Skyfire stood on the polar ice, wondering bleakly about his past and his future. His closest, most trusted friend had tried to kill him, and the world he knew was long dead and gone by all accounts, replaced by near-eternal war.
Where, now, did he belong? What place for a gentle-hearted scientist, whose greatest passion was exploring the far unknown? Did he matter any more? Would it have been better if he hadn't turned at the last instant, and Spinister's shot had ended things before he knew the bitter truth?
"I understand that you may not trust the words of a Starscream right now, but believe me when I say that you do matter very much, Skyfire," said a soft, raspy voice very close at hand.
Skyfire unlimbered his gun and turned quickly; he'd learned not to trust in the peaceful intentions of strangers here. There was no one there... at first.
As he watched, a patch of ice fog shimmered in the sunlight, rose, and coalesced into a misty, translucent form--that of the red and blue Transformer that Skyfire had found dead in this very place, the Starscream of Demolisher's universe.
"You are... Starscream?" Skyfire asked. He knew the answer, but the silly question gave him a moment to regain his composure.
"Yes, though that was not my original color--" the spectral jet shimmered and changed to red, yellow and black, with a pale face and red optics. "This was."
Skyfire found his composure hiding under a snowdrift nearby and asked, "Why did you come here to tell me that? I'm not exactly an acquaintance of yours..."
"For the same reason I warned you," Starscream said. "You have a rare gift that is needed."
Skyfire's head snapped up. "That was your voice! The thought came to me so suddenly, literally a voice telling me to ask Starscream about..." He frowned. "I can't remember what it was, now. You got me to turn at just the right instant..." Skyfire stared at the ghost, optics widened in surprise. "You saved my life! Why?"
"To explain that, I must tell you a bit of my own history. In my universe and my lifetime, I was Megatron's finest warrior, and he treated me as if I was his ill-favored slave! Always I craved his favor, did his bidding to the best of my ability, and received only mockery and blows in return. After humiliation and defeat at his hands, I fled to his enemies, the Autobots--not because I believed in their cause, but because I hated Megatron. That was all I had, then."
"The Autobots were suspicious and hostile, barely tolerating my presence--well, save for Optimus Prime. He treated me with respect, something I had never known. Accompanying the Autobots as their friends and allies were the children of a fragile organic race native to the planet we were on. They did not have the Autobot's long history of war with the Decepticons. One of them, Alexis, was the oldest and the leader of the others. She was the first person to ever show me kindness, Skyfire."
"I truly did not know what to do. Decepticons are not kind, even when they like each other--and I had not been much liked by anyone. Her kindness and compassion confused me... and it changed me, though I did not know that until later. She encouraged the others to treat me kindly, as well, and I saw that their kindness extended to the Mini-cons, whom they treated as partners, not slaves or tools."
"I had always treated my mini-con well; I had been so long delayed acquiring one that he was valuable to me, but I still had only seen him as a tool of sorts. From the example of Alexis and Rad, I saw that things could be different, and should be different. Swindle--my mini-con--became my partner instead of my servant, and I helped the children free the Decepticon mini-cons from their slavery," the spectral Starscream said.
"Many things happened; I returned to Megatron's side for a while, was abused, tricked and betrayed again; I found myself conflicted about who I was and where I really belonged and what I was fighting for-- and then Unicron arose, and much became clear. In the end, when Galvatron would not see the need to unite with the Autobots against Unicron, I challenged him for leadership of the Decepticons. I lost, as I knew I would, run through by the Star Saber--but he finally believed me. As my last act, I fired on Unicron, and brought down his return fire, proving finally to Galvatron that Unicron was far beyond even his arrogance."
"I was snatched from there to this universe at the very instant of Unicron's return fire reaching me--only to die here, as I was already mortally wounded by the Star Saber. It mattered not; my part was done. Skyfire, do you know why I was willing to die to defy both Galvatron and Unicron, to bring about the alliance that was our only possibility of survival? I did not do it out of duty to the Decepticons, but because three human children treated me with kindness and I learned kindness from them."
Skyfire stared at the ghost, shaken by his story. "But what does that have to do with me?"
Starscream looked at him with a gentle smile. "Skyfire, you are like Alexis; you have rare qualities of kindness and compassion in your soul. I could see it in you when you lifted my body from the ice. Such compassion is more precious than all the warships of the Decepticon Armada--and it is the only true, lasting answer to hatred and evil."
"I'm no one special, just an explorer lost far from home," Skyfire denied. "I'm sorry I couldn't have been there in time to save you," he said, a look of distress crossing his face.
Starscream stood in front of the big white Autobot and looked up. "It's all right," he said, patting Skyfire gently on his cockpit, light spectral touches that greatly surprised the Autobot. "As I said, I was done. I have no regrets. In the final accounting, I was victorious, and no more needs to be said. Do not mourn for me; I do not."
"You're not talking about the war, are you?" Skyfire asked. He sat down on a nearby ice heave, unwilling to loom over the kindly ghost.
"The war? The war, all wars, come and go. Only because we are so long-lived are we conceited enough to think we can remake the universe to suit ourselves in our own lifetimes. There is only one war you can really win or lose, one thing or person you can change..." Starscream said, tapping gently on Skyfire's cockpit with one pointing finger.
Skyfire looked at him and nodded. "Myself? But then... what of kindness toward others?"
The ghost hesitated for a moment, and then spoke. "Alexis's kindness was part of her, but she showed someone who had never known anything but brutality and contempt what kindness and friendship were. Prime showed me what respect and integrity were. I suddenly had a choice I'd never known before."
"I didn't know what to do. I was indecisive, hesitant; I made mistakes, bad ones but, in the end, how Alexis and Prime treated me helped me change into... someone much better. I, in turn, saved her life from the depths of Unicron, and found the strength to do what I had to do, to win my battles, from the example of her compassion."
"You can't win other's battles for them, but you can help," he said gently. "You can show them a choice they never knew was possible. Each person has his own struggle, and each life is all that really matters. Not wars or factions or who rules what, but what each and every person does with his life. That is what matters. You, Skyfire, matter, because what you do with your life, and how you intersect all those other lives, matters."
Skyfire considered that in silence for quite a while. It rang true, it spoke to what he believed and believed in. "I don't really need to 'fit in' after all. It's enough to do the right thing, here and now; to be true to myself; not to fear the future that I have no control over, but to accept what comes, and to take control of what I do have control over: myself," he quietly told himself.
"You understand. Go in peace, friend," the ghost of Starscream told him.
"And you?" Skyfire asked.
"I am already at peace," said Starscream, smiling, as he faded from sight.
-- FIN --