The next time Starscream set foot on human soil, it was in a forgotten place.
Twisted trees bent and swayed in a geriatric dance, overstressed wood groaning as his thrusters sent a searing wind blasting across the field. Sparse patches of grass withered under this assault, and moss-shrouded tombstones blackened and fell away, as if seeking escape from the blistering, shrieking wind that had given this alien creature its name. With casual indifference, a pede the size of a Volkswagen crushed a statue of a weeping angel, sending its shattered head skittering and bouncing away. It came to rest against a leaning tombstone, its cracked lips brushing against the etched dates that spoke of a life so ephemeral, Starscream could not see the point of ever having existed at all.
He straightened and shut off his thrusters, bits of once-elegant marble grounding to powder beneath his heel as the engines powered down with a high, descending whine. He scanned the garden, with its dead roots and flowers of stone, before his optics focused on a single headstone resting beneath the sparse shade of a nearby tallow tree. He cleared the distance in two long strides, splintering an oak sapling and grinding another statue to gravel dust, and then folded his long, digitigrade legs into a graceful crouch. Dagger claws dug furrows into the parched earth as he rested a hand lightly against the sunken grave, sending a pulse probe into the soil.
Data immediately flooded the edges of his vision, telling of burrowing insects, mineral deposits and decaying chemical strings, as well as throwing up a three-dimensional model of the rotting wooden casket and its desiccated contents. Shuttering his optics once in a gesture of disgust, he lanced his claws deep into the earth, dirt crumbling against the onslaught of his fingers with the ease of ancient rust. His digits laced around the small box and ripped it unceremoniously from its earthen cradle.
Clods of dirt and bits of water-damaged planking slid between the cracks of his joints, catching in the servos with an unpleasant grinding sound. He dropped the coffin beside the ragged hole, shaking out the offending fragments caught in his fingers as the sides of the container burst apart with a tortured shriek of tearing wood and nails. Bones the color of tarnished silver clattered out and spun away like dice, taking with them shreds of rotted cloth and mummified flesh.
Prodding at a femur, he sneered as it splintered under the lightest pressure of his claw. These moldering keratin sticks held no more answers than did this accursed place, where humans honored their dead by leaving them to rot. Countless vorns of war had instilled in him a certain pragmatism, however, so he spent little time wondering at the madness that had compelled him to come here. The Allspark was destroyed, and he was looking for someone to blame.
Some of the responsibility must belong to his illustrious leader, Megatron, whose spark would burn in the slag pits for all eternity, if there was any justice in the universe at all. Optimus Prime was another; a mech so suicidally noble that he would rather doom their entire race than allow a few sparkless organics to die. Even the Fallen was not exempt, for if he had only allowed Starscream to remain in command, then the Allspark would have been laid at his feet orns ago.
This portioning out of blame did not sit entirely well, however, for each mech had been a known factor. Their thought patterns could be anticipated by him, and their actions manipulated accordingly. He had been playing them all in a grand game, and he had been mere breems away from seeing his plans come to fruition. The Allspark had been found, and Prime and Megatron had fought each other to a sparking stand still, so badly damaged that both could barely move, much less fight. They were out in the open, perfect targets for a strafing run that would have destroyed both leaders in a hellish burst of flame, leaving the Allspark to Starscream; the only one worthy to bring about the salvation of their people.
But then came disaster, a wildcard in the form of a worthless carbon drone. Samuel James Witwicky, that hairless ape with pretensions, who had grasped the Allspark in a flash of illogical inspiration and plunged it into Megatron's chest. The Fallen's general had offlined in an instant of shattering bliss, and everything Starscream had fought and suffered for had died with him.
Defeat was now etched across his spark in acid lines, a persistent ache that went deeper than the loss of ambition. The Allspark had been the focal point of their species from the moment the first spark flared to life; revered as their creator, their world's lifeblood and the physical manifestation of their god. It was sacred, inimitable, and not even Megatron could have imagined destroying it.
But someone else had, someone else did, and the future of their race had been tossed into the maw of the Unmaker. The evil of the act was so staggering, Starscream couldn't help but wonder if the Witwicky boy fully understood what he had done.
One orn soon, Starscream would ask him.
With a huff of his vents, the newly appointed Decepticon general ripped the dead human's headstone out of the ground. Gripping the tiny thing almost delicately in his claws, he peered at it, his optics easily penetrating its creeping veil of moss. Faded words were carved into its surface; one half in the simplistic, barking English that humanity was so fond, and the other in a language Starscream had never bothered to download. Something older, but only slightly less inelegant.
Archibald S. Witwicky
April 17, 1857 - May 29, 1932
Non omnia moriar
A curious species, humanity. Compartmentalizing their lives into mere names and dates, as if even they understood how little they mattered.
In a sudden spasm of revulsion, he opened his hand and let the tombstone drop, where it ricocheted off a loose shard of planking and rolled unsteadily into the hole left by the casket. Starscream had made a point of researching the life of Samuel in the cycles following the destruction of the Cube. Until he had been tapped by the Autobots, the boy had led a thoroughly unremarkable existence, with no background to indicate that he would one day bring about the end of an entire species. Finding no answers in a life seemingly obsessed with the acquisition of sex and popularity, Starscream had bypassed the boy entirely, probing instead into his ancestry. That search had inevitably lead him here, to the grave site of a long-dead explorer.
On the surface, Archibald's history was nearly as lackluster as his descendant's. The son of a poor tailor, he had joined a shipping vessel when he was seventeen and spent the next twenty years traveling across all five oceans, changing vessels every few years and steadily rising in rank, until he was the captain of his own ship. In 1898, he fell under the employ of one of the most prestigious American colleges of the day and set out for the Arctic Circle with a full crew and three collegiates with research grants.
When his ship had become mired in ice floes less than a hundred miles from their goal, he had chased after a pair of wayward canids, where a single misstep had plunged him through a thin layer of ice and into the arcane. Blinded by a pulse from Megatron's navigational system and driven mad by the flurry of symbols burned into his brain, Archibald had spent his remaining years in a mental institution. With the exception of a brief dalliance with a nurse, which had resulted in a male offspring, his story had ended there.
A predictable finish to a short, largely pointless life. And yet one incautious step, a pair of glasses and a single messy exchange of bodily fluids had created ripples across time and history, sounding out a death knell to everything Starscream had strived to achieve. Because of the small, insignificant actions of the pile of bones at his feet, he would never again see the crystal spires of Iacon scraping proudly against Cybertron's magenta sky. He would never again ride the thermals kicked up by Vos's Mercury Sea, or train new younglings in Pax's Warrens, where the chasm's jagged peaks and hairpin turns quickly separated the gifted flyers from the scrap.
No more younglings, ever again. Starscream was now a member of a dying race, and the lord of a faction whose purpose was irrevocably lost. It passed understanding that one scurrying ephemeral could take away so much. That that same individual was long past any form of retribution was an injustice that froze Starscream's spark to its core.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Those small, squishy groundlings were less than cannon fodder. Humanity wasn't supposed to matter.
In a fit of pique, he plunged a claw into the splintered side of the casket and hooked out Archibald's skull. It separated easily from the brittle remains of the spinal column and bounced away like a warped ball bearing, before rolling almost lazily into its violated grave. It came to a rest atop the tombstone, its empty eye sockets staring blankly into Starscream's face. The lower jaw opened in a travesty of a yawn, and it's chin came to rest upon the first letter of the stone's cryptic inscription.
Curiosity gave his processors a weak nudge, and he took a moment to snatch the meaning of the phrase from the Nihilist junkyard that was the humans' internet. The words were in Latin, he quickly discovered, and its meaning was a simple one:
Non omnia moriar. Not all of me will die.
The Decepticon stilled, his optics locked in the middle distance as he turned the phrase over in his mind. Three words written in a dead language, whose influence was easily detected in many of the tongues still in use today. The final say of a dead man, whose unremarkable life had somehow created a shockwave that spanned a galaxy. Starscream was still caught up in the destruction of its passing, and he was gripped with a sudden, irrational dread that he would continue to feel its tremors until the last pulse of his spark.
When he focused again on the disturbed grave, the skull was still peering up at him from atop its moss-streaked pedestal. It hadn't moved in the slightest, and yet its inert gaze seemed to have twisted. Somehow, the vacant list of its jaw had morphed into a wide, rictus grin, as if something, somewhere, was howling with laughter at his ineffectualness, from a place he could never hope to touch.
With a strangled static burst of furious denial, Starscream activated his thrusters and launched himself into the unwelcome embrace of an alien sky. A moment later, an AIM-120 missile impacted the earth with a sound like the end of the world, spawning a blossoming plume of fire that quickly consumed the abandoned graveyard, that damning tombstone, and those hated, mocking bones.
AN: This is what happens when one turns to the pairing generator for inspiration, and it smugly tosses Starscream/Captain Archibald Witwicky/Touch into one's lap. After an understandable amount of brain-breakage at the ensuing mental pictures, I came up with this. The personal aspects of Archibald's life are a product of the movie canon and some sleep-deprived guesswork.