This story is my reaction to IDW's "Transformers: More than Meets the Eye" #7 & #8, though it is set in my G1 S3 AU, not IDW's universe. It precedes the events of "Revelations" and follows "Port Call: Cybertron" by several months.
Starscream finally caught up Blitzwing in a grimy starport cantina on a miserable rockball of a world out in the back aft of beyond. At the glimpse of another mech, Blitzwing's arm shifted toward where Starscream knew he kept his gun--then a look of wary relief spread over his face as he identified the mech as Starscream.
Starscream ordered two of the local excuse for mech fuel from the bar and sauntered over to Blitzwing. "You're a hard mech to find, Blitzwing," he said with a jaunty grin.
Blitzwing studied the entrances and exits for a moment. "And you're looking pretty healthy for an incinerated corpse." He lowered his voice and added, "I've got reason to be." He lowered his voice. "Galvatron put me on the DJD's List. You're on it, too."
Starscream sat down carelessly, arm-guns askew. "The who?"
Blitzwing growled and took out a datapad, queuing up a video. "Galvatron dug up one of the old Mayhem execution squads and renamed them the 'Decepticon Justice Division'. Same faces, same job. Watch this; it's gone viral on the Cybertron channels."
The video opened with a Decepticon logo and, in Cybertronian, the words "Decepticon Justice Division Casefile: Windtalon", followed by a view of two gigantic and two large Decepticons and one much smaller one watching. The two largest, a pink and white heavy flier and a cream and white tankformer, held an unmarked teal and dark gray Seeker tightly enough to bend metal. Another large dark gray and purple Decepticon, wearing a facial plate in the shape of a Decepticon symbol, faced the camera.
Two heavyweight tankformers and a heavy flier, two of whom had specialist kibble, an unidentifiable transform heavyweight, and a lightweight specialist, probably a sniper rifle based on his configuration, concluded Starscream. They looked vaguely familiar; he should know them. He cursed Galvatron for the millionth time for destroying his original body and memory banks.
The dark gray tankformer spoke to the camera, saying "Windtalon is guilty of desertion and treason. The penalty for both is death; he abandoned his comrades to their fates, leaving with that little bit less firepower to stand against the enemy, and that much more of the burden to carry themselves. His treason was to steal energon wrested at great effort and danger from Earth, energon intended to fuel the war effort, weakening the Cause that much more."
They carried out the sentence on camera, slowly and gruesomely. The pink and white flier turned out to be a portable smelter, while the cream and white tankformer was an ore grinder of sorts--if Cybertronian alloys were ores. The rifle-former was apparently the camera-mech. The third heavyweight, a dark pink and gray Decepticon with multiple externally-mounted dynamos, transformed into an electric chair. It was he who administered the coup de grace on the half-melted head and torso that remained of Windtalon after the others finished, frying every circuit with a massive electrical surge. Windtalon's dying scream testified that he had, in fact, still been alive until his metaprocessor was literally melted in his cranial case.
The spokesmech look slightly disappointed--he had not had a chance to participate--and spoke to the camera. "Decepticons, you have seen the penalty for desertion, for treason, for cowardice, for mutiny, for aiding and abetting any of the aforementioned crimes, and for concealing or aiding fugitives from Decepticon Justice. You cannot hide, you cannot escape. We will find you, and we will execute the penalty for your crimes to the fullest extent. Only Galvatron himself can remove your name from our List. All hail Galvatron!" The video ends, to be followed by a scrolling list of names. At the top of the list: Starscream, followed by Blitzwing, and then a long list of less-known names.. including Skyfire.
Starscream tilted his head slightly; his expression, mildly bored. "Interesting. Octane isn't on the list. I wonder why?"
Blitzwing looked at Starscream, his face betraying some anxiety. "Uh, Screamer? They're after you, too."
Starscream gave Blitzwing a contemptuous look. "That bunch of Mayhem rejects? Really, Blitzwing, do you think I've gotten incompetent in the last few years? I recognize those clowns--a bunch of pretentious sadists styling themselves after the first five cities taken by Megatron. They're from the second-string Mayhem squad--the ones that weren't good enough for Spinister to take on."
He leans back, smirking. "Oh, they're nasty enough when they outnumber someone five to one and have him helpless--like that unfortunate Seeker. However..." Starscream lowers his voice, "you and I can deal with this DJD and their 'List'."
Blitzwing looked up, locking optics with Starscream. "Hunt them down instead of running from them? Slag, I'd love that--but four heavyweights and a sniper? I'm getting cautious in my old age."
"Blitzwing, Blitzwing," Starscream purred. "They've just shown us how they operate, and I can get dossiers on them. They stepped over a line, Blitzwing--they put the wrong names on their little list. Besides, I can't have them executing or terrorizing all my potential recruits."
Blitzwing still looked dubious; he scrolled the video back, studying each of the DJD mechs in turn. "What does the leader do? Looks like a tank of some kind."
Starscream frowned. "That's Tarn--basic tank, twin fusion-cannon, intellectual, but he has a weird special ability. Can't remember it at the moment, but I'll probably have to deal with him personally." He smirked again. "Have confidence, Blitzwing! Have you forgotten what I used to be besides Air Commander?"
"You mean Megatron's biggest pain in the aft--Oh. Yeah. Now I remember." Blitzwing gave Starscream a feral grin, full of promised mayhem. "You don't have the big gun now, though."
"So you'll just have to lend me yours," Starscream replied, grinning wickedly.
"If you've got the plan, just tell me what I need to do. I'm yours for this mission," Blitzwing said, raising his fuming drink in a toast.
"Why thank you, Blitzwing. I appreciate your confidence in me," Starscream replied in his cold crow-voice. "First thing is we ditch this dump and try not to leave a trail for them to follow--yet. You need to keep a low profile--no brawling, complete radio silence, etc. Vanish from the universe until just the right moment."
"Tricky without our own transport," Blitzwing said. "Freighter pilots always ending up talking too much."
"How convenient, then, that I have my own," Starscream said as they left the cantina. "In addition, I need access to a chemistry lab, and a good library database--I need to find just the right star system and planet. Some place with a hot magnetosphere and lots of metal formations. Fortunately, I have access to the best stellar library database around, too. That just leaves the chem lab, and I'll borrow that when I pick up the dossiers."
# # #
Blitzwing looked up at Starscream's "personal transport". "Y'know, that's a mighty familiar-looking pre-war Cybertronian shuttle," he said. His tan helm turned this way and that as Blitzwing checked for observers; then he added "Or should I say 'shuttle-former'?"
Starscream just smirked.
The small white interstellar shuttle lowered its forward cargo ramp with a gentle hiss of hydraulics. As Starscream and Blitzwing boarded, Skyfire's voice spoke from the shuttle's PA system: "Welcome aboard, Blitzwing."
# # #
“Skyfire, I need a world.”
“And what do you intend to do with it?”
“Observe the local wildlife, admire the hardihood of the unique native flora, be moved to ener-tears by the stunning display of auroral atmospherics, and bait a trap for five sadistic executioners who desperately need killing.”
“I will not allow you to exploit the natives, Starscream.”
“Since I want an world with no native sentients, I think I can manage that.”
“What kind of world, then?”
“Something with a hot magnetosphere and an energetic star, a dense enough atmosphere and hot enough surface to create thermal inversions, and lots of well-grounded metal formations. Also, I need to be able to fly in the atmosphere and find ground cover. Not too many parsecs away would be nice.”
“Filtering my survey database now. Well-grounded metal formations? Does one of your 'fans' use an ionic weapon like Silverbolt?”
“Something like that.”
“Try this world, then. I remember having trouble with the EMP generated by the flora when I first surveyed the place.”
“EMP-generating plants? Sky, let me see! Ooh, I like this place!”
# # #
"Starscream, is that really some kind of poly-ring energon compound?"
"Yes, Skyfire, though it's only the intermediate step."
"That would be highly energetic. And unstable."
"Rather. But it needs a bit more oomph."
"Is that why you're bonding nitro-groups to the ring?"
"Yes. Don't joggle my elbow."
"I think I'll take a nice little orbital survey of the area."
"Don't worry, it gets more stable when I co-crystallize it with weapons-grade energon! Skyfire--Skyfire? Huh. Didn't know he could make orbit that fast."
# # #
Kaon picked up Starscream's trail in the Mandala system after Blitzwing's trail evaporated into rumor and starshine. Blitzwing was high priority, but Starscream was higher, and his trail was at least trackable--to a point. He couldn't pick up the former Air Commander's energy signature, but old-fashioned investigation still worked. A fuel transporter had reported selling fuel to the rather distinctive red, blue and silver ex-Decepticon in the system, and mentioned that he seemed to be suffering from some battle damage.
Tarn smiled inwardly. Their quarry was wounded, probably not capable of long-range flight--in any case, Starscream was not an FTL-capable flier, even if he had the range. All they had to do was herd any transports or freighters out of the area, and they had the infamous former Air Commander trapped, to hunt down at their leisure.
It was time to hunt.
# # #
Mandala IV's sun was an active A5 star whose violent coronal storms interacted with Mandala IV's intense magnetic field to produced truly spectacular and noisy auroral discharges. They were gorgeous to watch, but made absolute hash of any attempt to use long-range sensors, and interfered significantly with communications. The planet itself was a forbidding wasteland of wind-scoured desert and badlands, apparently devoid of water or life.
The DJD shuttle grounded on a high mesa; Tarn rolled out of the hold in tank form and transformed. "Starscream. The legendary former Air Commander of the Decepticons, Megatron's right-hand... mutineer, traitor and enemy of Lord Galvatron. His attempt to escape justice by faking his own death1 failed, hoist on the petard of his own ego. The former Air Commander was incapable of hiding out as a humble neutral soldier of no particular name--no, we find him hunting pirates for their bounties far out in Deneb sector, still wearing his colors and the symbol of a Decepticon. I suppose I must credit him with at least having the pride to wear the brand of the cause he once served so faithfully--"
"So when are we going to take him down?" Tesaurus interrupted, having followed Tarn down the ramp along with Helex and Vos.
Tarn glared at Tesaurus, then turned to Helex. "Helex, take Vos up and try to find Starscream's trace. We spotted him from orbit on visual--and he's burning low-grade energon. Even with the hash this auroral activity makes of the scanners, even if Kaon can't pick up his spark signature, that chemical stew he's spewing should be detectable for miles. How the mighty have fallen! Such are the wages of treason: starvation and degradation."
Vos stretched out on Helex's cabin after the big flier transformed and surged aloft on turbofans. He exclaimed in the lyrical tones of Old Cybertronian, and pointed east. Helex's turbines roared, and he jetted east. Tarn gestured the others back to the shuttle, then transformed to tank mode and followed them back aboard. Kaon still couldn't find the former Air Commander's energy signature, but Vos had 'scented' the thin aerial trace of burned energon contaminants from Starscream's bad fuel.
Vos called out in those fluting tones again, pointing--the radar was a mess as the auroras flared overhead, but there was no mistaking the red and blue colors of the former Air Commander. Their target flew low over the rocky desert, weaving in and out of the hills and canyons; he shimmered in the heat haze rising from the ground.
"He's trying to lose us in the ground clutter--a clever move, going to ground on this planet; I would expect no less of the former Air Commander. Keep your optics focused on him until Vos can get the shot; he can't lose us entirely while he's living on bilge sump scrapings, but he can drag this operation out interminably. Helex, use Vos to bring him down!" Tarn (who had transformed back into robot mode) commanded over the shuttle's radio.
Helex landed and transformed, even as Vos transformed into a sniper rifle and landed in his hands. He raised it to his shoulder and aimed at the shimmering form of the fleeing Seeker. There was a smirk on his face as he slowly pulled the trigger.
The bolt rang out from Vos's barrel and reached out, seeming to just gently touch the distant jet. The distance and the heat haze hid the damage done, but Starscream staggered in flight and then nosed up and fell into a flat spin, plummetting out of sight below the hills.
"He's fallen; time to see that the Air Commander does not rise again. Land the shuttle on that ridge," Tarn directed, before transforming to tank mode and rolling down to the boarding ramp. His sound system played a classic victory march.
The ground below the ridge turned out to be a crazy-quilt badland of canyons and stony spires; straggling growths of tightly-wound metallic vines clung to the canyon walls. Mandala IV supported some life after all. There was no sign of Starscream--
"There," pointed Kaon. A trace of pale blue paint, scrape marks leading down into one of the canyons. "He fell in the canyon."
"'We are being deceived'", Tarn quoted after transforming to robot mode. "Megatron's rallying cry was never so apt as when dealing with Starscream. He's not down there--it's a diversion,meant to waste our time exploring the canyons, but he touched down here. A fatal mistake; it gives us a fresh trace. Vos, pick up his chemical trail from the touchdown point."
Vos, surer of balance than the heavy tankformers, darted forward and scanned the canyon rim, head turning this way and that--
ZZACK! Vos's head went flying in a double blast of laser light--from the flank! Tarn and the others turned to look in that direction--
"Looking for me, boys?" Starscream stood there, beside a tall rocky spire overgrown with the strange local plant forms, arms still extended, guns still smoking, not a trace of damage--and a devilish smirk on his face. "Vos really should have known better—he's enough of a scientist to understand what a thermal inversion does to light, after all. For the less scientific-minded among you, it's called a mirage." His smirk vanished and his optics narrowed. "You should all have known better than to come after me!"
Tarn transformed into tank mode. “Vos missed his shot; it's an ambush. Kaon, take him down!". Kaon flung out his hands and sent massive twin electrical blasts toward Starscream--
Who dodged behind the vine-covered spire. Kaon's electrical arc struck the metallic gray vines--
Helex leaped into the air--
Kaon staggered, as his entire charge grounded through the metallo-magnetic vine. Starscream clamped his hands suddenly over his audials and muttered something that sounded like "Ooh, mag-vines really don't like that sort of thing... 3... 2... 1"--
POOT! A sharp electro-magnetic pulse reverberated from the mag-vine as it shed the accumulated overcharge, overloading audials and radios in range--and sending a massive feedback surge through Kaon's generator coils. Kaon dropped to his knees--
While static discharges crackled from his own helmet and wingtips, Starscream shot him with a null-ray, brutally shutting down the big mech's electrical system--
Only to be slammed from behind by Helex. Starscream fell to his knees under the force of the blow, still shaken by the random static in his circuits from the EMP blast. The former explorer was built for space, shielded from electro-magnetic discharges, but the mag-vine's abrupt discharge of all of Kaon's electro-blast had staggered even him.
The gigantic mech opened his smelter door, seized Starscream and lifted him up--
Starscream grimaced in pain, and his optics widened. His concussion missile launchers weren't responding, their circuits jammed by the EMP overload! He triggered a reboot of his weapon systems—re-initializing them might—should--he hoped—would clear and reset the circuits to something sane.
Meanwhile, his weapons didn't work and Helex shoved him headfirst into the torturer's smelter. The induction furnace powered up, twisting magnetic fields turning Starscream's own metal frame into heating elements.
“Not my face!” the Seeker screamed as he felt the thinnest metal skin start to soften. He was built to take heat from the outside—not from the inside! This was too much like his incineration at Galvatron's hands... only slower. Terribly slower. If he let it continue--
“NO!” He swung his feet up and kicked hard at Helex's smelter door--
The gigantic mech laughed, amused at his victim's struggles. His smelter was armored, and internal melting would soon take the fight out of even the Air Commander. No one ever escaped Helex's smelter until he let what was left out.
Starscream's very thoughts should have been slowed to incoherency by the heat degradation of his circuits, but his mind stayed focused, as fine and coherent as a laser, on the task of getting out of Helex's smelter before the heat destablized a certain pair of special missiles. He flipped himself around, and firmly planted his feet against the back of the ceramic smelter lining, braced his shoulders and helm against the armor-glass door--
“AEROSPIKE MODE!” His circuits were degrading if he had to use vocal commands! Starscream's boot-thrusters reconfigured for space mode and ignited—blasting him forward at multiple gravities. Helex's door burst open and Starscream shot out, tumbling madly before he could shut down his rockets and land on his hands and knees. Finally, his missile launchers responded to his commands!
“About time,” he muttered, then twisted and rolled as Helex grabbed for him again. Twin concussion missile launchers opened in Starscream's chest and spat two grenades into the smelter. Starscream flipped himself upwards and backwards, rotating in Helex's grip enough to plant two thruster boots on the giant's turbines—and ignite them again.
Helex grabbed for a tighter hold as he felt Starscream slipping away again and snarled, "My smelter chamber is armored. You think the rest of them didn't have bombs, too? You didn't scan as having photonics2, so--"
Whatever he was going to say was interrupted as Starscream's engines finally propelled him from Helex's grasp--just as the very special grenades went off from the induction heating of their casings.
Helex exploded; the shockwave was too loud to be heard. Parts of him showered down for miles.
The blast flattened Starscream and knocked the others sprawling. Starscream twitched and tried to stand, but couldn't do more than flail at the ground. Both wings were warped and blackened; slowly, he crawled to the rock spire and clung to it, hauling himself upright. Cracks laced his cockpit glass. "That's the useful thing about hexanitrohexaenergonisowurtzitane; it doesn't scan as nuclear. Oh, and heat makes it unstable."
Tarn fired his twin cannon, blasting Starscream's already weakened left wing away in a spray of metallic plasma, then transformed back to robot mode. "Trust me Starscream, no one wants to hear it. Tesarus, take him!"
Starscream screamed in pain as the hollow-chested tankformer leaped forward and grabbed him by the shattered stub of his left wing. His optics widened and he thrashed and clawed at Tesarus, desperately trying to slow his inevitable descent into that grinding maw--
KRACK-BOOM! A massive shell crashed into and through that gaping maw from somewhere over Starscream's left shoulder, blowing the massive hole through Tesaurus much wider than it was supposed to be--
Starscream suddenly straightened himself out flat in Tesarus's grip, as if belately cooperating in his own execution--
--Just in time for the second shell to whiz past his head and smash into the 'X'-shaped optic guard on Tesarus's face, decapitating the mech instantly.
"X marks the spot," Starscream said.
Starscream tore himself loose from suddenly uncontrolled arms and dropped to the ground, whimpering with pain. Pink energon and multi-colored lubricants dripped from his shattered wing; green coolant trickled down his face from a ruptured line under his helm. He forced himself to look up at Tarn, and smirked.
Tarn leaped forward and grabbed Starscream, holding the battered former Air Commander between himself and the unknown artillerist in the hills. He crouched down behind the rock spire and scanned the ridges and visible canyons for the unknown attacker; his fusion cannon whined with power, and the white glow of a ready charge reflected off the ground and lit both of them from below in stark chiaroscuro. Soft music played; a classic Cybertronian requiem.
The artillerist finally came into sight as a large purple, gray and tan tank slowly ground over the rocky ridges toward them.
"Blitzwing!" Tarn said, as his music rose and gathered strength. "Two traitors for the price of one. Would that you all could be gathered in one place and cut off at once! When Megatron arranged for the entire Senate to gather in front of you and your wingmates, assembled voluntarily for their impending executions--"
"Aren't you running out of guys, Tarn?" Starscream interrupted, his voice breaking with static. Burnt lubricant leaked from the corner of his mouth, but he still smirked. "There's two of us, and only one of you functional--I made sure Kaon wouldn't be getting up for a while. Full null-ray charge."
Tarn smiled condescendingly at the badly-wounded red, blue and silver Seeker in his grip. "There'll be only one in a moment, Starscream. You're hurt, and barely holding on to functionality. How ironic--instead of Vos, Helex," with each name, Tarn tightened his grip, crushing the metal of Starscream's arms, "Tesarus and Kaon carrying out their duties, you did it to yourself. The blast you took out Helex with nearly destroyed you all by itself--as it is, you probably can't transform any more." Tarn's tone of voice suggested that was one of the most horrible injuries possible. "You were right on top of that EMP--it fried you as badly as Kaon's jolts would have. Tesarus didn't have to grind off your wings--you let me shoot it off. Megatron understood you well; you fail to see the big picture, going for little victories here and there, entirely overlooking how you are losing the war! Now you're finished, and your execution and Blitzwing's will do much to discourage traitors and deserters. It might even be worth the lives of my team.”
"You're thinking that Blitzwing will save you before I can finish you off. You're sure I can't blow out your core without standing up straight enough to give Blitzwing a shot at me. You're so terribly, regretably wrong. Do you know what I have, besides twin cannon? They call it 'weaponised conversation'; they say I can literally talk you to death. Yes, I know, it sounds pretentious, but there it is. Even now, as I'm speaking, your laser core is tuning itself to my vocal resonance, and as I lower my voice, it powers down and down, taking your spark offline..."
Starscream laughed coldly, "Tarn, you really do talk to much! Do you tell this fairy tale to all your victims?" The spark containment field in Starscream's laser core, syncing to Tarn's speech, quietly turned itself off. He didn't notice; all the rest of his weapons were back online!
Starscream suddenly flipped up one arm-gun, placed it against Tarn's left optic, and fired. As Tarn fell, a turbofox with weirdly glowing eyes ran from beside Kaon's fallen body towards Starscream--
Only to be crushed beneath Blitzwing's treads. The triple-changer transformed. "You look like slag. Had to have all the fun to yourself, Screamer?"
Starscream rolled Tarn's body off of him and dragged himself to his feet, slowly and with much hesitation. Too many alarms were screaming at him, and he felt like warmed-over slag that had been recycled as pavement. For Motormaster's race course. He impatiently rebooted all the sub-systems that were whining about being offline, and glared at Blitzwing.
"Stop complaining! You got Tesarus all on your own--without getting any of your wings painfully shot off, or yourself half-demolished, I might add. Skyfire is going to have cyberkittuns when he sees me. Besides, Kaon isn't dead and Tarn probably isn't. You still have your sword, right?"
Blizwing grinned. "I sure do," he said as he drew it.
Starscream wiped dripping lubricant off his optics and mused, "I wonder--does anyone else remember that before I was Air Commander, I was Megatron's personal assassin?"
Blizwing looked at the dead and deactivated and shrugged. "Guess not."
Starscream smirked. "Good. That's the way I want it."
Blitzwing smiled as he went to work.
# # #
A new video bounced around the forums and channels, viewed avidly by Decepticons of all types, and more than a few Autobots. In it, a screen showing the tail end of the infamous DJD video can be seen over a large silver wing, trimmed with red and blue stripes. The video ends, and then the owner of the wing turns to face the camera--it is, of course, Starscream, newly repaired and re-painted.
"Shockwave decommissioned the Mayhems for good reason during the Great Shutdown--they were a fragging waste of energon." As he speaks, Starscream casually tosses an object on the desk in front of him--Tarn's Decepticon-sigil face plate.
"Both that used to fuel them..." Tarn's faceplate is followed by Vos's spined faceplate, pierced by twin blast holes, which clatters against Tarn's. "and the energon spilled from their victims." A twisted scrap of a dark helm falls onto the desk. "Megatron did not revive the squads for the same reason--we didn't have enough troops to waste making 'examples' of--" A badly bent, red X-chevron drops to the table.
"--when they could be reclaimed with a little 'persuasion'--or reprogramming." Finally, a dark pink double-horned crest is tosssed on the table. Starscream leans toward the camera, gazing intently. "To the Decepticons, both the loyalists and those who have had enough--consider who and what you've given your loyalty to. You do have options, after all." His optics narrow, and his voice turns as harsh and cold as space: "To the moron who thought this 'Decepticon Injustice Division' was a good idea: you need more guys."
1What self-respecting secret police executioner is going to believe all that supernatural nonsense about Starscream's ghost? Obviously he faked it.
2Transformerese for “nuclear”.
The mechs of the 'Decepticon Justice Division' are borrowed from IDW's Transformer comics. The original Mayhem squad led by Spinister (referred to briefly), came from Marvel's Transformer comics. The late Windtalon was a semi-original character: Duskwing's partner-in-crime from the "Stupidity in Blue" incident. Everyone else is based on the G1 cartoon characters.
The source of the dossiers and chemistry lab that Starscream refers to is the Nemesis II, the old, abandoned Decepticon underwater base on Earth. Hexanitrohexaenergonisowurtzitane is based on the real-life hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane, which can be stablized by blending it with liquid TNT. I first read about it in this blog post: http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/11/11/things_i_wont_work_with_hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane.php
'Cyberkittuns' is not a misspelling; it's a Cordwainer Smith allusion.