ayngelcat: (Starscream)
[personal profile] ayngelcat
Title: A Strategic Alternative
Universe: G1
Rating: PG
Characters: Onslaught, Starscream, mention of all other Combaticons, Skywarp putting in brief appearance
Warnings: mention of violence and ‘payback, mild insinuation of sexual acts
Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers, or any of the characters or scenarios from the series within this story

Notes Written because I took pity on Swindle always getting beaten up after B.O.T! Set after that episode, during the cease fire when Megatron had gone on a hopeless high grade bender and couldn’t be ‘disturbed’ gone ‘on vacation.’ This may become part of ‘substitute’ since I like this version of events, and the Starscream/Swindle empathy which serves a mutual purpose. Onslaught’s version of Swindle’s antics fits with the canon – in which Swindle did actually intend doing the right thing at the start of BOT but changed his mind. The prequel to this will be about that.

~ A Strategic Alternative ~

The toolbox was oblong in shape, and painted a metallic green. It flashed in the harsh glare of the fluro when Starscream held it up. “I like this box!” The Seeker declared, tapping it with a tinking sound. “It’s rather attractive, don’t you think, Onslaught?”

An uncomfortable ripple went through the Combaticon leader, who looked away. “Come now Onslaught! A very attractive box! I’ve been studying it, having a good ‘think,’ just before you came in here!”

Starscream crossed to the table. Smoothly, he put the box down. Then his face darkened. ”Yes – I’ve been thinking!” he growled. “How it was just about the right size to house your you know what component and those of your miserable team!”

Onslaught could not resist a shudder. It did not escape the Seeker. But it appeared to lighten his mood. He gave a thin, crooked smile.

“Oh believe me, Onslaught,” he said. “I am on very good terms with the insecticon, Bombshell. One click of my fingers, and a pile of the type of energon insecticons love to digest, and he will cooperate with my every command. And since Megatron has chosen to ‘indispose’ himself, I am in charge. If I were to give orders for the box again, then …. “ he tinked it “ ….. the box it would be!”

Onslaught grimaced. The trouble was, it was true. The insecticon who’d performed the ‘corporeal separation procedure’ so many eons ago and had turned up here on Earth was in his element, bustling around, enjoying Megatron’s ‘vacation’ almost as much as Starscream and taking every opportunity to ‘try new experiments.’ And Bombshell had always regarded the Combaticons with something which wavered between dislike and intense fascination.

“I’m working on a solution, Starscream.” The Combaticon said matter of factly.

You’re - working - on - a - solution! Starscream intoned, pacing slowly across the room to stop before the portal. Outside, the tropical undersea wilderness faded away in the murky water outside the submerged Indian Ocean base. The Seeker paused for a moment, staring at the wavering weeds, the brightly coloured coral and fish flitting in the gloom. Then he turned back to Onslaught, an amused but cold glint in his optics.

“Let’s - recap - shall we? ” he said. “Some - history. All right?”

Onslaught uttered a sigh, shaking his head, but Starscream had started to pace, his footsteps echoing hollowly on the stone floor, mingling with the sound of water lapping against the dome.

“First, I bring you back,” the Seeker said. “After eons of Primus only knows what – and I think you will be grateful for it. But are you? No! You proceed on your own blundering agenda in exactly the same way which got you put away to begin with. You totally screw things up, you get us exiled – get me exiled. You then devise what I have to say is not a bad plan to get rid of the humans from Earth, but instead of allowing me to lead your campaign to take Cybertron, you turn against me, screw up again and get yourself blown to bits. Am I or am I not painting a somewhat inefficient picture?”

Onslaught shifted uncomfortably. “We were grateful, Starscream,” he said. “And the rest? “ he sighed. “It was just that - regrettably - a few miscalculations were made.”

“A few miscalculations?” Starscream sneered. “Let’s see now ... after the Cybertron fiasco, you get put back together. But you’re hopelessly inept, because you can’t come to grips with the combiner programming. Your team is fraught with conflict, you can’t control it. One member - by the grace of Primus - shows some intelligence and usefulness, but he’s castigated by the brain-dead rest to the point where, when you fail even to stand up to Defensor - a non aggro combiner - said mech Swindle takes the opportunity to get rid of the rest of you in what was - I suggest – a very understandable move!”

Onslaught winced. He still hated his brief stint in ‘oblivion, still reeled at the thought that it could have been forever. Yet he hated even more the fact that he hadn’t foreseen or prevented it. “We’re all very different, Starscream!” he said. “Other gestalts – the members are designed as combiners. We were not. These things take time.”

“Indeed!” Starscream snapped, pacing again. “I agree! And now we have this ‘cease fire.’ A good opportunity for you to get in some ‘practice’ at working in just a slightly more harmonized fashion. But do you do it? No! Two of your team go on a drunken rampage and blow up an island, and your shuttle disappears into space!” He paused to look at the undersea vista again, wings twitching. “ I do, however, have the one member of your team with half a brain once again doing something worthwhile - after all ….” He smiled, “negotiating with the islanders to secure their allegiance and agreeing to hide the weapons cachet is a somewhat necessary facet if we’re to attack the Autobots again, is it not, Onslaught? However ….”

He turned on him again. “Swindle can’t get the job done because that - copter of yours – regarding whom the sun shines from a most peculiar place as far as you are concerned Onslaught or so it seems - is intent on tearing him apart! And the tank – being a moron of an even higher order than him – is happily bumbling along for the ride!”

Onslaught was getting more ill at ease by the astrosecond. “It’s difficult, Starscream,” he said. “There were issues between Vortex and Swindle long before the war, before all this. I’m working on it. Now if you can just give me a little more time …”

But Starscream’s optics flared bright red and he glared at the Combaticon leader, all twitching wings and more than a little unhinged fury.

“We don’t have any time!” he screeched. “ I need the Combaticons operational! If we don’t take advantage of this situation in the next few cycles then we may as well forget about Decepticon supremacy altogether!” Picking up the toolbox, he banged it down again in front of Onslaught, who winced. “I kid you not! The way you’ve been, you might as well be back in here!”

“It’s intolerable Onslaught! I want a solution!” he raged on, pacing again. “ And do not forget what I said earlier, that I am in charge!

Onslaught looked at the colourful form, the bristling wings, the incredible energy which always emanated from the Seeker and which, combined with his seething frustrations, made him every bit crazy enough to do exactly as he threatened. He swallowed. “The others want payback,” he said quietly. “For what Swindle did. The Warrior Code requires it. I just have to organize an appropriate method.”

The Seeker glared at him. “You mean you’re figuring out the best place for your protégés to attack him en masse and beat him to a pulp!” he scoffed, a look of utter contempt on his faceplates. He shook his head in disgust. “One would think they had never left the pits of Kaon!“

“The Warrior Code!” Starscream went on. “Oh, do not get me wrong! I am not - adverse - to such concepts. It is law among Seekers. But among Seekers, the wrongdoer must face another of equal standing and strength. If he survives, he is exonerated and the matter ended. There is a - nobility in this. But your mob …” he curled his lip in disgust. “An excuse for cowardly and meaningless thuggery. A hoard of sharkticons fighting for food would be more noble!”

There were a few minutes silence then, with only the ever present sound of water washing against the side of the dome. Onslaught felt his circuits twist. Of course Seekers were nowhere near as ‘pure’ as in the exposition just provided. Yet Onslaught could not stop the lurch which went through him at the sure knowledge of what Vortex and Brawl would, indeed, do to Swindle - or at his own misgivings. His unease magnified.

Starscream regarded him with narrowed optics for what seemed like a long moment. Then he seemed to become more benevolent. A slow and sardonic smile crept on to his faceplates. “Tell me, Onslaught,” he said. “Do you want Swindle punished?”

Onslaught's optics flickered. Could Starscream really 'read' him? He frowned. “As I have said, the Combaticon Code requires it. Whatever you – think of it. And I can’t say I entirely disagree ….” He swallowed. “But that is – how we are. ‘Nobility’ is not our way.”

Starscream came over. bending over the table and leaning on his hands, his optics burned brightly into the Combaticon leader’s face. “That is not not what I asked!” he rasped. “ I will repeat the question. Do you, Onslaught, want Swindle punished?”

Onslaught stared back at demanding the red optics, and Starscream could not help but observe the confusion in them, as though the Combaticon leader was trapped in an impossible dilemma. Onslaught lowered his optics. “I have accessed Swindle’s recall,” he whispered. “I'm - uh - not as convinced of his culpability as the others. It appears he – was trying to get us fixed, but a high price was demanded. Then he got ‘talked into’ what he did by – somebody. That Autobot, I think. He ‘associates’ with – their diversionary tactician, Smokescreen.” He shook his head. “The others will not entertain this idea, however ….”

Starscream stared at him; and then his face plates creased and he burst into laughter. “Oh my!” he said, pulling away and crossing the room again. “Does this not make your Code the most laughable thing from here to the last reach of the known universe? I rest my case! An ugly maiming and possible death - for a crime of questionable culpability? A better expose of what this really is could not be dragged from the pits of Kell. Oh yes, when I called you ‘military morons’ I was more right than I could possibly have imagined!”

A slight tremor now shook the Combaticon. Once again, he was lost for a response. And too ashamed to feel the indignation – which Primus knew, he should have felt – at such a scathing dismissal of his multi talented and once highly successful team.

“But,” Starscream cawed, “I have to smile at your assertions, Onslaught. The notion of Swindle getting talked into something - especially by another moron of the highest order such as that Autobot - is somewhat amusing. As I have said, he’s the one member of your team with half a brain. I fear what this is – it’s a nice little let out for him – one which has apparently convinced you and which he imagines will sway you from the enforcement of this ‘code.’ Unfortunately it is so hopelessly transparent as to be pitiable, and he is hopelessly wrong …”

“However, let me be the ‘devil’s advocate’ here!” he went on. “Let us suppose that Swindle didn’t ‘get talked into anything. Let us suppose that he did set out to destroy you. You have still not answered my question. I’ll ask again. Do you want him punished?

Now warnings were flashing unmistakeably in Onslaught’s HUD. Code …. requires ….
ratification …. old …. order …. requires …. enforcement …. WARNING ….combiner programming …. attempt ….. override ….. elite ….. programming …. incompatible ….. WARNING!”

“The Combiner programming is making it hard for me as leader to go along with it!” Onslaught gasped, his voice staticky, almost as though he were approaching an overload. “And besides …” when he looked up at Starscream his optics stared, wildly. “ Swindle’s programming is half alpha elite - caste. You know that, Starscream! His ancestry is superior. It accounts for his intelligence, it's - why I chose him; and why he is part of us now. “ A shudder went through Onslaught’s frame. “ I … can’t … let …. him …. be …. destroyed!”

A satisfied smile seeped into the Seeker’s faceplates. “Well, well well - here we have it!” he said. “The combiner program is one thing, but this is the crux of the matter. The piece de resistance! The old elite-mech creed! No matter how brutish and thuggish the outfit you command now, it will never leave you, will it? Never mind that you, Onslaught were cast from the ranks of the Towers ilk long before you crept in the Shadows of Cybertron’s underbelly; never mind that Swindle knew nothing of his origins until quite recently and would no more have set foot in the Towers as a sparkling than sprouted a warp drive and hurtled into another dimension. Ah, the Alpha creed. My word, Onslaught! Mirage D’Ligier would be proud of you!”

And his optics glittered at the mention of the Autobot spy with a kind of craziness, and Onslaught was puzzled again, thinking that this was not the first time Starscream had mentioned Mirage, or had gotten that look when he did, and Onslaught wondered about that. The helpful distraction calmed him a little. His systems settling, he stopped shaking.

But the problem had not gone away. And Onslaught’s processor snapped straight away back to it. “There is a fundamental difficulty between Swindle and Vortex, who – as you know was – purpose manufactured,” he sighed. “And programmed to be anti-elite at a time when on the agenda was – the possible removal of the Elite-caste.”

He looked heavy again with despair. But Starscream regarded him almost gleefully. “ Well … it is up to you - as leader - to reconcile them, Onslaught!” he said. “Otherwise ….” His optics shifted again to the box ion the table.

“Believe me I working on it!” Onslaught kept his optics firmly away from the object. “I need to figure out a way to punish him myself which contradicts neither combiner software or the elite creed and satisfies the Combaticon Code. It’s just that I …”

“You haven’t been able to think of one, have you? “ said Starscream, smugly. “No – because whatever you were to do, it would be so hopelessly soft and your thugs so mindlessly outraged that you’d risk losing control of them altogether!”

Onslaught’s frame let off another shudder. “I don’t know what to do, Starscream!” he admitted. “This is doing my processor in.”

Now Starscream’s face was radiant. “Honesty at last!” he said. “By Primus, I have a Combaticon in my office being honest! Oh how I regret that Soundwave was not more reliable and was recording this discourse! Ha!”

The Combation wrestled with the shame in his circuits. What they would say if they just heard that! A sudden fear swept through him. Swindle was not the only one to whom the illogicalities of the ‘Code’ could be deployed. Even his ‘deposition’ was not so unwritten into the equation as to be impossible. And the worst of it was – Soundwave probably was recording.

But Starscream was smiling, almost kindly. “An irreconcilable dilemma!” he said. “And one which, I fear, could render the Combaticons – incapable of sensible operations. However, Let me suggest a solution, Onslaught!” he said. He tapped the box. “One other than – this!”


“You’re seriously bringing Swindle in here?” said Skywarp. His optics surveyed the Seeker’s quarters – far more opulent now than when they had the Pacific base. “I mean – it’s not that we don’t have the space. It’s just that – well – you know. Having him here. What if you and I wanna …”

“I’m sure that won’t be a problem!” Starscream said tartly. “Swindle is well used to being surrounded by activities far more extreme than what we get up to, believe me, Sywarp! But that is not the point. I do not intend for him to be here much. He will be out – sealing the deal which Megatron wished me to set up.”

Skywarp looked at him suspiciously, and Starscream reminded himself to be doubly careful that it did not become common knowledge that this was his scheme.”Whatya gonna do with the other ‘Bats?’ “ the other Seeker said.

“They will be out there training night and day. “ Starscream said. “I’m aware that Bruticus will either be hobbling or swiping with one arm, but it matters not – I intend to both exhaust them, and get them up to scratch. I have told them they need practice dealing with ‘untoward situations’ and that Swindle cannot be with them because he has ‘broken down’ at the prospect of his ‘punishment,’ which – believe me – came not too far from the truth.“

“When the deal is sealed and we are ready I will incorporate him back with the others,” he went on. “I will tell Vortex and Brawl that I have metered out punishment and their services are not required. They will defy me at their peril! But it should not be a problem. They will be on the brink of battle by then, and a far more focused unit!”

Skywarp shrugged. Somehow he doubted it would be as simple as that. But he didn’t care sufficiently to give it thought. Besides, Megatron would be back, ranting out entirely different ideas probably before the first training session was over. Still, he could not resist ribbing the Seeker.

“I reckon you got the hots for the yella fella!” he jibed. “I mean – makes sense, dunnit? Two scammers together. Haha! Wait till I tell TC! I reckon you two is quite well suited.”

“Enough!” roared Starscream. “This is an entirely strategic decision!”

But later, when Skywarp had departed, one of his cheeks glowing brightly from the crack delivered by Starscream's fist, the red and blue Seeker considered the words. He had, of course, no intention of Swindle ever returning to the Combaticons – but that was based, not on any ‘hots,’ but on the entirely logical factor that Swindle was much more valuable as a lone operator. The others could, he surmised, serve to win the new war, then be re-incarcerated when the Decepticons were back in control under his leadership.

And Swindle? He could go off with the Autobot, or whatever he wanted to do – so long as he stayed in Starscream’s employ.

Yet, there was smidgen of Starscream which could not but help but consider the pasting he was saving Swindle from in a less pragmatic way. He thought of the long eons with Megatron, the beatings, the castigations, the humiliation, the wretched hopelessness and frustrations which had nearly destroyed him. How he deserved better! How he was going to get ‘better.’ And oh how better it was going to be.

“Yes,” Starscream smiled to himself. “And perhaps Swindle deserves better too. Perhaps it’s not all cold strategy.


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September 2013

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