Last and Alone – Secret
Title: Part 14
Rating: T
Characters: Perceptor, Ratchet, Red Alert, Optimus Prime
Warnings: Mech x Mech hinted at/mentioned occasionally

Universe: G1-ish/Last and Alone/Monolith
Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form, own the Transformers© franchise or the characters it contains. They belong to Has/Tak, No infringement intended. Any OC's to my knowledge are solely mine.
Summary: Perceptor was once part of a gestalt, but the others were destroyed. Since he should never have survived the deaths of his teammates, it's a secret he has kept for thousands of vorns. Now Jazz is tracking it down.

Okay boys and girls. Loads of ground to cover. Strap in (because some of its bumpy), and hopefully you enjoy the ride.


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Perceptor on lined his optics not to the light grey ceiling of the Seekers small medical room but to an even smaller room with an orange ceiling. A slight turn of his head proved that the walls were also orange. He could not recall a CCC ship of this color. He puzzled thru his memory until the correct identifying information surfaced and he recognized his surroundings as one of the private rooms off of the Arks Med Bay proper. He worked to call up why he would be in the med bay aboard the Ark and finally got what seemed like the correct information. That's right he had allowed Jazz to interface with his systems. And then it had all gone to the Pit in a hand basket. He grumbled to himself in his processor. His chronometer indicated he'd been offline for more than six days. That ought to have Tonic in a snit. He called up his diagnostics which reported he'd been sedated for the majority of that time. Still was in fact. He could feel the sedatives in his system keeping him relaxed. That offered a puzzle. Why would Tonic want him sedated for so long?

As he ran diagnostics and interpreted the reports he noted one that should have had him panicking. Each and every one of his seven system facades was missing. Not just off line, but removed. That he was not instantly panicking or stressing was proof and testament of the strength of the sedative he was on. Still even relaxed he knew that without the facades he and his team were at risk. Perceptor initiated a long unused program, its purpose to override and redirect his internal repair systems to the single task of consuming various drugs used for interrogations quickly and far ahead of whatever schedule his captors expected. It just happened that it was also handy against Tonic's sedatives

Perceptor mentally shook himself. No! He recognized misplaced and overlapping memory. He wasn't captured. These were his teammates. No! These were not his teammates. Could not be his teammates. Where were his teammates? He spent nearly two minutes very long minutes puzzling over the confusion of his teammates. Suddenly, the consumption programs progress clearing his system allowed his processor to organize the final memory files that were out of place and he recognized the uneasy feeling that had been in the background, permeating his entire being for what it was. He was hit suddenly with understanding and the massive pain, despair and constant aching hole of his loss; which up until then had been kept at bay by the very sedatives he had wanted out of his system. Nineteen minutes later his clearing program pinged complete and he sat up as a shiver ran thru his systems, weary from the struggle to erect blocks against his loss so he could function. The blocks were shaky at best and a far cry from what he had had before, but would do for a short time until he could work some more on them. Then he shifted sideways swinging his legs over the side of the berth just in time for Ratchet to walk in.

Surprise crossed Ratchets features, before being masked by his professional expression as he approached the berth. "You're up quicker than I expected."

"I would think that off line for six days would be plenty of time. I didn't hurt anyone did I?" Perceptor asked as he began to search for the truth of what and how much was now revealed and who knew. If the facades were removed, it stood to reason that Ratchet knew. And if he really didn't know, then he had to at the very least suspect. There was no way his spark would scan as whole without at least one of those facades in place. And if Ratchet knew, then Wheeljack knew as well. And considering what had put him in Medical, he really couldn't see First Aid not having learned, which of course meant the entire Defensor team knew. We're they all under patient confidentiality oaths? Had Ratchet known that the entire team needed to swear the oath because of everything they would learn thru their brother? Perceptor didn't know as it had never been of immediate concern for him. Then of course Jazz knew which meant Prowl knew. Jazz and Prowl were Primes Third and Second, so it stood to reason that Prime now knew. Excluding himself, that only left two Senior Officers. And Red Alert probably knew. That was just a given. And Red Alert knowing was sure to cause Perceptor annoyance. And that was putting it mildly. Of course that was assuming he kept his rank and didn't find himself a permanent resident of the brig.

"What do you mean?" asked Ratchet as he began to unhook Perceptor from the status machine.

"My diagnostics are reporting that my Survival Reboot program activated. Did I hurt anyone?"

Ratchet stiffened slightly and to most bots it would have been unnoticeable. But noticing everything was what, at his very core Perceptor specialized in. "No, no one was hurt." Ratchet offered slowly. Then with frustration in his voice and a sharp whack to Perceptor's helm. "And it sure would have been slagging nice if I had known in advance that there was even a chance you carried such programming. Just what the frag were you thinking by not revealing that? You know the dangers those programs pose in a medical bay!"

With his helm and audios ringing Perceptor avoided Ratchets gaze as he offered his carefully modulated to the point of bored, monotone defense. "Civilian Scientists and Medics do not bear such encoding. It's strictly martial. Had I revealed it, I would have had to elucidate why I had it. I believed failing to mention the information was preferable over lying about why I would have it."

"Hmpf, there's a lot of information you failed to elucidate my friend. And I'm not going to lie. It hurts that after serving together for so long you are not comfortable enough to trust Jack and me."

"I understand Ratchet. But hiding the truth of what I am is practically coded into my spark itself. Back in my time, my team and I did not hide the reality of what we were just for the security and advantage of the CCC, though that was a huge part of the reason. We also did it for our own survival"

"What do you mean?" Ratchet asked, curious.

"What has Jazz told you? How much of my story do you know?"

"Jazz stood for Inquiry three days ago. The Command Staff, except for Ironhide since he's still out on that Patrol, know everything."

Perceptor cycled the air in his system in a sigh. "Five pieces of my spark were surgically removed and five pieces from five individuals were then surgically added to mine while each of those individuals received a part of mine. This wasn't just bonding with another mech who's spark resonated with your own nor was this the miracle and curse of a naturally split spark. In my time, this would have been…was considered….unnatural. Sparks to animate a chassis, the very sparks that become Cybertronians were, are a gift granted from Vector Sigma. You accepted whatever form they took, so the split spark of a set of twins was fine. Should you be lucky enough to find a spark in our entire population that resonated with your own, then bonding was the excepted and expected outcome. After all, it is near impossible to deny that connection. Surgically altering a spark or sparks showed at the very least, disrespect for the gift…the miracle, given by Vector Sigma." Perceptor paused before continuing in a somewhat bitter manner. "In my time, the wonderful golden age of Cybertron, even with all the good my team did over the course of our life, we would have been considered a blasphemous abomination by much of the general civilian and even most of the military populace had the full truth about us been known. No matter how great the potential for military use, you would not have been able to change the beliefs of an entire civilization regarding sparks. Particularly one who had enough members still alive even after the first two wars who could remember the horrors of Quintesson rule. Even amongst many of the colonies who were known for their radical ideas we would not likely have found a safe harbor."

Perceptor cycled air through his cooling vents before continuing once again in a more normal tone. "The truth my entire team would have thought that way until it all happened to us." And his tone took on a dreamy quality as he gazed through Ratchet, seeing and remembering something so extreme Ratchet could at best only have a miniscule taste of it thru his own bond. "The gestalt bond is so powerful Ratchet, so amazing, so… it was impossible to view it as wrong if you were a part of it." Another cycling of vents as Perceptor returned from where ever he had briefly been.

Ratchet looked at his friend. How could Perceptor not have found one bot he felt safe trusting in the entire crew? Even Red Alert had found one bot he trusted "You've been with us what, thirty thousand vorns? I would have believed that in that time, myself and Jack would have proven ourselves to you time and time again. But if not Jack and me, how can you say Prime hasn't earned your trust?"

With a smirk and a huff Perceptor answered. "This unit may be like family now but ultimately it is a militant group; and I still have no reason to trust any militant organization. They always turn on you in the end no matter how faithful you are. And I don't think I count as faithful and loyal. I honestly don't know what Prime can do to ever fully earn my trust. Cavalier learned the lesson the hard way. And when he learned it, we all learned it. His guilt and grief was… extensive. I have to admit I keep waiting for the day Prime turns on me. And if not me, then someone else I'm close to. Had it been the Con's who found and woke me, I can't say if I would have stayed with them or not. Yet I am well aware that their ideals and methods are not what my team gave their lives to protect. Still I'm in this war because I didn't have a choice." Perceptor tossed up a hand. "And before you argue that point, I am well aware most Autobots would say the same about themselves, but I literally woke up in it. I off-lined in one Cybertron and on-lined in a completely and distinctly different one. I wasn't witness to the slow drawn out agony. I didn't see it all fall apart around me and I didn't see Optimus Prime rise from the ashes and bring a rag tag bunch of haphazardly scattered fighters together in a cohesive resistance and then an army. But all that aside I have aided the Autobots to the best of my ability."

"To the best of your ability?" And Ratchet's tone and posture indicated disbelief. "Even after the Constructicons and Devastator appeared you didn't mention having the knowledge of gestalts. Devastator was a huge complication whenever he appeared. Not till we got Superion did you really produce information on gestalts. We might have made gestalts a useless exercise if you had offered your knowledge earlier. For surely, having been one for as long as you were you have some ideas regarding potential weaknesses?"

Perceptor responded to Ratchet's tone with a harsh and defensive one of his own. "There is no way I was going to give you Gestalt Tech. I knew what happens when gestalts fight. One gestalt against a non gestalt force is dreadful enough. I have firsthand experience from both sides of the fence on this one. And trust me; I've spent many hours wrestling with my decision to keep quite." Perceptor paused, there was no way he could explain at this time that he'd initially concluded he could not and would not be responsible for the death of another gestalt team. Or he had been reconsidering that very decision and taking steps to possibly reverse it. Then leaving those thoughts he shook his head slowly and continued softly. "You yourself have now had plenty of opportunity to see what happens when gestalts fight. It tends to be pit slagging horrific on anything or anyone in the vicinity. Why would I have wanted to release that horror on this fragile planet? Or any planet for that matter?"

Then before Ratchet could continue the topic Perceptor switched it. Continuing in a neutral tone. "I have detected that new programming has been loaded. Would you be willing to tell me about it before I have to face Prime and the Officers Council that I am sure I have coming?"

Ratchet accepted the topic switch. It wasn't like the answers were going to get any easier for Perceptor with the council. "What do you know about the program in your systems called Reckoning?"

Perceptor couldn't help it. He startled before offering a blunt, dry, "Quite a bit actually."

"Hmm."

When Ratchet did not continue, Perceptor did. "It was written by my gestalt mate Slider and only recently uploaded before the end. Each and every one of my team carried it. I was only the first choice to fulfill the programming dictate if needed. Had I been the team member that got killed, thus activating Reckoning in the others, then someone else, whomever Slider had designated as second in the order would have been made to survive when the rest of us died and gone on to complete the task assigned. At its most basic, the program was designed as a final weapon should Monolith be destroyed with a task left unfinished. A task that the entire team at our very cores felt could not be left unresolved, then the program would activate from its monitoring state and hold the selected team member together for however long it took to complete the task or until they were off lined by adversary and or circumstances. Holding the team member together by creating massive amounts of blocks to keep us in a semi functioning state. It did not impair access to any piece of information needed to carry out the mission but it was a processor numbed state, certainly not a fully cognitive state. It really couldn't be a cognitive state. Our systems, our spark would have just suffered thru what should have been the off lining trauma of being ripped apart and shattered. After the initial moments of rebuilding, the survivor would be more like a drone with only one order. Like being a puppet to the program. As it was, Slider died first so I as the first choice was available for the final task."

"What was your final task?" Ratchet asked carefully, curiously.

"No." Perceptor said firmly shaking his head. "That's my burden and mine alone." A pause and another shake of the head. "No you don't need that information." And Perceptor wondered if Jazz had gotten that information and had just chosen to keep it to himself.

"It will come up in the inquiry."

"I'll face that when it happens. Now please what's the new programming? It does not have your signature and it carries the flavor of a slicer to it."

"Funny you should say that, because it was written by Sideswipe. "Hmpf" and Ratchet smirked, "before all this I would have said it interesting that you would know that it 'felt' like a slicers writing. Now though, I even have an understanding of how you could set up my files so I would always know when Jazz had been snooping, or attempting to snoop."

But Perceptor hadn't heard anything beyond the bit about Sideswipe. Startled again, Perceptor couldn't keep the surprise off his face. "Sideswipe?" The frontline warrior twins were a factor he had not anticipated in the equation of who knew his secret.

Ratchet, unaware of Perceptor's thoughts nodded his head and answered the one name question. "Red Alert helped him, but it was essentially Sideswipe." Then Ratchet, sensing that maybe that was not Perceptor's reason for surprise added. "And despite all the trouble the hellion causes, he and his twin know when to keep their vocalizers silent. Now, did you know that that lovely piece of programming is what is preventing you from joining your teammates in the matrix?"

Perceptor looked thru Ratchet in an absent minded way as he answered. "I have suspected it to be an element of the raison d'être, for a protracted per…"

"Don't start that with me." Ratchet interrupted as he raised a hand and cuffed Perceptor on the shoulder as the accompaniment to a warning glare.

Perceptor startled to himself, focused, nodded and continued. "I would certainly be a fool and a discredit to my gestalt mate's knowledge not to have looked to it as part of the cause."

"So you suspect it only as part of your reason for survival? How long exactly have you suspected?"

"I've had many many vorns to puzzle on it."

"Hmm. So… do you really know or only suspect there's more to it?"

Perceptor watched Ratchet as he thought about what to reveal. "I have no firm confirmation, but if I am correct? I am the only one of my teammates who this outcome would have been possible in."

"Care to elaborate on that?"

"No."

Frustration flashed across Ratchet's face before quickly vanishing. "Fine. The program appears to be integrated into your systems to the point that it is a part of you. Not just an auxiliary program, but literally a part of you."

"Yes it was supposed to function that way. It was meant to be completely undetectable by anything but our own personal diagnostics." Perceptor interrupted.

"Fine. Do you mind?"

"Sorry."

"Okay. So for all these years it's been functioning in what would best be described as a passive role."

"Yes I already know that."

Ratchet gave Perceptor a pointed look.

"Sorry." Perceptor offered again.

Ratchet continued. "From what we can tell, and actually this is only speculation on Jazz's part based on what he experienced with you and the gestalt bond during the uplink. After you completed your mysterious final task, your system was in tremendous shock and under extreme stress from the trauma of losing of your team and from the program itself. You went into emergency stasis lock before the program released you to join the matrix. When you went into stasis the program went into stasis as well. Now emergency stasis and long term dormant stasis as we all were in for four million years is different from the original supportive stasis you were in, which for lack of a better description we've termed life supportive stasis. Now, in either of the first two unsupported forms, programs would not be able to draw enough energy to alter themselves. We don't know enough about the machine you were hooked up to, but you were in this in between state, with power support, limited though it may have been, for so long that the program, unable to find enough power to follow its programming to the end, altered itself so as to survive until such a time as it could complete itself. So it's been a ticking time bomb so to speak, just waiting for the timer to go and wake it up. Following this?" And Ratchet arched an optic ridge.

"I was unaware of the programs time bomb status, but the rest is all stuff I have suspected."

"Wonderful." Ratchet replied sarcastically before continuing. "Well when Jazz unlocked your final memories as a gestalt and you relived the death of your teammates and your mysterious task, you were so far from reality within the memory, that your systems actually reacted to your situation within the memory and the program attempted to begin where it had left off. Then you went into stasis lock; dragging Jazz and Prowl with you by the way and again the stasis denied the program, but you on lined with the warrior's survival reboot. This allowed once again allowed the program the chance to attempt the completion its job which was to release all your pieces and send you to the matrix. Thankfully Jazz was online for all this, because he gave us a very quick abbreviated confession and was able to tell us what to look for. That little program of yours was eating everything myself and Wheeljack could toss at it. Red Alert and Prowl and Blaster gave it a try as our best programmers in base with no luck either. Mirage, before you ask was out in the field at the time. It was Prowl who summoned Sideswipe. A last ditch idea. And apparently the red hellion is a good enough bad boy. Essentially he convinced your program that he was the creator and adding to it. Essentially his program is telling your program that the new order of business is to maintain at the same level it has for the last nine million years."

Perceptor's gaze dimmed as Ratchet watched and he knew Perceptor was giving the new program another look. When he looked back to Ratchet he spoke. "Sideswipe's style is quite similar to Slider's, though not as elegant. It does however appear to be working. I suspect in another twenty four hours Reckoning will once again be undetectable to any scans or diagnostics but my own personal ones. And it is absorbing Sideswipes with it."

"Hmm. Well I suppose I should say that is good news. Now you may come on out to the main bay, but I'm keeping you here for another twenty four hours. If everything is still looking good at that time I'll release you, but no work. In fact you are off duty, no work, pending inquiry."

"When is that scheduled?"

"Ironhide is due back two days from now, so assuming Prime allows him the usual minimum of a shift to catch up on everything and recharge? Three mornings from now would be the soonest." And with that Ratchet turned to head out leaving Perceptor to follow.

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Surprisingly, at least to himself, Perceptor found himself upon his release from Medical, not a guest of the Ark's brig as he had expected, but a free bot on complete work restriction. Not that he could have worked anyway. There was far too much "noise" in his spark, processor and systems for him to think on work. The last twenty four hours in the med bay had ended at 1300 earth hours and Perceptor had spent the afternoon and early evening in the rec room being greeted and checked up on by nearly the entire unit, including the Dinobots, as they came and went from duty shifts and personal time. The exception being only those bots on away missions, the Security Director and Prime himself.

Rarely, since joining the Autobots had Perceptor been seriously injured in a manner that confined him to Medical for such and extended period. And up until this incident he could not recall it having ever happened since joining Prime's Elite and more immediately since his being brought on line on Earth. He knew he tended to keep to himself and his few cautiously chosen friends when it came to his personal time; and as strictly to himself when on duty as was possible. And for a Senior Officer, even one who was eighth in line for command, unless attending a meeting or mission briefing of some sort he had a pretty good absence rate. So it was again to his surprise that so many bots he rarely interacted with would have noticed his absence and cared enough to inquire about his condition upon his reemergence to the world. Or it might have been the result of Sideswipe. Either way it was something to think on.

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Though he wasn't allowed to work, he was not being denied access to his lab and by relation his office. It was just after 20:00 hours and the beginning of the full night shift when he had retreated to his office. He was looking over the pictures on his wall when the note he had scribbled and stuck above Sunstreaker's paintings caught his attention. He didn't remember at the moment what he had been thinking when he had written the note, but it called out to him this night. Shifting his gaze he reached out and ran a finger along the side of the picture still showing his teammates. He had never switched it back from when he had revealed it for Jazz days ago. He lifted it off the wall and had begun to lose himself in memories when he heard the knock at the door startling him back to reality. The door wasn't closed so when he turned he found himself looking at a cautious Red Alert.

"Red Alert. What can I do for you?"

"May I come in?"

"What? Oh yes of course." And Perceptor waved vaguely to the room.

"I was wondering if you would be interested in talking?" Red Alert asked mildly and held up what was obviously an audio recording device. "I thought it might be easier for you to talk with a… friend? Perhaps? About everything. Rather than being forced when you stand before inquiry. I know I'm not as close as Ratchet and Wheeljack, but sometimes that's the type of friend you need to talk with. Plus with me you gain the additional bonus that coming from me the recording will be admissible as a replacement to live testimony."

Perceptor had gone on alert as soon as the Security Director had finished the first sentence of his request, suggestion, offer. Now though, he took in the calm tone and slow motions Red had been using since Perceptor had noticed him. Everything pointed to someone who knew he was spooky, and was offering every reason not to be. In a way, for a moment, it made Perceptor even more wary.

Red Alert just watched as Perceptor thought on his offer.

Thoughts flew Perceptor's processor. Would it truly be easier to reveal everything to this mech, here in private, so to speak? He knew even without Red Alert saying so that the Officers Council would be hearing this conversation, so perhaps he'd not have to live thru the explanation again. Then again, what had hiding all this accomplished anyway? Nothing. Nothing except landing him in trouble for having put lives of his fellow Officers, if not his fellow Autobots at risk. Autobots all, who really had shown him nothing but friendship since meeting them and joining the unit. Still, he remembered. Cavalier had trusted, and it had come back to bite him and the team in the aft. Though, much of Cavalier's trust had stemmed from conditioning he'd undergone before the team. And the whole story would have to come out anyway as part of the explanation as to why the interface had been offered or Perceptor could practically guarantee he'd be in the brig for a very long time. A mech could not expect to just get away with a so called slap on the wrist when he had endangered the lives of fellow Command Staff Officers under the circumstances involved. Hmm. A memory came to the forefront. Cavalier talking to Slider after they had fled the CCC. "You were right Slider; the only ones we can truly trust are our teammates." Perceptor thought on that line as well as the other one that was bugging him this evening. Everything changes. The Autobots were his teammates now. This tight knit unit, more like a family actually; these were his teammates. No, not like his gestalt. Never that, but still… Maybe it was time to trust again.

Perceptor looked back up at Red Alert from where his gaze had fallen to the couch. "Where do you want me to start?" he asked slowly.

The two Senior Officers talked into the night, only breaking off when the chime in the Lab alerted the two it was four in the morning and the beginning of the full morning shift. Jazz had seen, felt and learned in a mere nineteen or so minutes Perceptor's entire life as a team member of a gestalt. Red Alert learned only a fraction of that information, and it took a span of nearly 8 hours. Still, Red Alert knew how to question a mech and steer a conversation when needed, so when the Security Director left it was with almost all of the important points.

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Red Alert was headed for a meeting with Optimus Prime. He was on a mission of sorts. His conclusion on how Prime was handling the situation and all that entailed with Perceptor was not a pleasing one. In the sense that he suspected Jazz had been right on target several days ago when he had suggested Prime was taking this personally and Red Alert could not understand why that would be. Prime had been out right betrayed by mechs in the past that had indeed been Decepticons, and while neither of the two he could personally name had been in the Senior Command element of Primes immediate command at that time, they had still been in his direct unit. The fact that Red Alert himself had suspected Perceptor on some level plenty of times was just a fact of life. Pit! At any given point in time he could name several mechs of this crew who he suspected of being Decepticons. And rank was not a factor in his paranoia. Nope, he had suspected everyone. Including Optimus Prime himself. Though now, even he could see the flaw in that particular one. But it could certainly happen again. After all, there were other Autobot Commanders and… Whoa. Not the time or place to start that line of thought. And he quickly quashed the plot his processor had just thought up that would allow Prime to be a Decepticon.

It would certainly present a problem with the Inquiry if Prime was holding a personal grudge. Of the eight senior officers, five were needed for a full council. Three for an abbreviated one. Red Alert sighed. Jazz could not sit this one since he was directly involved. Prowl had already confessed that though he might still sit, depending on how it went he would probably have to abstain from the voting as he had already had a view of everything when Jazz had shared with him and had already formed an opinion. That Prowl had used the phrase 'depending on how it went he would probably have to abstain,' indicated to Red Alert that the SIC was well aware of the direction this was headed in regards to Prime. Perceptor himself was the one standing before council so could not vote. Red Alert had realized he was no longer neutral and would be in the same position as Prowl. There. He had just eliminated half the Command Staff.

If Prime was taking this personally, Red Alert really knew Prime should not consider himself neutral. Great wizened Bearer of the Matrix of Leadership and all meaning absolutely zilch in such a situation when personal feelings were so close to the surface and easy to read. Now they only had an abbreviated council. Problem there was Ratchet and Wheeljack were extremely good friends with Perceptor. And despite any hurt feelings the two might be experiencing from their friend, Red Alert didn't exactly see them as impartial one way or the other. That pretty much left Ironhide, who had been out leading a long patrol the entire time, and was pretty much clueless on the happenings, making him a perfect neutral at the moment. He was due back sometime today, but Red Alert would much rather Prime straighten himself out before then.

All this fretting because a mech had not revealed his entire background. Pit! This should really bother him, but he was more than just a Lucky Paranoid Glitch as some members of the crew occasionally named him. No he was very capable and very intelligent and he wouldn't be in his position if he wasn't. Therefore he knew and understood the situation the reality of the war had left. If all the bots in the Autobot army who had failed to detail their entire background were called to stand before an inquiry over it, Red Alert was sure half the Autobot Army would be tied up in legal proceedings. That would make the Decepticons happy no doubt, and see a very quick and undesirable end to the war. Ridiculous! His processor screamed at him. Besides Perceptor wasn't the only high ranking officer with an interesting non-disclosed background. Prowl's name even hinted at it. In fact, Prowl and Perceptor could probably compare notes and share trade secrets on their prior profession.

Red Alert had reached Primes office now and knocked, then entered after the acknowledgement.

"Red Alert, what can I do for you?" Prime greeted after waving the Security Director to a chair.

I have something I need you to look over and really think about. It's regarding Perceptor and his background and the inquiry. Initially I assumed the inquiry was to be about Perceptor's part in the uplink he and Jazz did and the mortal risk that resulted to all Officers involved. As well as the possibility that he had withheld vital information concerning Gestalt Technology. But the more I have watched you and the more discussions we the senior officers have had over it, the more I fear that the inquiry could go in another direction."

Red Alert paused here and gave Prime a steady look over before continuing. "You know as the Matrix Bearer in general and specifically as the Commanding Officer of this unit; you have influence over those officers and mechs who have pledged themselves to the Autobot cause and specifically sworn oath to you as the Commander of this unit. You are The Prime. Most of the ranks may not know or realize it, but those of us who have held our own commands as well as our Decepticon counterparts have long been aware of the power an honestly given oath gives over the bots under our command. That is why Commanders on both sides have new bots to their units swear oath to them. It's not out of some misguided ancient tradition or ceremony." Red Alert raised a hand in a halting jester as Prime looked about to interrupt. "And before you say anything, I agree a mechs spark does not give a great amount of power with a sworn oath, and it is easily switched by a new oath, but it is enough to influence… for good or bad. Do you realize how close you are to influencing? And not just those who would sit as council for the inquiry. Unintentional yes, but you are still perilously close to tearing this unit apart. Optimus, you need to consider your personal reasons behind why you are turning the inquiry in the direction you are. I've already reconciled with myself what Perceptor did. Now you need to take a look at your reasons; and preferably before Ironhide gets back." With that, Red Alert stood up and handed over a datapad to Prime. "It's self explanatory." Then he left the office.

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Prime removed his cable from the datapad and leaned back in his chair with his gaze on the far wall. It had taken mere moments to learn everything on Red Alerts datapad once he had uploaded it. And the true nature of the content surprised him. Not only did it have an audio copy of Red Alerts conversation with Perceptor, but Red Alert had offered a second version of the audio file; this one directly from Red Alerts memory so Prime could see what Red Alert had seen and hear what Red Alert had heard as well as how the Security Director had deciphered the answers and directed the conversation as it progressed. It was a nearly unprecedented direct look into the very private Security Directors processor and way of thinking. That in itself told Optimus just how concerned his Security Director was over Prime's position on this. And he was well aware that Red Alert probably had a right to be concerned. Taking something personally was one thing. Even he was allowed to do that. But taking something personally for the wrong reason or reasons, and then influencing others based on his personal feelings was debauched and entirely akin to Megatron and his misuse of the power of the oaths.

So with those thoughts he directed his attention to the reason why he was taking this betrayal so personally. And right there he paused. The word betrayal was a very strong word. Why had he used it? At this point nothing Perceptor had done warranted the use of the word. So again why was he using it? He continued to exam everything with the situation and finally after several minutes hit on the reason. His unit had developed closeness since their time on this organic world. In truth, it had begun on Cybertron shortly before the Ark's launch when he had formed the unit. Wanting the best, he had chosen Autobots who were specialists. In doing so he had formed a unit heavy with officers since specialists who were the best in their specialties tended to be officers. Because of the unbalance, the line between the ranks while still present had begun to fade. And while that had not affected the fighting abilities, or command structure, it had done something on the personal level.

The time spent on this organic planet, in close contact with the dominant species had furthered that change. This was no longer an Autobot battle unit, it had become a family. No longer did the frontline warriors risk their lives for bots they barely knew; or the Officers give an order in battle to a bot they knew only by name. The entire unit was one huge family and viewed each other as a member of that family. Oh, not to say they didn't have problems, but Sparkplug had said even human families had problems. He'd also mentioned that the larger the family, the more likelihood of there being at minimum, one black sheep. Well Optimus knew he had several 'black sheep,' but all in all, even for the 'black sheep' it all worked out. It could be seen every time a mech was released from medical after and extended stay. It could be seen in how the members spent there down time with each other. It could be seen in the snowball fights in the winter and the basketball games in the summer. It was present at each of the human holiday celebrations Jazz insisted the Ark participate in. They were no longer a loose knit fighting unit of mixed backgrounds with only a joint cause and a couple of officers to give them cohesion and orders. No, they had indeed become a family in every sense that humans viewed it.

And therein was the reason behind his anger at Perceptor. Perceptor hadn't committed and act of war by betraying his unit, his commander or the Autobot cause. He had deceived his family. And that had hurt Optimus. He had been hurt. And in his hurt he had failed that same family by not considering Perceptor's reasoning. Instead he had allowed his hurt to envelope his spark and blind him to the family member who needed his understanding the most. And worse he had been prepared to take it out on Perceptor in the Inquiry. Red Alert had considered all this and gone against his extremely private paranoid nature to allow Prime to see what needed to be seen. He would have to thank Red Alert.

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