Starscream delicately traced his claws over the Autobot insignia on his chest. It felt so strange yet so right. Maybe his creators had been right all those years ago. He should’ve never joined the Decepticons. But back then, things were much less cut and dry. There had been more to the Decepticon cause than conquest and cruelty. They had wanted liberation and the young seeker had taken pity, realizing how fragged up the state of things was. Starscream buried his helm in his servos. Why did things always have to be so complex.
There was a knock at the door, making the seeker jump. “C-come in…” He mumbled.
Optimus stepped inside with a kind smile on his faceplates. Starscream quickly got to his peds and smiled nervously back. His wings dipped low and he clasped his servos in front of himself, barely able to hide his trembling. “How can I be of service, My Prime?” Starscream asked with a slight bow of his helm. He felt so ridiculous doing this... but he needed to prove that he could behave. That he could be loyal. He had to make sure they wouldn’t throw him out.
Optimus let out a small sigh. Watching the Seeker fearfully acquiesce made him uncomfortable. “I’m just here to show you to your new room. No point in keeping you locked up in here.” He said.
Starscream nodded. “Will this room have windows?” He asked softly.
Optimus shook his helm. “No. There are no windows anywhere in the base. It’s located inside a plateau, underground.” He explained.
Starscream froze and felt like his worst fears had been realized. He was underground. The roof could come in at any moment. He was nowhere near the sky!
“Is something wrong, Starscream?” Optimus asked softly.
The seeker quickly shook his helm. “Oh, of course not. I was only asking.” He quickly explained his concern away.
It had been a week since his brand was changed, and they were only just now moving him to a new room. Starscream had no doubt the Prime had endured a long and exhausting debate because of him and wanted to make sure he repaid that kindness. He didn’t want to know what would happen if he upset the Prime.
Starscream vented deeply to steady himself. The roof had yet to cave in on him, so it probably wasn’t going to. At least, he hoped.
Optimus glanced down at the seeker. He looked so small with his wings pressed down like that. Was something wrong? Maybe it was a respect thing? He wished he knew more of seeker culture. “Here we are.” He opened the door to Starscream’s new room so the seeker could peer inside.
Starscream looked around. It was simple, but not as barren as the cell had been. And the door was solid, so that's a plus. The berth now had a pillow and a blanket. He was surprised he would be so freely given comfort items. The vehicons on the Nemesis never had such things, and he had assumed he would be at a level on par with them. He turned his helm to the left and saw a simple desk with a few shelves, housing datapads. Another surprising, but not unwelcome development.
The seeker looked up at Optimus, who had that same gentle smile as before. He looked away. What was he supposed to say? What was he supposed to do!? A frustrated blush covered his faceplates and he kept quiet.
Optimus frowned a little. “Do you not like it?” He asked, cautiously.
Starscream’s helm snapped up. “No no-! I love it. It’s very- Well- It has potential!” He quickly placated.
Optimus wasn’t sure he was being completely honest, but knew grilling the other mech wouldn’t make him open up any faster. “Well, take all the time you need to get settled. But please, come out and talk to the rest of the team for a bit. They’re not going to hurt you.” He consoled.
Starscream fidgeted nervously with his claws, picking slightly at the jagged edge of the one that had yet to fully regrow. “Well, I would certainly hope not…” He mumbled.
Optimus pointed to the lock on the inside of the door. “The door only locks from the inside and you can lock it whenever you wish. This is your space. You are not a prisoner.” He reminded the seeker.
Starscream stepped inside his room. He really wished it had a window, even a fake one, so his claustrophobia would shut up for five seconds.
Optimus watched him for a moment before he turned. “I have a mission I need to attend. I won’t be gone long. But when I get back, I don’t want to see that you stayed holed up in here the whole time.” He half joked.
Starscream froze. He didn’t register the joke, and took it as a direct order. He nodded, albeit nervously. “Of course, My Prime.” He acknowledged. But he could already feel anxiety creeping up, especially if he had to deal with that white wrecker anymore. He really hated Wheeljack. But he knew he couldn't hold onto that-- he was supposed to be on his best behavior.
Optimus winced mentally at being addressed so formally. It was so strange, and he didn't like it. "I'll be back soon. You get comfortable." He said and left the room, closing the door.
Starscream let out a vent he hadn't realized he had been holding when the door didn't lock behind the Prime. He walked over to the desk and picked up a data pad, noting that it was blank. Well, he could always get back into art. He set it down at the desk in front of the chair. The seeker wondered how short of a gap was too short for it to look suspicious if he left his room now.
The grey mech winced as he felt the bite of hunger at his tanks. A perfectly reasonable reason to be caught wandering around aimlessly. But he didn't know where the energon was kept, and asking might raise suspicions. Perhaps he could just wait until someone else got a cube and grab some then.
His mind made up. The seeker walked towards the door of his new berthroom. He reached for the handle, but hesitated. What if he wasn't supposed to actually go anywhere? Optimus had said he didn't want him to just stay in there. But was he supposed to wait for someone to come get him?
Starscream let out a frustrated sigh and opened the door. He was almost shocked that he hadn't been greeted with a blaster to the face. He looked down the hall, wondering which way was the correct, when he heard the sounds of an activating ground bridge and followed that.
Starscream walked out into the main room of the silo and was in mild awe as he looked around. It was huge! And built by such tiny humans. The high ceiling made him feel like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. His wings couldn't help but lift up slightly at the feeling.
Starscream let out an undignified yelp and his wings slammed back down. He looked around frantically until he locked optics with Ratchet.
Ratchet had a half-amused smirk on his face. He appeared to be all alone.
Starscream looked around nervously. "Where is everyone?" He asked.
Ratchet turned back to the console. "Arcee and Bumblebee are on patrol, Wheeljack packed up and left in the middle of the night once he was told you were being given free reign.Optimus is on a mission and Bulkhead just went as backup. And I believe Miko is either moping or mopping because I sent her to clean." He explained.
Starscream instantly felt nervous at this. He really hoped no one would hold a grudge on him for Wheeljack leaving. "Oh- I'm sorry… I didn't know." His wings twitched and pressed closer to his back.
Ratchet noticed and frowned a little. "It's not your fault. He got outvoted and got upset. He was bound to leave soon anyway…" he explained.
Starscream nodded. "Right… of course…" he mumbled. Something was wrong, he could feel it. But he couldn't place it.
Suddenly a call came in. "Ratchet! Come in!" Miko shouted, making Starscream jump.
"Miko?" Ratchet asked. "This is an emergency channel. We need to keep it open for- wait… Where are you?"
“Doy! I’m with the thingamabob!” Miko chirped.
“The thingama..?” Ratchet asked, then gasped. “The data cylinder!?”
“Data cylinder!?” Starscream repeated, but was ignored.
“Yes! Can you bridge it out of here?” Miko shouted.
“I’ll reactivate arrival coordinates!” He responded and did just that.
“Dude!? Can you open it a little closer?”
“Uhhmm… Fifty yards?”
Starscream realized something suddenly and moved closer to the console. “Wait- Don’t touch the cylinder you’ll ma-” He cut himself off when the line went dead. “Scrap-!” Starscream muttered angrily.
Ratchet gave him a strange look and raised an optic ridge.
Starscream noticed the look and froze. His wings had snapped up, tense behind his frame. The seeker quickly snapped them down and looked away. He cleared his vocalizer. “I shouldn’t use such language…” He mumbled nervously and walked away.
“I helped lose the thing. Now I wanna help find it!” Bulkhead protested. “I need to get back in the field with Optimus.”
“Ep ep-! You’re under my watch now, Optimus’s orders. And running a full scan of your neural net would be a wiser use of your time.” He chastised.
“C’mon doc, there’s nothin’ up there ta scan.” The Wrecker dismissed.
“He seems fine ta me.” Miko chimed in.
Ratchet let out a long heavy sigh. “Well, if you insist on making yourself useful, you can help Miko tidy up.” He answered smugly, holding out a human sized mop to the green mech.
Bulkhead took it and Miko let out a frustrated groan. “He’s mad with power!”
Bulkhead laughed. “That’s Ratchet. Null Vector Squared alright.” He told her, fiddling with the mop.
Starscream had been keeping his distance and observing from a corner, trying to mind his own business. However, he perked up at that. It seemed like an odd thing for the Wrecker to say.
Miko looked up at Bulkhead. “What?” She asked, clearly confused.
Bulkhead twirled the mop around in his servo. “Hey, we got any paint around here?” He asked.
“Art project? Cool!” Miko chirped.
Starscream watched them from his spot in the corner with a raised optic ridge. Something was up and it was troublesome.
Miko saw Starscream watching them and waved a bit. “Hey Starscream, wanna join us?” She asked.
Starscream froze. “Well I- I don’t want to ruin your fun-” He insisted.
Miko smiled. “C’mon! I wanna see what you can do!”
Starscream made optic contact with Bulkhead. He really didn’t want a second wrecker angry at his very existence. But Bulkhead just shrugged, not really seeming to mind either way. Starscream still felt nervous about the idea of being around any of the Autobots for too long, and he hesitated.
Miko disappeared for a moment before returning with a second mop, poking the seeker in the ped with the soft end. Starscream jerked away from the sensation with a start, having not been paying attention to the small girl.
Miko laughed a bit and Starscream bent down to be nearer her level. She offered the mop and Starscream took it, examining in for a moment.
Miko smirked. “You took it, now you have to paint with us!” She insisted.
Starscream’s optics widened a bit. Was this a test of how tolerant he could be of the humans? If it was a test, he was determined not to fail it. "Alright. Fine." He stood with the brush in servo and watched Miko scamper off again.
Starscream kneeled on the concrete floor with a nervous expression. "Are you sure it's a good idea to paint on the walls? Won't that anger Ratchet? Or Optimus?" He asked Miko who just shrugged.
"If we get in trouble, I'll tell them it was all my idea. No big deal." Miko told him.
Starscream bit his lower derma slightly and sighed. "Alright… If you're sure… I wouldn't want you to get hurt…" He mumbled.
Miko tilted her head, confused about why she would be hurt.
Bulkhead was muttering to himself, but Starscream couldn't quite make it out so he ignored it.
The seeker dipped his makeshift brush into the large oil drum serving as a paint bucket. His paint was a dull white, just like Bulkhead's. He wished he had some other colors in order to really put his vision up. But it would do.
He began to paint, slowly at first, his wings down and trembling slightly, fearful of being scolded at any second. But he slowly, ever so timidly, started to relax and let the inspiration flow, his wings lifting as he relaxed. What was at first a simple mindless doodle slowly evolved into a sprawling mural across a decent portion of the wall. The tall towers of Vos stretched upward enough that he had to stand up again to paint the tops.
Miko watched this process in awe. She had no idea what that place was, but it was amazing. "Awesome!" She suddenly yelled.
Starscream yelped, and accidentally marred his work with a harsh line. He stared at the line for a hard moment before looking at Miko. "It… Was…" he muttered, almost bitterly. 'Until you made me frag it up!' He hissed mentally, biting his tongue.. He had to be on his best behavior. He couldn't let something as insignificant as a human ruin his one chance. And he knew, there would only be one chance. There would be no do over if he messed up now, that was certain.
Miko frowned a little. "Oops… Sorry." She mumbled.
Starscream's wings sank low. "It's fine… I'll probably be removed soon anyway…" he turned away from the failed mural and looked down at the tiny girl.
Miko smiled up at him. "What did you paint?" She asked.
"Home…" He mumbled sadly, wings pressing to his frame. They were starting to ache from holding them in such a way, but he ignored it, along with the returning hunger in his tank now that he wasn't distracted.
Miko looked at what he had made. "That doesn't look like the Nemesis."
Starscream bit back a few choice words. "No. My real home, Vos."
"It's really pretty." Miko complimented.
Starscream looked away and tried to hide his blush. He couldn't remember the last time someone had genuinely liked his art. Not even his teachers had. "It was…" He mumbled.
Miko frowned. "Was?" She asked.
"Vos burned down in the early years of the war…" he mumbled. But then shook his helm. "I don't know why I'm telling you this." He turned away. "You're just a-" he cut himself off with a gasp of shock.
Bulkhead hadn't chimed in on their conversation because he was preoccupied. All over the walls were different equations and graphs.
Starscream looked down at Miko then quickly left towards the other side of the console. He came around the corner and saw all the other Autobots there. He froze and pressed his wings all the way down. "I… I don't mean to alarm anyone… but I think something may be wrong with Bulkhead." He prodded.
Ratchet came around the corner, gasping.
Miko smiled up at him. "Bulkhead makes some really weird art huh?"
Ratchet was astounded. "That is not art. It's science."
Arcee glanced at the equations. "So are we looking at genius, or gibberish?" She asked.
Ratchet shook his helm. "It took a bit of time to make sense of it, and I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, but I believe these equations are pieces to a synthetic energon formula." He explained.
Starscream gasped, causing the others to look at him. He instantly went silent, looking away. He picked at the edge of his healing claw and said nothing.
Starscream hadn't realized he spaced out until he felt Optimus's servo on his shoulder. "Come with me." He requested.
Starscream gulped. This was it. He was in trouble and the Autobots were going to throw him away like trash. He probably deserved it for whatever he had done. He felt deep anxiety pull at his spark. But he obediently followed.
He didn't need to stew in his worry for long, as the Prime turned to him once they were just out of earshot of the others. "Starscream." He began.
Starscream was trembling as he slowly looked up at Optimus. "Y-yes?" He asked.
"About that painting of Vos, I-"
"Miko did it!" Starscream blurted. "I tried to stop her, I- I really did! I'm sorry I couldn't prevent her from making such a mess. I promise it won't ever happen again!"
Optimus was shocked by the defensive lies that poured from Starscream. . "I… was going to say I really liked it." He clarified.
Starscream felt his entire faceplate burn with shame. "Oh…" he mumbled. He didn't dare meet the Prime’s gaze.. They both knew Starscream had told a stupid, obvious lie.
He waited, every inch of his frame tensed for the inevitable impact. He distantly heard the faint rattling of his trembling wings as his energon pounded in his audials.
Then he looked up, surprised the Prime hadn't struck him or started shouting. And he was met with a worried yet kind stare that made his shame burn worse.
Optimus sighed, before gently asking, "Are you alright?"
Starscream nodded and waved a dismissive servo. "Never better." He couldn't give the Prime any reason to think he was anything but fine. He couldn't let them get rid of him. The sad part being he wasn't exactly lying.
Optimus frowned. He really wished the seeker would be more open. However, he understood that it would take time. "In any case. Ratchet wants to speak with you when you have a spare moment…" He informed.
"W-why?" Starscream asked, believing he was in trouble for something else.
Optimus smiled just a little bit, trying to he reassuring. "Just something minor. He didn't tell me why, but he did say it was reasonably important."
Starscream nodded. "Well, I'll be sure to head right there. Thank you for telling me, My Prime." He responded with a slight bow before hurrying off to the medbay.
Starscream walked into the medbay to find Ratchet in the middle of transcribing data off a large metal slab. "Oh- you're busy. I'll come back later-" he moved as if to leave.
"Ep ep ep- Don't you run off." He lightly scolded. "This is a week late as it is."
Starscream tilted his helm. "What's wrong?" He asked nervously. Was he about to be told he was on death's doorstep? It would be cruelly poetic-- the moment he gets something good in his life, he finally kicks the bucket.
Ratchet handed him a cube of energon. "I noticed a few nutrient deficiencies in your energon test. So I'll be making you your cubes for a while to hopefully get those up to par. Drink up. You're not leaving my sight till that whole cube is gone." He instructed.
Starscream nodded and practically chugged the cube. He had been rather hungry, after all.
Ratchet was rather surprised. "Well, I didn't know my company was that bad."
Starscream took the half-empty cube from his dermas. "No- that's not it. I just- I don't know where the energon was kept and I didn't want to bother anyone by asking… I was just a bit hungry is all-" He placated.
Ratchet shook his helm. "You don't need to lie to me…" He muttered.
Starscream stared down at his energon, speaking to himself in a whisper. "But I didn't…"
"What was that?" The medic asked.
"N-nothing-! Thank you for the energon!" He squawked and drank the rest like it was a party drink and took his leave.
Ratchet just shook his helm and sighed, returning to his work.
Starscream went to his room, shutting and locking the door. He sat on his berth and took a few deep, steadying vents. He was never leaving his room again if it would always be that stressful.
The seeker licked the remainder of his energon off his dermas. It had a slightly sweet taste he couldn't place right away. He searched his memory for a few long moments before a single match came up. Zinc.