Somewhere beyond Beta Lyrae's hydrogen spirals, a red and white spaceship set course for home.
Fuel and spare parts getting low. Time to head back to Cybertron, see what's really happened. The news I've gotten out here in the frontiers is pretty sketchy--and hard to believe. The world-wrecker Unicron attacking Cybertron? Optimus Prime dead? Decepticons forced off Cybertron?
Skyfire brooded as he cruised. It had been hard enough to believe the Decepticons had taken control of Cybertron in the first place. There'd been much about the Great War he found hard to believe; hardest to believe was that he'd lost friends to both sides. Not lost to death, but lost to the hatreds of war, former friends now become bitter enemies.
Starscream, damn it! Why did you have to follow that warlord Megatron? You were an explorer, not a soldier! We were a team, once...
That was the hard part. The memories were so fresh. The other Autobots had had five million years to forget friendships broken by war; for Skyfire, it was all fresh, a grief only decades old.
The other Autobots... they've been fighting for so long, they couldn't understand. They'd learned to kill long ago. I couldn't stay and fight with them; my heart wasn't in it. I'm not a killer, not a warrior; I can defend my friends, but I can't keep fighting a war that means nothing to me but the death of friends. Every battle, I had to weigh every shot--who gets hurt if I fire, who gets hurt if I don't fire on the other guy. The weight got to be too much.
It's quiet out here among the stars, finding new worlds and cataloging them. Wish I could get in closer to some of the more interesting ones, though. The inhabited ones, the ones with anomalies, the ones I need a swift, agile, smart partner to get in, take a quick look-see, and get out in one piece. Damn it, Starscream! Why did you abandon me for that bastard Megatron?
# # #
Things had indeed changed on Cybertron. Objectively, the changes were for the better, but for Skyfire, the changes brought only grief.
Ratchet, Ironhide, Wheeljack, Prowl, Brawn, Optimus Prime--all dead! They were friends, for the short time I knew them. Wheeljack, you saved me from the ice again. You're gone, too, like my old partner. He saved me from the ice the first time... Damn it, Starscream! You had to go and get killed, too.
Optimus is gone. Rodimus Prime is a good leader--bold, thinks on his feet... but he's not Optimus. I liked Optimus.
I'll never get used to losing friends.
Skyfire did not stay on Cybertron longer than it took to refuel, refit, and restock. He drifted in a far orbit for months, pondering where to go, what to do next. Skyfire had been completely alone for decades, and he didn't like it much. He'd always had a partner before, someone to talk with, yell at, bail out of trouble... but there was no one on Cybertron like that. The Seekers were all dead or with the Decepticons; his remaining friends among the Autobots were too involved in war or rebuilding to go exploring. Skyfire cared nothing for the war, and Cybertron held too many bad memories for him to stay.
They say Starscream and Megatron killed my friends among the Autobots. They also this new Decepticon leader, Galvatron, killed Starscream. Why did you get mixed up with them, Starscream? I asked you if you were happier as a warrior, once. You claimed you were. I think you lied.
You always loved the dance, getting in and out in the teeth of danger, making spur of the moment plans to deal with whatever alien weirdness had gotten us in trouble this time--but you never liked looking death in the face. When you rolled the dice, you wanted to win; you didn't like losing. You weren't cut out to be a soldier, Starscream. Me, I don't like dealing death, though I don't fear it. Much. That's why I'm no soldier, either.
I hate this war. I hate it for taking my friend Starscream and making him something he was never meant to be. I hate it for tearing my friends apart, for making me choose between them. I hate it for making them choose between me and their other friends. I hate it for killing my friends. The ones that live... maybe, someday, after the war is over. But I'll never see Starscream or Wheeljack or Optimus again.
Skyfire's traffic radar chimed; some bit of debris was spinning towards him on a near-collision course. Skyfire automatically altered course to avoid it, and noted with some curiosity that the debris had a rather metallic radar signature. A derelict ship, perhaps? He engaged his long-range optical sensors for a closer look.
A Transformer tumbled through space. Skyfire winced; poor bastard must have been killed in space. A living Transformer would have stopped that death-spin with a quick corrective burst from his attitude thrusters. The only live Transformer Skyfire had ever known not do that was Starscream. His gyros would tumble when he got in a bad spin and Starscream always panicked when he lost his gyros, thrashed around, and got himself totally disoriented. Skyfire couldn't remember how many times he'd talked Screamer through a manual recovery.
Damn it, why does everything have to remind me of Starscream! This poor bastard is even red and blue like him...
Then Starscream yelled over the radio: "HELP MEEEEE!"
"..." Static hissed over the open channel as Skyfire stared at the tumbling figure with blank incredulity.
"Is that you, Starscream?"
"No, it's Thundercracker with a new paint job--SKYFIRE? Skyfire? Skyfire, help me! I'm sorry I shot you all those times! I promise I won't do it again! Please help me!"
... I'd actually forgotten the times he shot at me. Blamed it on Megatron, I guess. I'd also forgotten what an utter idiot Starscream could be when he panicked. There was a reason I'd nicknamed him Screamer. And how annoyingly sarcastic he could get. Amazing how you forget all the negative things about long-gone friends. Good, the old instructions are still in my memory banks.
"First, Screamer, stop panicking. I can't pick you up until you stop that tumble, and you can't do that while you're a gibbering idiot. You can stop the tumble, you've done it before," Skyfire droned in a deep, calm voice.
"DON'T CALL ME SCREAMER! I hate that name!"
Skyfire hesitated for a second, nonplussed by the bitter anger in Starscream's voice--at least he's not panicked anymore--then calmly continued with his instructions: "Second, Starscream, pick a star that's not spinning and use it for a reference point to determine your direction of spin--got that?"
"Yes, yes!" Starscream's voice shook, but he had stopped screaming. "I know this drill."
"Third, orient yourself to that star and apply thrust opposite the spin..." Starscream and Skyfire said in unison...
- FIN -