Late G1 S3, from before "Port Call: Cybertron" to just before "Revelations". Reactions to various events by various characters.
Kup's communicator crackled to life. "Groove to Kup, come in."
"Kup here," the Autobot Security Chief replied. "What's the problem?"
There would be a problem; Groove was experienced enough not to disturb his Security Chief with trivia. The only question was how serious a problem, and did he need to alert Rodimus? The old gray-green Autobot glanced at Cybertron's sky out of habit; no sleek dagger-shapes arrowed down from space, guns blazing, and there were no sirens blaring. It probably wasn't a Decepticon raid.
"Sir, we've got an unusual entry request. Autobot Skyfire returning from space with a, uh, passenger. It's the passenger that's the problem, sir." Groove's friendly brown face wore an atypical look of consternation. "He's, uh, a Decepticon. Officer. Former officer."
Kup suddenly felt like he had a tank full of sludge. This could be bad, very bad. "Prisoner, defector seeking asylum, holding Skyfire hostage, what? This Decepticon have a name, son?"
"No, sir, that's the funny thing--he's not any of those things. Skyfire vouches for him and claims he's his passenger and escort." Groove visibly hesitated, appearing to disbelieve his own words. "It's--he doesn't even look ghostly--it's Starscream."
Kup just leaned his head on his hands. "At least he's not popping into someone's processor. Call Rodimus."
None of the Decepticon Justice Division executioners were videographers; they were barely capable of pointing a gun camera in the right direction. It took a true expert to take their field videos and edit them into a decent propaganda video. Sadly, Reflector had disappeared along with a good-sized chunk of Cybertron when Unicron attacked, but Soundwave managed. He was skilled in all modes of communication.
"Cyclonus. Operation:Casefile nearly complete. Recommend against including target list. Reasoning: targets alerted."
Cyclonus frowned slightly. "Negative. Galvatron wishes to give those who are more cowardly than treasonous a chance to redeem themselves by returning to him before they are caught. But, he does not wish the precedent established that old enough desertions will be forgotten; include all names on Megatron's original List."
Cyclonus lied, and Soundwave knew that; the second-chance policy was Cyclonus's.
"Amended recommendation: remove Octane from target list. Targeting Octane: loses access to primary energon supply. Secondary issue: angers undefeatable ally, resulting in loss of personnel and resources. Additional recommendation: remove said undefeatable ally from list. Inclusion: pointless." Soundwave refused to mention That Name on Charr. The wrong audials might hear.
Cyclonus frowned more deeply; only a mech as observant as Soundwave would notice the hesitation and near-imperceptible shudder that ran through the Second-in-Command's frame. "That is a valid consideration. So long as Octane continues to supply our forces with energon, he is indeed doing his duty as a loyal Decepticon, and should not be on the list." He reached out and tapped the display, editing the target list. "Starscream remains on the list. If he is still a ghost, he cannot be executed; if he is not a ghost..." Cyclonus's optics narrowed, "he is Galvatron's enemy. Galvatron's order was explicit. I cannot change it."
"Observation: decision will be regretted."
The burly triple-changer paused the video on his datapad, staring at The List again. Once again, he let his focus shift, taking in the badly-lit, grimy spaceport cantina. Ever conscious of both who was entering the front door and just where the back exit was, Blitzwing stared at The List. He'd already gotten over the sinking-into-the-Pit feeling of seeing his own name on that list. It was the other names--one other name in particular: Starscream.
"How," Blitzwing muttered to himself, "in the slag did you manage that, Screamer? 'Cause I'm pretty sure Galvatron didn't put a bounty on that cold pile of ash we buried in the Crypt."
Cartwheel tried to ignore the video playing on the lower display; it wasn't too hard, as he was short and stuck behind the bar, and there were about half a dozen full-sized Cons clustered around the display, watching the DJD video play out yet again. Cartwheel didn't need or want to see it again; once was enough. "Poor slagger," he muttered.
"Huh? Whazzat?" asked the dark blue and purple Seeker half-slumped over a bowl full of energon.
"The poor slagger those DJD fraggers caught up with," Cartwheel said, jerking his head in the direction of the display.
"Huh?" Duskwing turned and squinted at the display. "...Windtalon is guilty of desertion and treason..."
Cartwheel's first warning was the sudden chill in the air; his second warning came as every light in the room dimmed, and a thin fog seemed to rise from the floor. He dove behind the bar just as the display exploded. The lights went out.
"Hey! What the frag--?" shouts went up from the cluster around the display.
Cartwheel looked up from his hiding place behind the bar to see blazing crimson optics glaring out of the dark at him.
"They shouldn't oughta have done that to Windtalon. They really shouldn't oughta done that! THEY SHOULDN'T A DONE THAT!"
Every cube, vial and drink in the bar shattered simultaneously. All Cartwheel could think of was the awful explosion hazard that was dripping all over him and would someone put drinks out for him like he'd done for Duskwing when it all exploded? It really wasn't fair!
"...an' I'm gonna see that the right guy finds the wise guy," Duskwing growled. "'Cause they put the wrong names on that list, and they shouldn't oughta have done that."
In the flicker of an optic, the chill and darkness and long-dead Seeker were gone, leaving a bewildered Cartwheel presiding over the ruins of a bar.
"Ooh, that's gotta hurt," Wildrider said. The Stunticons were also gathered around a display, watching the infamous DJD video
Drag Strip just laughed raucously. "Sucks to be him. Can't believe one of those jet boys let himself get caught by a pack of slagging tank-boys!"
"Not that it matters in the long run," Dead End opined. "We'll all be just as dead as Windtalon soon enough--loyalist or traitor, it matters not."
Violet optics narrowed as Motormaster shoved the others aside to take center place. He rumbled balefully. "Pretentious tank-boys doing our job while we rust!"
Breakdown shivered and slowly stepped back, trying to escape Motormaster's fist-swinging range before the brutal truckformer noticed. Motormaster had other things on his mind than pounding the nearest moving object, as it turned out.
"Breakdown, get back here! Wildrider, put that down and turn the slagging thing off! Dead End, record that! Drag Strip, start figuring out how not to be a loser when those tank-boys come calling!" Motormaster snarled. "'Cause Galvatron's not getting any saner, and nobody, but nobody is going to use my team for any kind of 'example'."
"You mean Cyclonus hasn't forgotten who talked him into interring his master on Torkulon," Dead End murmured.
Motormaster back-handed Dead End across the room. "I mean exactly that."
“al-Octaaaane! At'tair al-Fadda, peace be upon him, is calling for landing permssion. What we say?” yelled Fatima from the control tower.
Octane, who had been contemplating how to re-invest his current profits in expanded operations elsewhere, started and nearly fell off the chair and desk he'd propped his feet up on.
“Wha—where?” Stumbling to his feet, he turned on the Transformer-sized console reserved for his use.
Starscream's face smirked back at him. “About time you woke up, Octane! Can you clear us to land, or do you have visitors I should avoid? We're looking for fuel and some of that wonderful maintenance Talifeyah provides.”
“Uhh...” Octane squinted at the console. Starscream looked... not transparent, and appeared to be calling from the interior of some kind of shuttle. “You're looking, uh, healthier.”
“Quite,” Starscream said drily. “We're on approach vector, are we cleared to land?”
Octane almost shook himself as he pulled his scattered thoughts together. “Uh, yeah, no Combaties or other party-poopers here today. Usual vector—FATIMA! Clear Star—er, At'tair al-Fadda and whatever his transport is through the defenses.”
“Acknowledged, Octaaane!” came the reply shout.
Octane glanced at the approach radar before questioning Starscream. “What's the transport? I don't recognize the type.”
“His name is Skyfire.”
"Rodimus!" Kup stomped in the Prime's office, blue optics all but sparking with fury. "Have you seen the new DJD video?"
Rodimus's head jerked up, and his mouth tightened with concern and barely-suppressed anger. "Another execution? Who did they get--not Blitzwing?"
"Oh, nothing so good as that," Kup said with a snap. "I sent you a link; watch it for yourself. And it's not by the DJD, it's starring the DJD. It's by Starscream."
"What??" Rodimus's fingers danced over the console as he brought up the offending video and viewed it with steadily widening optics.
"Oh, slag." Rodimus watched the last few seconds of the video scroll away into darkness. "He went and did it."
"Yeah, Mr. I'm-A-Former-Decepticon-With-No-Plans just tossed down the gauntlet. He's back in play, and the slag is going to hit the rotors full velocity," Kup growled.
Rodimus shook his head. "I can't blame him. Not with what Galvatron started."
"I can blame him, because I'm the poor overworked bastard of a security chief who is going to have to pick up whatever pieces fall on the Autobots," Kup snapped. "I'll send a briefing to Red Alert on Earth. He's going to have cyberkittuns!"
"Kup. You saw who else's name was on The List, didn't you?"
Kup stared at his hands. "Yeah. And if I ever get my hands on the bug-ignorant fool over there on Charr who put Skyfire's name on that List, I'll hand him over to Screamer tied up and topped with a bow."
"Soundwave." Cyclonus's voice was cold as a Charran night; one of his horns was damaged and still smoking. "Who else on the List is an associate of Starscream's that you neglected to mention?"
The Decepticon Chief of Intelligence stepped back at the threat in Cyclonus's voice and mind. His mindscan told him that Cyclonus feared treachery, and would remorselessly execute Soundwave and every last Casseticon if the Intelligence Chief had betrayed them.
"Justification: recommended against publishing list. Justification: Megatron's old list ordered by Galvatron."
"Who are Starscream's former associates?" Cyclonus's pistol whined as it charged up. "Who will betray us to him?"
"Former associates: Blitzwing, Octane, Astrotrain, the Combaticons, Autobot Skyfire, the former Air Command. Associates of Blitzwing: Thrust, Ramjet and Dirge. Assocates of Octane: myriad, including Trypticon. Betrayal: unlikely, unless attacked without provocation. Loyalty to Decepticon cause: high, except for Autobot. Association with Skyfire: severed. Cause: Skyfire defection to Autobots. Association with Combaticons: severed. Cause: mutual betrayal and Combaticon re-programming by Megatron. Association with former Air Command: severed. Cause: deactivation of most of Air Command by Unicron and deactivation of Air Commander by Galvatron."
Cyclonus studied a datapad. "Hmm. Someone added Skyfire to Megatron's original List as a defector while it was inactive. Remove all known Starscream associates from the List--I don't want them running and hiding.” I don't want him coming after my troops again. “Find out what they are doing. Starscream is up to something; find out what."
Pale fingers tapped a console. "Soundwave, how much of our energon actually comes from Octane's holdings? Disguised via middle-men, no doubt."
"Observation: Intelligence, not Logistics. Estimate: 85%"
Red optics glanced up at red visor. "That's far too much in the hands of a mech of dubious loyalty. Ready the Combaticons to secure the Earth refinery."
"Orders: acknowledged. Observation: fuel situation currently stable. Observation: destabilizing fuel supply may lead to shortages."
Cyclonus regarded Soundwave for a moment. "Swindle will not be allowed to run the refinery, either. Assign a competent and loyal engineer to the task--but not the Constructicons. They cannot be spared."
"Second, start shifting Astrotrain off of essential transport duties as quickly as you can find other transport. Our supply transport and intelligence-gathering duties should not be in the hands of a mech of dubious loyalty who is constantly sent off on unsupervised remote missions. Reserve Astrotrain for supervised transport of loyal personnel." Cyclonus continued to survey data on his console.
"Orders: acknowledged. Inquiry: Thrust, Ramjet, and Dirge?"
"No more Earth tours. They are to remain based on Charr, and scheduled for local missions and patrols, and any other missions Lord Galvatron has for them. That will be all," Cyclonus concluded.
In a run-down tavern on Monacus, an obviously over-energized wolf-former mech lifted his head from the bar and stared blankly at the video playing on the bar's holovid. A smirk spread across his face, and mis-matched blue and green optics glittered. Tittering grew to guffaws to a harsh hyena laugh, and he raised his cube in a toast:
"Now you're dancin', Screamer!"
- END -