscream transformed and landed daintily on the summit. Skywarp transformed and stood beside him.

"Why'd you bring me here?" Skywarp asked perplexed.

"I never showed you anything. I wanted to show you this place. It means a lot to me." Replied Starscream looking over at Skywarp. The black and purple Seeker rested his hands at his hips.

Skywarp surveyed his surroundings and turned to Starscream. "Peace is not tangible. You won't find it by coming here. You have to look within yourself to find it."

"Why within myself? There is nothing there; if there was I would not be capable of leading those I respected to their deaths. It's quiet here and horrendously cold; it chills my energon so I can return free of emotion."

He knew he would never be able to change completely who he had become over the millions of years and it would take an equal amount of time or more to reverse what history had created. Mountains like Everest would continue to rise as the elements slowly wore them down. Perhaps there was a chance to change his ways slowly. Perhaps the elements would wear him down; grind the rough edges off of him softening him to accept what had happened.

Maybe, like the rocks when they are eroded by the elements, the winds of time and change would expose some of his old wounds, like fossil bones buried for eons. Perhaps then he could learn from these old wounds like palaeontologists learned about the way a creature lived in the past, why they rose to dominance and how they eventually fell to extinction. Perhaps he could learn to prevent his own extinction.

He did not want to wait that long for fear it would be too late. Mountains, civilisations, races and empires all would rise and eventually all would fall, nothing is constant. The only thing in life that was assured was change.

Starscream sat on the frigid rocky peak looking down at the mountains around him. The warm sun was in his face and the sky was perfectly free of clouds. Skywarp settled down beside him. The wind kicked up some snow and it blew past them in a momentary white blur.

"I never told you where I went on my jaunts when I was booted off the base by Megatron, where I would spend hours sitting or standing, this place. Here I can keep my feet firmly on the ground yet I can still feel like I am king of everything. Go ahead, Skywarp, mock me, say I am selfish." Starscream hesitated expecting the usual snide interjection that Skywarp would insert but to his surprise there was no such interruption. He suddenly laughed shrilly; it carried across the rugged landscape. "Would you believe that humans sometimes come up here so they can touch their god? You say I can't find peace here, I believe you are wrong in some manner, not all. I find the quiet and solitude from everything peaceful, even my thoughts will still and sometimes stop all together."

He took a deep breath as he looked over at Skywarp who sat with a rare pensive expression on his face. It seemed as if he was listening to him or else he was tuning him out as he often did during training or other military functions.

"Go on." Said Skywarp pulling on some things the humans had left on the peak after their visits.

"It was hard at first to be alone up here. Human jets would find me and strafe me as I sat. They would attack until I was driven away, I resisted the urge to fight back and eventually they realised I was not doing any actual harm so they left me be."

"You're beating around the bush." Observed Skywarp with a grin.

"Indeed I am," admitted Starscream, "I know this is a dream, because I remember my past up until now. I know for a fact you are dead and I killed you along with Thundercracker. Now I am also responsible for the death of that yellow Seeker, Sunburst. There is a lot of guilt now on my shoulders I can't outwardly express it; pain is a weakness. I know you are nothing more than a figment of my imagination."

"As you once were a figment of imagination for others." He smiled teasingly.

He wondered what this was all about. He had often had dreams in which he re-lived, often times, horrible life experiences or occasionally dreams that were complete fiction, having nothing to do with anything he had experienced. But this Skywarp seemed quite real enough. Dreams were often like that. Starscream sighed sadly. Again he realised how much he missed his wingmates. "There is little point in talking to you if you are not real. You are dead and have been for over twenty years, but something still compels me to try to apologise to you, even knowing that you are just a creature of my imagination." He shrugged his shoulders glancing up at Skywarp while sadly shaking his head. He rested his arms across his knees and his hands hung limply at the wrists. "I am sure if we had more time we could have worked things out, I wanted to be your friend but I was too afra—uncomfortable to let you in close to me, same with Thundercracker and ditto for Sunburst." Starscream looked up, the warmth in his energon had almost chilled. "I need to get back down before I completely freeze up here."

Skywarp continued to look at the mountainous countryside as he spoke. "You and I were a lot alike."

"Were a lot alike." Starscream repeated agreeing sadly disliking the usage of past tense.

Skywarp continued, "You came here to freeze your emotions, to turn them cold; I used humour. I was just as cold and angry as you. That's why I played all those jokes. It was my way of venting my frustrations. I never let anyone in. I kept everyone at arm's length, even Thundercracker. I was drawn to you because I felt something in you that reminded me of myself. We shared pain and I wish I had talked to you about it. Things might have been different. But there's no use dwelling in the past." Skywarp turned to Starscream and placed his hand on the red Seeker's forearm; the touch was reassuring and gentle as Skywarp stood up to leave.

"Skywarp! I don't want you to leave I want to stay with you." Starscream said suddenly knowing that Skywarp was going to leave him; perhaps, this time, forever.

Skywarp held an open hand out to assist Starscream to his feet. "If you mean you need to stay in this dream forever; then I'm disappointed in you. That's selfish." Skywarp turned back to him and said in a warning tone. "You're not the only one affected here. Keep up with that attitude and you'll drive away the only living friend you have left. Your pet lizards also need you." Skywarp rested his hand on Starscream's shoulder. "You'll never accomplish anything in life wallowing in self pity, Screamer, you know that." Skywarp smiled gently removing his hand from the Seeker's shoulder. "I forgive you and I'm sure Thundercracker does too. As for Sunburst you know that answer. I gotta go now." Skywarp balled his right fist and brought it to his cockpit in a salute and abruptly disappeared in a brilliant purple flash.

"Skywarp!" He cried out over the rocky expanse, "don't go!"

* * *

He awakened realising he had shouted "don't go" loud and harshly. He felt embarrassed as he looked around. He recognised the surroundings and knew he was in his own recharge chamber. His datapads lined the shelf; he noticed a thin layer of dust. He thought he had just wiped the shelf off the other day. He leaned his head back and looked distractedly up at the ceiling. There was a sound of the door creaking open.

"Sunburst?" He inquired with a croak. He was surprised at the sound of his voice. It was unusually grating and he had been told by others in the past that he had a nasty voice. He felt thick headed and numb. He pushed his hand with difficulty to his head. "How did I get here?" He wondered out loud.

"It's me, Skyfire, I'm here. I won't leave you." The large mech said as he ducked to enter the chamber. He was followed by another smaller mech who looked familiar.

Starscream sighed as he recognised the other mech, Upland, the Autobot interrogator. Starscream tried to move away from the approaching Unimog. His body and joints were feeling stiff as if he had not moved in a long time.

"You've finally awakened; Upland wants to ask you a few questions." Skyfire informed gently.

"Before you say anything I need you to answer these questions. They will be timed." Upland said holding a hand held timer.

"What? Why? Huh?!" He focused on the Autobot.

"I'll ask the questions; what's your name?"

"What?!" Starscream was perplexed as to what they were doing.

"Just answer quickly; you can ask questions after."

"Starscream." He coughed clearing his voice.





Upland felt surprised at this but he did not let it show. "Last question, your Alternative form."

"Earth Style F-15 Eagle, Hunter-Seeker." Immediately replied Starscream with a hint of curiosity.

"He's perfectly fine Skyfire. Answered quickly and concisely, his brain functions seem ok. Now you better tell him." Upland left the room and closed the door behind him.

"Tell me what? And what was that about?" Inquired Starscream, slowly sitting up and moving his stiffened limbs.

"How long do you think you've been asleep?"

Starscream glanced around himself, his wing was fixed and his air intake was patched up. He wriggled his fingers, they too were stiff. "I would say a day or two tops however that I think is not right. I feel a bit stiff so perhaps a week? Why?" He did not notice that his insignia had been reapplied.

Skyfire sat down beside the Decepticon. "You malfunctioned, shortly after, uh, attacking Charr; we believed that your stress might have caused some neuro pathways and synaptic relays that were damaged during the battle to short out. We could not isolate the problem but it appeared that your self repair systems were working full time to sort it out. After much consideration it was decided to allow nature to take its course and I knew it would only be a matter of time before you decided to re-awaken. Starscream, I'm sorry but it's been several months. Those questions were to determine if you were lucid or not."

Starscream sat open mouthed in surprise. "It could not have been out that long. My repair systems should have fixed it up long before then..." He was extremely surprised and upset.

"There is more, as soon as you are fully recovered you are to leave Cybertron and return to Guandonnaland. Where you go from there is up to you but you cannot return here, else they will shoot you down before you even arrive."

"I'll go back to Charr to take my place as lea..."

Skyfire hung his head. "You've been out of the loop for quite a while Starscream. You left the Decepticons open to contest and not just on Charr. Internal uprisings have occurred. Dirge and Astrotrain are current local leaders. However Decepticons crawled out of the woodwork from all over the place to vie for a position as supreme leader. We are bracing ourselves for an attack from whatever Decepticon force takes full control, if the internal fighting ever ends. I strongly urge you—please, Starscream, reconsider, don't return to Charr. The situation there is very volatile and it is still uncertain whether or not you succeeded in your personal vendetta." Skyfire warned. "I don't want to see you get kill..."

"No... It's not possible! Galvatron is not dead? But I shot him full of holes!" Starscream's tone was filled with disbelief, disappointment and worry.

"It's uncertain, we've heard nothing of him and Astrotrain and Dirge are current leaders. That implies that he's out of the picture. But if you go back and he is still alive..." Skyfire left his sentence hang. "But I doubt he survived." He tried to reassure the Seeker. "Also, the Guana people left shortly after it became apparent you had suffered internal injuries. Teris led them away; she's been back with a load of plants for U.A.C. She has sent a few subspace messages inquiring about your progress."

"Ugh, leave me for a while, Skyfire." Said Starscream turning his back on the flyer; he wanted to think. Skyfire shrugged his shoulders and turned away leaving Starscream to his thoughts.

Starscream sat on the edge of his recharge chamber staring sullenly at the movement of light underneath the door as Skyfire walked away down the hall. He could hear the light voices of the Interrogator and Skyfire as they chatted.

He could not believe that so much time had passed. He desired the leadership of the Decepticons. He thought he could go and fight for it again. He had three major attempts at taking leadership in the last two decades. The first would be his most infamous attempt; he had sacrificed so much to achieve that and had died. He had conspired for years with Astrotrain. He was even found out by Skywarp and Thundercracker about eight years before he took control. He had made them swear to secrecy; they agreed because they did not believe he would be capable of succeeding. Had they known he would abandon them in space; they would have turned him in to be slagged.

His second attempt was a complete failure from the outset. He had been captured only minutes after arriving. He had been so cocky on his eventual success that he did not check for watch points. He did not understand when he was spotted, only that when he had arrived he was welcomed by a stun blast from Cyclonus. Luckily for him he had Teris along and she freed him from his prison. Then he fled to Cybertron only to be imprisoned by the Autobots who were only slightly less hostile than the Decepticons. He was almost killed by Galvatron as a direct result of that failed mission.

Starscream's third attempt he believed was so well planned and thought out. He tried to not keep his hopes up too high for success as he knew failure would leave him dead, but he did try to maintain optimism. However, that slowly turned to pessimism as the day drew near. Yet despite all odds he had succeeded to some degree. He was angry at the interference. How had Skyfire, Sunburst and that miserable Overcast known where he was? He could only guess that Overcast had been the one responsible for reporting his absence. He sighed heavily.

It came in threes. Three seemed to be the way things occurred: Seekers usually flew in a triad, three worlds he was bound to, three people he knew as friends, were killed and three failed attempts at taking control. He was not prone to being superstitious but this number seemed to occur so much in nature.

He wondered if for a moment he was cursed. Many primitive cultures set up scary curses to keep people out of things that were none of their business. Sometimes there was truth behind the curses. He had said once 'where there's a curse on the door there's treasure on the other side.' Ignoring the warning on the ancient Autobot planet they had found the weapon, only to discover later that they had become infected with a form of rust. If his life was to be cursed then where was his treasure? What was the fat reward that he was going to get for suffering like this through all time?

Nothing would ever be the same again he knew. He felt frustration inside. The universe, it seemed, wanted to single him out, thwarting his plans and aspirations at every turn, undermining his desires and killing his dreams. It seemed that there was very little left for him in this harsh universe, only pain.

Starscream moved on his recharge bed and lay down on his chest. He crossed his arms and laid his head on them. The Seeker sighed heavily, glancing across his azure arms to the wall on the other side. He pondered the meaning of that dream. He wished he could have remained in it flying free across the mountains with his lost wingmate. He wondered about what Skywarp had said "Keep up with that attitude and you will drive away the only living friend you have left." It was not self-pity it was disappointment. He did not want to be alone to face this unforgiving universe.

Starscream turned his head to gaze at the door. He might have lost his comrades in arms and the female Seeker. But he still had Skyfire, he hoped and he still had his own life. Perhaps that was the treasure behind the cursed door. He had Skyfire and he had his second chance at life; he was being given a chance to start over where they had left off. He knew then what his choice would be. He would return to Guandonnaland and return to his ancient trade of science.

'It took a long time for you to figure it out.' Came a soothing thought. 'Set aside your fear and anger, become who you know you are. As Skywarp said, "You have to look within yourself to find it." and I am here within you. Give up warfare for now Starscream, Sunburst did. Take up true science once more. You have much to achieve and your honour to regain. It is survival of the fittest, Decepticon and you survived all that. Life is your reward and I kept telling you to not give it up without a fight!' The thought teased.

"I suppose if I were to look at it from that point of view, you could say I've beaten the odds. Science does not give me power..."

'Your quest for power is your undoing; it was not what you were originally meant to do. I have been trying to tell you this from the start; your work is not yet finished in the field of science. Power can come later if that is what is in store for you. Will you go into exile?'

Starscream sighed at his internal thoughts. "Yes."

'If that is your choice I will join with you again.'

The corner of Starscream's lip curled into a very slight smile. "It is." He said softly.

'Then we are one.' The rift in the Seeker's mind closed and he felt complete.

He pushed himself unsteadily to his feet and walked jerkily to the door opening it with stiff fingers. His motor relays were still out of sync. Upland and Skyfire stood up as Starscream stumbled through. Skyfire hesitantly reached out to stabilise the Seeker, he still remembered Starscream's earlier threat. Instead of the angry snarl he expected, the Decepticon reached out and took hold of the proffered forearm. The Seeker balanced himself and let go of Skyfire.

Upland stood back from the pair, watching, saying nothing.

"Skyfire," Starscream's voice had normalised, "if it's not too late, will you come with me to Guandonnaland? I accept exile. There is still so much to be learned about those people. "

Skyfire's face lit into a smile. "I thought you'd never ask!"

Starscream looked up haughtily at Skyfire and then over at Upland with slight disdain. "Nor did I."

Chapter 16 - Dead Mechs Tell No Tales Epilogue - A Star's Death