"Starscream, you’re telling me a fairy tale."
The suddenness of the interruption caused her to drop the datapad. She caught it between her legs before it fell on the floor and quickly placed it back in her hands. Seated in a chair facing the seeker, Megatron was watching, red optics half-lidded, slumped into the padded cushions. Night had already fallen on Trypticon, and only the electric lights of the city - and those watchful red eyes - illuminated the darkness inside the house. Starscream had been ready to leave for the night when the Lord High Protector had asked for a bedtime story.
"Tell me one of those stories you’ve written."
Starscream stood, back straight and hands tensed in trepidation. She knew it was silly, that stories like this didn’t really happen, but she had barely begun and -
"Go on," the urged Lord High Protector, clearly amused. Those rows of sharp teeth were bared in a friendly smile.
Picking up the datapad, and finding the place where she left off, she continued to read the story she had written. The light from the datapad cast shadows on her hawk-face - although she felt like a pigeon perched on a live electric line.
"Arael flapped low over the canyon. It was icy cold, and the sun had set on this part of the world. The sky was an inky blue, with faint, ice-frosted clouds the crescent of a white moon hanging in its expanse. Steam rose from her luminous wing-extensions where it met the ice in the air as she surveyed the landscape of this unfamiliar planet. There was no sign of the enemy - only the stillness of the frozen surface of the sea. She knew that she could not return empty-handed, for she had been personally tasked to retrieve the Bell Jar…"
Starscream turned away from the datapad to look at Megatron once more. The Lord High Protector had placed her left hand under her chin. In the dim light Starscream could still see every sharp edge and armor plate - the crown of gleaming silver, the lines that formed two sturdy, strong legs. Megatron reminded her very much of the Ice Queen in the story, seated in a castle of crystal and surrounded by an army summoned from the dark ocean below.
Starscream peered through the entrance of the berth room. Megatron had fallen asleep, slumped against the cushions of the berth. Soundwave was curled on top of her companion, arms tenderly wrapped around the other’s waist. Their bodies stirred slightly, chests rising and falling with slow, even breaths. Soundwave’s biolights were pulsing a warm off-yellow.
Seeing as her presence was no longer needed here, Starscream turned and walked away, taking care as not to wake the sleeping couple. She closed the door behind her and grabbed the package in the corner of the foyer. It was a short flight to her apartment. She did not mind sleeping alone.
When Starscream looked upon Megatron and Soundwave, it was as if an drab gosling were regarding a pair of graceful swans through the rushes of the riverbank. She could hobble to the water’s edge, and swim to where the two of them were, straining to catch up with her short legs. But when the two took flight - their wings strong, their feathers long and gleaming - she could not follow with her two stumps for wings or deign to show her short neck and grey down.
And why wouldn’t she think of herself as so young, so inadequate? When she could barely speak or think, when her creche parents could hold her in one arm - these two had sat on their veranda, hands clasped against each others, watching a city being built. Within these two lay a lifetime of experiences that Starscream could only hope to one day possess.
How many had Megatron crushed underneath her feet? How many foes vanquished under her blade? Here was one whose reputation far preceded her: Megatron had torn mechs twice her size limb from limb, and brought the cities of Cybertron under the banner of the Primes. Starscream could easily believe that Megatron’s gaze could penetrate minds - one look, and anyone she beheld was petrified in fear, feeling no stronger than a nymph, newly-emerged from its egg. When she looked into the Lord High Protector’s eyes she felt as if the other could know every lie she had ever told, every mistake she had made, every dirty secret she had ever kept -
And there was Soundwave. The mech was a little over half of Starscream’s height, but radiated a grace that could not be matched. She was an airframe from a different age, who could dive and circle through the air with such nimbleness. Her entire form was pleasing to look upon: face slender and pointed, high cheekbones and silver mandibles, ornate wings that could catch the energy of the sun, the blue speakers on her arms and chassis.
Astride each other, face to face, they were image of consummate love - of this the airframe had no doubt. Their private world was a place she had only took a single step through the door. She would need to wash the mud from between her toes and polish the armor plates of her front and back until they gleamed, refine the cadence of her speech, walk with broad her shoulders raised and back straight, cultivate her mind in every manner - only then would she be allowed inside.
Starscream stood amongst the sculpted angels in the temple - the ones with unmoving mouths and dead, pupiless eyes. Tall and gaunt, they possessed wings with many prongs, like she had seen on antique cruisers.
Each angel wore a peaked crown, like the spires of a tall tower. Their mouths were lined with rows of jagged teeth, making them all the more fearsome. The way the skylights - for this was a temple built for the new age, one that would let in the light of Sentinel Prime’s sun - illuminated them evoked the presence of heavenly might.
The angels lined the path to the central dais, a straight path set with blue tiles and radiating lines in gold.
Megatron stood in front of the empty alcove representing Primus, looking as if she were a statue of a terrible angel come to life. She knelt before the alcove, occupied in prayer. Beside her, Soundwave was doing the same, silver and blue wings folded at her sides. Starscream’s gaze fell on both of them. She wondered if there was a being, watching beyond space and time, who could read her every thought. Who knew how her eyes lingered on the curve of silver shoulder plates, the ridge of a broad back, long, slender fingers…Ah, her thoughts were far from chaste.
Starscream felt so very small in the vastness of this place. The ceiling soared above her, engraved with impressions of constellations and star-lanes set in burnished gold.
Primus and the heavenly host were silent. If she could ask aloud “is there anyone here?” she would be greeted with only an echo.
A searing rain covers the city, towers and sky bridges black and still all around them.
It is twilight, and hazy blue-green washes over everything. The air is hazy and warm, the rain hissing as it hits the pavement.
The Empress is kissing her, the long fingers of left hand wrapped around her waist. It is gentle, the Empress embracing her, the other hand cupping her chin as if this were a fable and she were a flower-maiden.
Uranus sighs, shuttering her eyes in the moment. She kisses the Empress back, gazing at the other's quicksilver face - the jagged geometry high cheekbones the eyes the color of smoldering embers.
Behind them the Empress's followers look on, only their dark silhouettes and the red glow of their eyes visible in the gloom.
Their eyes are on her, and Uranus' core swells with pride knowing this. Because the Empress has made Uranus her bride and she has never been so in love before she feels like melting in the other's arms the Empress has chosen her and she no longer feels like a drab house sparrow and the ground comes away beneath them and the followers blur into the wash of a watercolor painting and it is just them.
They are floating in the blue-green of the sky, and rising higher, higher. The two of them are weightless, and Uranus' hands clutch the Empress' as they hurtle, spiralling across the labyrinthine metal landscape of the world.
Uranus feels strong wings on her back and the blue fire of thruster engines propelling her forward through the air. The Empress has assumed the form of a majestic silver ship and they fly belly to belly, contrails streaking behind them.
They are so close that she feels the two of them merging together, like paint running in thick rivers on the canvas.
Megatron was dead, and the communications officer had the nerve to declare that it was a temporary state of affairs.
And Soundwave thought she was ruled by her emotions! What stubborn faith. Stupid, stupid. There was an army to raise, and leading to be done and of course the Fallen to guide them.
Soundwave had not returned to the Nemesis for months, believing that there was a way on Earth to revive their fallen leader. She was hooked into every major communications channel used by the natives of the planet, having little time to rest.
Starscream visited her frequently, shuttling between the Nemesis and Earth while avoiding detection by the Autobots and their human allies. Soundwave was talkative, and speaking to her was like speaking to several Cybertronians at once.
Soundwave had developed a fondness for human movies, which she would describe to Starscream in great detail, sometimes too quickly in her excitement. Tiny flesh beings taking down giant monsters by wit and willpower, fleshlings with weapons too large for their small hands and egos too large for their tiny bodies, car chases, lovers separated by death, only to be miraculously reunited by some mystic force…music, lights, garish colors…
Her objections - that as the current leader of the Decepticons there it was better give up on Megatron - were drowned out by a human song played through the commlink. Increasingly, Soundwave loved to communicate this way.
It was one of those songs about a female of the native species defending her love for her sub-standard mate. Starscream knew exactly why she picked it, but that didn’t make it any less aggravating.
Primus, how long would it go on like this?
No sooner had Megatron breached the surface of the water was she greeted by a familiar voice over the commlink.
There was no mistaking Soundwave - the cacophony of different voices that Soundwave spoke in was like a room full of drones speaking at once. A monotone voice delivered a report of the events that had transpired since the launch of the Nemesis, the battle in Mission City, Starscream’s stint as leader; another datastream reported their their current coordinates and trajectory, wind speed, air temperature. It was so much to take in at once, but Cybertronian minds were equipped to ingest and process such a deluge of information.
Megatron had changed into a silver spaceship, and was quickly gaining velocity as she ascended through the sky. Soon she would leave this planet’s atmosphere. She knew Soundwave was there, orbiting Earth, patiently observing.
"I am relieved to learn that you are alive and well, Lord Megatron."
This was Soundwave’s “true” voice, deep and rumbling. And it was obvious her communications officer was relieved that Megatron had cheated death.
It had been a long time since she heard Soundwave speak in this way, barely able to contain feelings of relief. It was a hand reaching through the ice that imprisoned her for too long.
"I too am relieved that you still function, Soundwave."
They exchanged many more words through the comm channel. Regarding the Star Harvester, the emergence of The Fallen, the Nemesis, Starscream -
Megatron wished that they could spend more time like this, but there were urgent matters at hand, and a certain second-in-command to chastise. As she breached the outer atmosphere, she paused long enough to regard Soundwave, who had taken on the form of satellite. For a moment they looked at each other, and then Megatron sped off into deep space.
The seeker knelt down beside Megatron, who had drifted into sleep.
Starscream palmed one of Megatron’s long claws, which was corroded with rust. It was attached to an equally filthy arm, the plates and cables inelegantly bunched together. Slumped against a pile of crates, Megatron reminded her of one of a human laborer whose body had been tempered by years of hard toil and drink - stout chest and limbs like pillars. She looked at the sleeping visage of her Master, at the gaping hole the Prime had blown through her once gleaming silver helm. The rim of the wound was blackened, and minute things crawled through it.
It was difficult to believe that once she had thought Megatron to be some kind of - some kind of angel - that was the word wasn’t it? The inhabitants of this planet conjured images of beings like themselves, wreathed in the wings of predatory birds and wearing discs of light.
Well then, Starscream still had wings, but Megatron could no longer fly. If there had been a time when this so-called angel had scoffed at the dirty bird at her feet, it was no more - the angel had turned into a Mack Truck.