Conversations with a Trickster

by Dragoness Eclectic

This takes place not long after "Midnight in the Himalayas", late in Season 3, but before the return of Optimus Prime--and before Galvatron returns to fight on Earth in "The Ultimate Weapon" cartoon episode. It comes late in my arc of Starscream/Skyfire stories. It is also the prequel to an upcoming story.

Too long had he been indoors, bending the master computer of the abandoned Undersea Base to his will. As engrossing as the technical work was, Starscream was still a restless jet, content only with the wind under his wings and the dance of battle beckoning. He had to get outside for a while. He was starting to see people who weren't there.

Starscream bid Blitzwing and Skyfire a brief adieu and fled to the skies, flying north. Very far north; not for him the salt-spray of the ocean waves, or the fire and ice of Crater Lake--nor, this time, the canyons. Now was a moment for the high places.

Air Commander is in my soul. I can't seem to let it go. When I fought pirates at Skyfire's side, I was, for a brief time, Air Commander of the Decepticons again. I still see my lost command, awaiting my orders; I feel them flying by my side when I dive into battle.

Am I going mad?

At supersonic speeds he flew along the coast, high above the fjords and inlets of British Columbia, the Yukon, and southern-eastern Alaska. Sometimes the mountain clouds hung heavily over the inlets, blanketing them in impenetrable fog. Starscream wasn't aiming for those misty harbors. His goal lay much higher, on the western spine of the continent.

Denali, the Great One, highest mountain in North America. Starscream perched on its icy, wind-swept summit, regarding with fresh optics the pristine wasteland of ice and snow and rock--and the blue, blue sky above, and the vast, distant land beyond this peak.

He'd switched to space protocols; the chill here would have frozen the energon in his fuel-lines otherwise. It was a place to be alone, undisturbed....

So why was a gigantic wolf loping across the snowfields toward him?

It left no tracks in the snow, and was far larger than any natural wolf--waist-high on the solitary Seeker. It stopped in front of him and sat on its haunches, tongue lolling, watching him brightly with one blue eye and one hazel eye.

Another hallucination. Perhaps if Starscream ignored it, it would go away.

The wolf cocked one ear and looked at the red and blue Seeker curiously. It apparently had no intention of going away.

"Is there some reason you're up here bothering me?" Starscream finally asked.

"You looked like you needed company," the wolf answered.

Great, it's talking to me! I am going mad.

"Funny, I thought I came out here to be alone." Starscream sounded only mildly annoyed.

"Nah, that's just what you tell yourself when you know you can't get any decent company." The wolf began to lick its paws clean.

"So which of the voices in my head are you?" Starscream asked drily.

The wolf grinned. "Just the one that told you to do interesting things." He cocked his head slightly; one ear flopped forward. "Seriously--and I'm never serious--how many ancient graves and sacred mounds did you pillage looking for power sources?"

"Let's not go there!" Starscream said abruptly.

"Ooh, touchy are we? Something about your own grave being desecrated and invaded--and that waking you up?" The wolf tilted his head the other way.

"That's irrelevant to right now! I'm here, aren't I? And why is my hallucination a wolf, of all things? I'd expect an imaginary smart-aft heckler to look more like Skywarp!" Starscream snaps.

"Why would I look like Skywarp?" the wolf said, curling his tail around his ankles. "I'm not Skywarp, I'm me instead."

A memory came to Starscream unbidden, of a raffish neutral he'd met on Monacus, when Megatron sent him to clean up the mess Thrust and Ramjet had made of things. He'd looked like Carnivac's drunken twin, with one Autobot-blue optic and one green optic. What had he called himself? Cy-Kill, Cy-Jackal, Cy-something... Starscream couldn't quite remember.

"I met someone like you on Monacus!" Starscream said, disbelieving. "But he was different--a Transformer."

The spirit-wolf laughed. "You don't need the illusion now."

"Now that I'm insane?" Starscream asked.

"Now that you can see us clearly," the wolf corrected. "That you died first--eh, sucks to be you."

"I'm already beginning to love your cheerful and sympathetic nature, yes."

The wolf grinned again. "Well, one out of two ain't bad. Seriously, you really got to stop clinging. It's holding you back, messing you up. You're no fun when you won't throw the dice."

"Oh forgive me for not keeping you entertained! Just replay my memories of me shooting Megatron in the back at his last staff meeting if you need a laugh!" Starscream flexed his wings in irritation. Why was his hallucinatory personality a smart-alec organic version of that trickster from Monacus?

"Hey, I only suggested that idea! I didn't make you do it. You got to admit, those meetings were killers! I think they were putting the blue tape guy to sleep, and he's the chief of dullards." The wolf rolled over in the snow, again leaving no prints.

Starscream sat on the peak and looked sidelong at the spirit-wolf. If his mind insisted on giving him this councilor, he might as well get some council out of it. "It's too hard to let go. I was Air Commander for so long, and I was good at it, and they need me!"

"No, they don't. If they really, truly needed you as Air Commander, you'd be still-very-much-alive Air Commander Starscream--and by now, probably twice as mean as you were." The wolf rolled in the snow on his back and waggled his feet in the air.

There was a long silence as Starscream looked at him. "Instead of Air Commander Emeritus and former Supreme Leader of the Decepticons Starscream?" he said with perhaps more bitterness than he felt. "You look ridiculous. If not as Air Commander, what, then?"

"Of course I do! Um, as who you really are now? Pocky-on-a-stick, you don't need me to tell you that!" The wolf rolled back over and got to its feet, shaking snow out of its fur. "Or do you? I think you're missing somethin' important here."

"Maybe I'm up here trying to figure out who that is." Or who you are. Starscream had niggling doubts about his 'hallucination'. Never in his most bizarre nightmares did he talk like this creature! What the slag was Pocky, anyway?

The wolf snorted. "What, you got a flat learning curve all of a sudden? You're older than me, and that's saying something! I'd think you'd have learned how to dance the dance by now!"

Starscream smirked, his optics glowing ruby-laser bright. He knew that dance. "Enough to trick Unicron at any rate!"

"Now that's more like it!" The wolf sat back on his haunches. "You got the medicine, you know how to dance the dance--think you can deal with Galvatron and his two corbies?"

"Two corbies?" Starscream looked sharply at the wolf. "I'd never thought of Cyclonus and Scourge that way, but--" He frowned, slightly puzzled. Who is this creature? What is he?

The wolf rolled in the snow, laughing. "You don't know the Gallows-Reaper and his Ravens when you meet him? Oh man, you really need to get it together, Screamer!" He picked himself out of the snow. "Or brush up on local mythology, anyway--the archetypes are universal, but I use local referents. I'm a local kind of guy."

"For someone so local, you certainly get around. I could have sworn I first talked to you on Monacus." Starscream's optics subsided to their normal glow.

"Hey, Monacus is a grrreat place! My kind of place--hehehe! Course they really hate what I do with the games." The wolf chuckled.

Starscream smirked, optics glowing bright again. "They would." He wasn't sure just what the strange spirit-wolf-former did to the games on Monacus, but it was probably neither honest nor authorized.

The wolf resumed cleaning his paws. "Just remember, you, me--our type ain't so good at ruling and running things. When we do, we screw things to a fare-thee-well and back. Every fucking time!" He giggled.

"I can't just ignore it when the Warlord or whoever ruins everything for us! I'm supposed to just step aside and say 'Oh well! Didn't need those Decepticons or that future anyway'? Not when I could do it so much better!" Starscream's optics dimmed again and he paced angrily.

The wolf rolled his eyes. "Learning curve: flat, flat, flat! Be true to your nature--like you were at Charr. Keep 'em from getting complacent. Keep faith with your friends, annoy your enemies, keep it from getting dull!" The wolf trotted alongside as Starscream paced on the mountaintop. "Sheesh, I gotta tell you this? What, Galvatron fry your brains along with the rest of you?"

Starscream stopped abruptly. "That would be 'yes'."

"Oh, right, guess he did. I still shouldn't have to tell you this stuff. You know who you are--you're just letting yourself get distracted by the past. You know that." The wolf's voice was reproachful.

"Don't try to tell me Skyfire is the past!" Starscream glared at the wolf-spirit, his eyes flaring ruby red.

"Hey, no way am I going to do that! He's one of the friends you keep the faith with, 'cause he'll haul your ass out of your own fuck-ups." The wolf wagged his tail as he trotted along.

Starscream laughed. "Your optimism is appreciated! I danced with Unicron, what makes you think I'll 'fuck it up' again?"

The wolf dove betwixt and round Starscream's legs, snapping at snowflakes blown by the wind. "The Combaticons. Underbase. Warworld--uh, never mind, different timeline! A certain interrupted coronation--I mean, Starscream, you fuck up in classic trickster style! You overreach, drop the dice and get handed your head on a platter--or you pull off the most awesome screw jobs with grace and style!"

The wolf looked up at Starscream. "You still don't get it, do you? We're two of a kind, you and me--we dance the dance, and we'll never rule the universe--but we'll bring down the ones who'd really ruin things for all of us. We get screwed doin' it, but we always bounce back. You think Cybertron would still be there if you hadn't pitched Megatron overboard to become Galvatron? Or if you hadn't stopped the Combaticons? And on that other timeline, let me tell ya--if you hadn't pulled the old triple-cross, wouldn't have been a live mech left in the entire universe! 'Course you kinda got screwed, and ole Megsy will turn you into spare parts if he catches you, but hey--Optimus Prime thinks you're all right over there. An' I hear Rodimus has a soft spot for you over here, so it ain't all bad."

"Oh joy, that's what I clawed my way to the top of the Decepticons for--to be thought well of by Autobot Primes," Starscream said drily. Very drily.

The wolf turned as if to trot away. "Friends, Screamer. Remember what I told you about friends. Couple somethings you might wanna think about: Unicron ain't the only Chaos-Bringer. And not all chaos-bringers are bad. When you're ridin' the train straight down the rails to Hell, derailment's good."

The wolf vanished, and the wind howled cold and lonely across Denali's peak. Starscream was left alone to ponder his uninvited 'guest'.

What had his friend with the mis-colored optics called himself that time on Monacus? Cyber Jack, that was it. Wolf-former neutral, supposedly. Gambler, definitely. Liar, cheat and thief, also definitely. Self-described expert lover worshiped as a fertility god on several mechanoid planets--see "liar", above.

Starscream remembered his boasts now. Here, on Earth, he said he had a great many other names. One of them, he claimed, was Coyote. Also a liar, cheat and thief. Not the most trustworthy of individuals.

Rather like Starscream himself.

Starscream laughed, and it was a joyous laugh this time as the wind blew fierce and cold across Denali. The trickster spread his wings and headed for the skies.

-- FIN --

This is based somewhat on a similar scene I wrote for a certain RP. Although it led to a similar conversation, the background situation is quite different. In this story, Starscream still believes that Unicron restored him to life. For those unfamiliar with him, Coyote is a trickster from North American Indian myth, (See, and Starscream did indeed pillage one too many sacred mounds in his quest for mysterious sources of power.