summary: a character finds reasons to look back to the begining

disclaimer: for the last time (until the next story anyway), i don't own any characters or situations from transformers. Neither do i own daniel jackson.

warnings: i don't think there's any. but just to be safe, i'll dump one last "cussing" warning here.

note: grr. i meant to have this up days ago, but a friend goaded me into adopting an art bunny which distracted me. blame him.

Replacement: Roads -- Epilogue

The sight of four meteors falling through the atmosphere in perfect formation was impressive.

Air Raid broke his high altitude patrol pattern to dart through the center of the flaming meteors. Two flinched, sending the entire formation spiraling mildly out of control, so instead of landing in formation, the resultant craters sprawled across the landscape. Chaos completed, Air Raid arced back into the patrol pattern opposite his brother, laughing at the admonitions from Fireflight. Then when the com channels lit up with the swearing, threats, questions and reprimands as soon as the static from entry had cleared out of the new 'bots' radios, he just laughed harder, rolling from the sheer joy of flying and causing a bit of harmless strife.

All four of the new mechs were Autobots, and soon they climbed out of their craters and faced Optimus Prime and the other Autobots fearlessly, optics flickering a bit as they discovered Earth's information network and what the Autobots maintained there. The silvery protoforms were hard for the humans present to tell apart, but Autobots weren't dependent on simple visual clues, exchanging information so that any present would be able to recognize them and know their names no matter their forms.

One, off to the side, stepped toward Prime, "I assume you wish us to choose designations in this language."

He spoke with a sort of vibrating tenor, and, to the surprise of those few humans present who had only ever interacted with an Autobot after he'd been on Earth for a few hours at least, in perfect and precise English.

"Please," was Prime's response.

A moment passed. Two of the mechs behind the one who had spoken, who had come out of their craters to stand next to each other, exchanged looks, and, from the buzz in everyone's com systems, a private conversation. The first ignored them, the fourth waiting patiently, as did the smaller blue and white mech who had come from the crowd of not newly arrived to stand behind his right shoulder.

"Prowl," he decided, then gestured to the smaller blue mech behind him, "You know my First Lieutenant..."

"Mirage," he finished with a small smile, more to his unit than to Prime's and happier than any of the Autobots on Earth had seen him since he'd reported to Prime's unit.

Prowl gestured, both visually and by transmitting a here-as-oposed-to-here coordinate, at the fourth protoform waiting patiently, "our unit's medic..."

"Perceptor," he said simply, shifting as though to move before thinking better of it and continuing to wait.

"Sideswipe," one of the two standing closer together didn't wait for Prowl's lead-in, not that he held any special position. He was just a fighter. His voice sounded more than a bit amused, both to humans and Autobots, and his eyes still flickered as he went through Earth's internet. Prowl gave him a flat, unamused warning look, but Sideswipe still looked far too amused and he didn't stop sifting information.

"Sunstreaker," was next, voiced in a low growl, that had humans shuffling further away from him.

"Welcome to Earth." Prime's words were echoed by most of the humans present, before he continued, "Now that the formalities are dealt with, I'd suggest finding local alternate forms."

He turned, and for the first time the four protoforms saw the small dark shape clamped to Prime's hip. All four tensed. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe produced weapons. Prowl looked like he'd been about to do the same, but had been stopped by Mirage. Perceptor was backing away, getting out of any possible line of fire and gaining the distance to use his light cannon on a target safely.

Sideswipe growled out, "What is that thing doing here?"

More clicks of weapons locking into place, and Prowl looked around to see that most of the the other Autobots had drawn weapons, but instead of aiming at the Decepticon creature drone attached to their leader, they were aimed at his squad -- mostly at Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. He even felt targeting locks from the two Autobot seekers brush over him. Even as his processors strained to figure out the situation, he found the processing power to be thankful to Mirage for stopping him from pulling weapons as well; if he had, the twins wouldn't be hesitating to shoot and that would very quickly get them all slagged.

To Prowl's mind, the most bizarre aspect had been Prime's reaction. The blue and red mech had stopped, and looked at Sideswipe, slightly startled and a bit confused, then at the drone, then he'd settled into a neutral combat stance with an air of resignation, no weapon but ready to move to defend, attack or dodge if the situation spiraled out of control, ready to protect the drone. From Autobots.

"Apologies to you four," he addressed them, "I should have remembered he was there and introduced him." One hand went his hip and obediently the drone switched perches. Prime held the creature up for them to see. Prowl brushed his sensors over it and felt shielding -- that was why he hadn't noticed it before against the backdrop of Prime's systems. "This is Scorponok. He defected not long after Megatron's defeat."

Sunstreaker started to growl out a protest, but Prowl both held out a hand and transmitted a 'stay' gesture to silence him, shaking off Mirage's hold as he did so. He addressing his leader in their native language, not sure if Prime would object to humans hearing this. "You of course know what binds drones (he used the word for sentient Decepticon drones) to their masters. Are you sure his defection is genuine?"

"Yes." Prime answered in English, a little sad, "I know... better than most what binds drones to their masters. So long as I live, Scorponok will never be a Decepticon. Should he outlive me, it will be his choice, again."

The drone, Scorponok, who had been just looking at the newcomers from his new vantage point, turned on Prime's palm and made a surprisingly gentle mechanical sound. Prime responded to it--him by lowering him back to his hip and then bizarrely running his fingers along the drone's armor.

Prime made his way out of the collection of Autobots, weapons still ready, but with Sideswipe and Sunstreaker gaping in shock, the situation was diffusing slowly. Or at least it was until a transmission sporting the signature tag of Autobot Ironhide crackled through their com units. "No attacking the bug. Most of us like the critter and those that don't will still respond like you'd attacked Prime himself. Understood."

Then all of Prime's soldiers put weapons away, as though on some cue Prowl couldn't see or sense transmitted, and the two seekers vectored away, targeting locks falling away like water off enameled armor. Sunstreaker started to say something again, snarling at the black Autobot IFF tagged as Ironhide, but his brother showed one of his rare moments of sense and smacked him before he could do so. Prowl growled his systems at the developing fight -- Perceptor or Prime's medic would be fixing damage on them before a single... day on this planet was over.

"Nice to see they haven't changed," Mirage fell in beside him as he went in the direction Prime had gone in, the others all starting to follow. A familiar, routine flick of his scanners showed Perceptor examining something distractedly, and Prowl sent a double tap over a com line to the scientist to remind him that now was not the time.

"I cannot vouch for when they were sparklings, Mirage, but they haven't changed since before we started looking for the Allspark. What makes you think they would have in the fifty-six orns you were separated from us?"

"Rhetorical, Prowl. Those two won't change until one or both are deactivated."

"Hey!" Sideswipe spared the attention from his fight with his brother to yell at Mirage, "I resent that. You make it sound like it's a bad thing," and got shoved nearly over by Sunstreaker for his trouble.

"Now," Prowl dimmed his optics as he focused on the blue and white spy, "you are going to tell me everything you know about the drone, and why this wasn't in any of your reports."

Mirage transmitted a signal of affirmation. "I don't know as much as I should. Prime's relationship with the drone is a taboo topic and no one will say how it started. Scorponok was already an established and trusted member of their unit when I landed, even if he wasn't universally liked..."


Both Perceptor and Prowl chose alt forms fairly easily, though Perceptor's had required some modifications to account for his light cannon. Prowl had even liked the symbolism of his chosen vehicle's paint scheme enough to copy it. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker on the other hand, had decided to be troublesome, as usual. They'd researched vehicles in the global information network until they found one they liked, and, upon finding out there was no way it would be available for transscanning, copied the outer form onto the blueprints of their original Cybertronian alt forms. Mimicking that outer form only -- inside they maintained Cybertonian circuitry. Prowl couldn't reprimand them for doing that -- there weren't any rules against it, and it wasn't the first time. But he did make modifications to his own alt form so that he would be able to chase down the two pains in the aft when they, inevitably, used the fact that Cybertronian racing vehicles outclassed Earthen ones in speed to make trouble.

After, Ratchet checked over Prowl and his team, and Mirage and Bumblebee updated them on the expectations when it came to interacting with humans. Things like which specific humans had been adopted by various Autobots, which humans were important government and/or military figures, social expectations, what areas they were free to be in their primary forms and where alt was required, local laws, etc.

Ratchet was willing to discuss Scorponok with Prowl over a private channel. The medic had been there when the drone had defected and filled him in on what had happened before Mirage had landed. To a point -- he was willing to reassure Prowl on the drone's intentions and actions even before Optimus had bonded to him, but there was something the medic flat out refused to acknowledge, saying it was irrelevant. Prowl didn't have enough information to press him on it.

Sideswipe had taken some minor damage during atmospheric entry (and from the fight with his twin), so while Ratchet and Perceptor fixed him, Prowl went looking for Prime.

At first he didn't know where to start his search -- where ever he was, he was outside Prowl's casual scanning range and putting more power than that into his scans had been considered rude in some areas of Cybertron before the war had managed to eradicate all differences that had once existed between cities; he'd never really interacted with Prime in a nominally peacetime situation so he wasn't sure what was appropriate -- so he asked Bumblebee. The yellow Autobot's eyes flickered a bit, and Prowl felt a buzz along his transmission receivers indicating the other was trying to contact someone, "Sir, he doesn't have a privacy block on transmissions, but he's not answering. Try asking the soldiers. Or Daniel."

That was possibly worrying. Prime should answer inquiry transmissions, or indicate that privacy was desired. But earlier Prime had indicated an intention to stay near the base for now -- any Decepticons coming close enough to be a problem should be detected by either the Autobots or the humans and an alarm sounded. As Bumblebee didn't seem particularly concerned, Prowl had to conclude that there was probably nothing wrong and this was normal for Prime since coming here.

Prowl only nodded in response. Bumblebee twitched his doors uncomfortably as Prowl left and he deduced that a vocal response had been expected, but he didn't know what would have been appropriate, either for this newly adopted language or for this new mostly peaceable situation.

The human Doctor Daniel Jackson was inside a building, so Prowl started asking human soldiers as he'd been told to.

He was fairly quickly directed to a specific sentry post on the outer fences of the base.

Prime was there, with Scorponok. They were engaged in an activity that quite nearly sent him into processor lock as he automatically tried to figure out the purpose -- Prime and the drone both had hold of on end of a thick cord and were pulling on it in opposite directions. Prime only needed to hold the cord firmly to keep it from being taken from him, while the scorpion energetically pulled, swerved, scratched at the ground, rolled and yanked.

Shutting off his optics, Prowl firmly deleted his battle systems' attempt at analyzing the activity and transmitted a com code that translated roughly as "I apologize for interrupting".

"No interruption, Prowl," was Prime's vocal response. He onlined his optics to see they has stopped their mock battle over the cord readily enough. "Come and sit." Prowl nodded and went to Prime. Scorponok squeaked and sent a plume of dust up with his tail, and Prime amended the command, "if you desire, Prowl. It wasn't a command."

After a moment of considering the dirt, dust and intermittent plant life, Prowl chose to stand.

Scorponok chittered at Prime, chirped at Prowl, then burrowed. Automatically Prowl dialed up his sensors to keep track of him as he circled back toward the center of the base. "Where...?"

"To find Air Raid -- beyond that I didn't ask. I suspect they'll have something planned for Sideswipe, and maybe Sunstreaker too, before too long."

A prank then. "You didn't ask, Sir?"

Prime looked very sad while he answered, coiling the cord and coming to his feet to match Prowl, "If I ask, he's forced to answer, and I'd rather not do that."

Prowl accepted that. It was bizarre, by his standards, but occasionally he'd had to accept that Prime had bizarre reasons for the things he did, or didn't, do. He did a quick review of everything he knew about Decepticon drones, then a quicker update -- he knew more than most, but not as much as Prime would, due to his connection to Scorponok. Most of the times he managed to accept their leader's bizarre decisions, but sometimes a bizarre decision had to be questioned. Even after the fact. "With all due respect, Sir, why did you even accept his defection in the first place?"

"We've accepted Decepticon defectors before. One's programming and birth faction does not determine one's spark choices." He led the way toward a... hole in the ground?... some distance away.

Prowl politely agreed with that, then continued with, "but in all other cases, the mech in question was able to state his reasons clearly, gave us information in exchange for the initial asylum, then went through a probationary period during which his weapons were deactivated and a tracker was installed on his person while he was slowly integrated into our faction. They were trusted only after vorns. Most only ever served in battle positions during emergencies." And never were they let near any of Autobot high command, much less Prime, without guards, he didn't say.

"None of that was an option." Prime's voice was sharp, but his movements were calm and fluid as ever as he placed the coiled cord just in the entrance of the burrow in the ground. "There's no precedence for our situation, and no regulations that cover it." Despite the tone and words, there was nothing that really indicated he shouldn't continue.

So he did. "Ratchet said you had him reactivate Scorponok's weapons less than seven local days after you accepted his defection. In that at least you could have been more cautious, Prime."

"Barricade was still here -- a possible danger and with so few of us here, I wasn't going to leave Scorponok unable to shoot back if we got attacked. Besides, his primary physical weapon can't be disabled short of removing a limb -- and I wouldn't have ever allowed that."

The black and white accepted that as mostly true as he followed Prime. His cannons are redundant, had been the silent implication. Not quite true, but not worth arguing with. He had no idea where they were going now, if they were even going anywhere, but that wasn't as important as the conversation. As reassuring himself. "Sir, he could have killed you."

"He didn't." Prime used the exact same tone Prowl had to answer. Still the cue to cease that Prowl kept expecting didn't come.

"You were at risk. He should still be on probation. And," here Prowl hesitated a bit -- what he wanted to ask probably shouldn't be asked of his superior in as direct a manner as he usually used with his subordinates. Once he wouldn't have thought so, not with Optimus Prime, but after so much time commanding different teams with no contact with each other, it would be presumptuous to assume the same amount of familiarity, "and, Sir, I would like to know why you felt the need to escort him around personally rather than assigning Ironhide or Bumblebee to him."

Of all the things about this, that had been the most dangerous. Up until the moment he was bound to an Autobot master, there was no assurance that the drone had not been working on some Decepticon plot. True, the chances of that plot including assassination dwindled the more time and opportunities past, but there was always the possibility of spying. Prowl could think of no better position for a spy to be in than next to Prime, and the best double agents never gave themselves away.

Prime stopped, turned, gazed at the black and white. If Prowl were more given to flights of fancy than he was, he might have imagined that he could literally see the Autobot commander sort through his reasons, searching for the one at the root of all the others. Searching for the one Prowl would accept.

Finally, "Because he didn't come to the Autobots. He came to me. At the time, I didn't know exactly how much a risk that was for him, but he offered to serve me and no other. It was my decision to leave him both free and vulnerable, so the least I could do was see to his protection and comfort personally."

That wasn't logical. Not by Prowl's standards, anyway. But, and this was the reason Prowl knew he himself could never make decisions for the future of their race, his standards of logic didn't always take morality into account. In Prime's place, he would have insisted on following protocol as closely as possible, then... if he understood the timing of things correctly, Starscream had returned and begun his skirmishing well within the time period he would have insisted Scorponok's weapons remain disabled. Would any of those skirmishes have turned out as well as they did without the extra fighter? Especially that first one?


When the shove came, would Prowl have been able to compromise what morality he had and accept the the command link? To make the less selfish choice?

Most likely not. He would have written the drone off as lost. Perhaps he would have concentrated on disposing of the Decepticon who had forced the link, and brought Scorponok back, if... there were many things to consider about that theoretical situation, but at the root of it, he would have failed to protect someone relying on him.

"Accepted." Considering that Prime had been right, it was enough to know that he had had a reason and that he'd thought about it at the time.

Prime started, optics dimming almost completely before brightening again. "What?"

A touch of humor flickered through Prowl's processor. Obviously Prime had expected to have to argue his point quite a bit more. Things had definitely changed since they'd seen each other last. "Your reason is accepted, Prime."

"Optimus." Prowl flicked his door panels in a specific questioning pattern, which made the small smile that had formed on Prime's faceplates at Prowl's answer turn slightly ironic. Still he answered. "You still have my permission to call me Optimus, my friend."

Quietly pleased, Prowl couldn't help but flick his door panels several times, almost a flutter. "Optimus, then." It was good to know that, though time and distance had changed them both, they could regain the friendship (though never a brotherhood, the war had never allowed that between them -- they'd always had to be willing to leave the other behind, either for Prowl to go on extended stays at a different base, or Prime to leave his second to command while he dealt with politics for vorns) they'd once had.

A friendship that, that along with rank, came with certain privileges. After a quiet moment of just getting used to each others' presence again, Prowl asked, "And just how did Scorponok manage to climb into your cab in the first place?"

Optimus had a look like -- hopefully he had the correct human analogy -- a deer in a spotlight on his faceplates. Prowl could figure out why -- in the approximately three local years since the event, he'd never admitted to anyone how that feat had been accomplished. "Ah...Well, that's a rather boring story and I don't think we have time for it now, so why don't --"

"You are stalling."

The Autobot's leader, Prime, Bearer of the Matrix, averted his optics and hissed out something in Cybertonian that was far to fast and run together to be understood. Then his optics flickered hopefully in Prowl's direction, as if asking if that was good enough. Prowl just flicked out a sort of playfully impatient pattern with his door panels. Optimus made a sound with his air circulation system Prowl had never heard a transformer make intending any meaning, though several humans had made a similar sound, so he deduced the sound had been adopted from the native race of this planet. From the context and the accompanying slight slump of Optimus's shoulders, it was meant as resigned gesture.

That conclusion was reenforced when he explained, clearly and more than a bit embarrassed, "I was recharging in the desert. I don't know why I didn't wake up when he opened my door -- the first thing I noticed was when he poked my dashboard climbing in."

After a moment of contemplation, and for the second time that day deleting a futile attempt to analyze something from his battle systems, Prowl snickered. Prime tried to look angry for a moment then made the same noise with his air circulation system and snickered back. "You think that's funny, do you Prowl?"

"Yes, Sir." He didn't bother trying to look repentant.

Prime suddenly looked devious, reminding Prowl quite worryingly of Sideswipe. "It was even funnier when he accidently turned on my radio. Can you believe a Decepticon liking a genre of music that contains nothing but themes of peace, love and goodwill towards all?"

This time Prowl didn't manage to delete the offending data before his systems locked up.


complete, finished, ended, concluded, done, wrapped up, finite, i have nothing else to say about the irrationally cute version of scorponok, who, despite my wandering off topic several times, is the center of the story.

56 orns about two years. that's two years since mirage left his team to follow soundwave, not two years since he landed on earth.

it occurs to me that one of the more inane bits of humor throughout -- Scorponok liking christmas music -- was also one of the more ironic bits of foreshadowing. i figured prowl would appreciate it the most. or not.

i try not to beg reviews -- but this being the last chapter, and being so close, i would be thrilled to end the story with three hundred reviews. so please everyone review.

it's been fun. i hope to see you again with a different story.

-- Dragon of Dispair

new alt forms:

Prowl: modified 2008 Dodge Magnum with police markings

Sideswipe and Sunstreaker: pseudo (if you open their hoods, there's nothing human looking in there) 2011 Lamborghini Gallardos, in metallic red and yellow respectively. yes i'm aware that that year probably doesn't exist yet, but since they land in december of 2010 i didn't think those two would settle for anything but the newest look

Perceptor: brick red, 2008 Saturn VUE Green Line Hybrid (a hybrid SUV), with his microscope/telescope/light cannon mounted on top. weird note on perceptor and transformer culture -- the distinction between a "car" and a "tank" to transformers is wether one has weapons in alt form, and since perceptor does, he considers himself a tank, despite being otherwise a car.