The librarian remains quiet as he takes the organic foliage into his servos, his mood contemplative and somber. One servo moves to brush over the bouquet’s soft petals, the other moves to place them in a vase bathed in the light of the Star. Beautiful.
Yet he furrows his brows, and plucks one, an amaranth, with a kind of controlled viciousness that nearly snaps the flora’s delicate stem in two, and forces it back into the warlord’s hand.
He stands then and observes in silence, watching as several petals fall to the floor over their pedes, marking the cold ground with colour. His optics glow with defiance, with sorrow, with hurt. You think you are the only one, Megatron, who has felt this loss?
He was still again.
Then, before the lord could turn and leave and take the beaten flower with him, Orion gives one of his own. Taking Megatron’s empty palm into his own, he draws, with a single fingertip upon scarred, eroded metal, a tulip…over and over and over again until his knees grow weak and he kneels upon the petal littered floor.
One look at the hurt in Orion’s optics and Megatron knows he’s done it. This is it, the final straw at last. It was bound to happen sooner or later. The naive data clerk would come to hate him in any cruel reality…
As he’s about to leave the future-Optimus to the past, his servo finds itself caught. He watches the digit trace its symbol, not understanding the message right away. Once a visible mark has made clear the tulip in his palm, Megatron shakes his helm, stilling Orion’s servo between his own. Anything but that. His optic ridges draw together.
Megatron would join him on the floor, unable or unwilling to surrender Orion’s arm just yet.
Within the witch’s barrier was a nightmare version of Vos. Tall buildings stood in twisted, unnatural angles. Some stood together in clusters to resemble the fearsome talons of a servo reaching for the star-filled sky above. The stars provided the main source of light in the entire labyrinth, and they were constantly being sucked into the black hole hanging above the tallest spiraling structure in the whole city before they were immediately replaced. From the ground, one could hardly see any sign of the witch aside from the seemingly endless length of its many arms stretching across the sky. Atop the more distance buildings, one could possibly spot the silhouettes of Seekers diving off the ledges.
All of the taller buildings had giant video screens hanging from them that were currently dark, but one contained a large window. The only thing that could be seen through it was a light that was always changing colors and the shape of another Seeker performing an alluring dance. The only thing piercing through the silence was the distant sound of the witch’s calling. All of its arms continued stretching farther and farther out, searching for anyone it could pull in and use to grow stronger.
Steve gasps as he steps through the barrier and enters the witch’s domain. Cold hits him in the chassis like a wall, along with inexplicable nausea. The vehicon’s intake clenches and he bends forward, gagging as his leader files in beside him. Swaying, dizzy, the soldier straightens himself up after several nanos. When the lights swimming in front of his optics start to clear away he sees Vos. But not the same Vos. An eerie miasma of darkness plagues the city. Steve feels as though he’s stepped inside of a nightmare. Enormous, crooked arms severed from their frames float through the sky above like grotesque clouds. The stars shift above, being dragged across the sky by an unseen force. Steve follows their progress to the source. Obscured somewhere beyond the buildings he makes out the outline of it—the giant cage. The one he saw before…
Has it gotten larger?
It’s too dark to really make out, but Steve lets himself imagine he can see the shape moving within… and then it’s gone—cut off from his vision by another enormous arm. The vehicon’s chassis rattles.
"…M’lord… W-we’re here… what should I…?"
The atmosperic change is expected. Megatron is not as affected by the chilling fear meant to infect visitors in the witch’s lair, either because Kuketsu offers him resistance, or past experience has taught him how to ignore it and soldier on.
Steve is, however, visibly affected. This would be far more perilous for the vehicon, but without him the warlord would be facing the full brunt of Starscream’s new power alone. The blade in his arm glows with a reassuring light as he steps past Steve, turning to face him. The air is stirring as the former seeker becomes aware of their presence.
"Remain close to the perimeter. He should be drawn to anything inside. I will circle around and fly up to the center. Keep him distracted, but if he is too much for you, drive away. We do not need any more casualties."
Steve gulps, but pulls himself to his peds. He’s thankful for the order. Though he’s been wanting to help in some way the shock of the situation left his processor paralyzed. The familiarity of a command from his Lord pulls him from the trance. It doesn’t stop his frame from shaking though.
"My… M’lord whatever we need to do to save him I’ll do it." The vehicon stares out at the ominous globe, swirling with a strange and menacing chaos. Sometimes the pattern of the blackness look like a contorted face screaming in agony. He grits his denta.
"That black stuff grew out from where he… fell. I… managed to get away before I was trapped in it… Are we going to… go back in?"
He doesn’t miss the strange gleam of his leader’s frame or the weapon attached to his arm—the star saber. Or rather… it’s darker counterpart. He looks fit for battle. Invincible. That too worries the drone.
"…You’re… you’re going to help him… right?"
Fear grips Steve’s spark as he considers the alternative. Surely not… the commander had done worse than this and their leader had kept him by his side. He wouldn’t let him go now… would he?
Megatron stands, holding Steve’s concerned gaze. His plan with Soundwave had barely worked and the same would likely not apply with Starscream, especially with how the pair had fought beforehand. The warlord tries his best to sound reassuring.
"Unless we can get to the core, this will only continue to worsen. We must rescue Commander Starscream from this monster that has consumed him. Both of us are significant to him, and are equally likely to hold his attention. Distract him on the perimeter so that I can get closer to the center." Sword drawn, he turns to glare at the swirling dome of chaos.
"Retreating is no longer an option."
//Starscream was powerful even when he was contained.//
"Why is it that you only seem to tell me things that I already know?" If swords could squint, Kuketsu would.
//Because you need to be reminded of so much. Your memory can be selective if the past hurts.//
"Do not lecture me. Starscream must be stopped and without your compliance it may not be possible. You may speak to my selective memory once we have destroyed him."
//Fair enough.// Megatron waited until he was through the ground bridge to allow the magical weapon to alter his frame, shards piecing his armor and giving it an iridescent sheen. The dome containing Starscream was much larger than Soundwave’s had been, covering all of Vos with his despair. Megatron paid the scale little mind, his battles throughout the war having jaded him to size.
Steve was easy to spot, rocking on the ground, transfixed by what was once his commander. It was a pitiable sight, but there was no time to be delicate. Even with time, delicacy was simply not Megatron’s way. The warlord approached him and knelt before the soldier, blocking his view.
"Do not act as if there is nothing more to be done. Starscream has become something that will destroy us all if left untended. I need your help to get to his core so that I can fix this. Get up. Now."