Author's Notes: I was inspired by ladyofdarkstar Wheeljack and Optimus sequence in her fic, "What comes around." The idea of an in trouble mech facing punishment of stasis or exile. The rest flowed from there and here it is.

I know, you were waiting for me to update my main fic, "If an Autobot do NOT do the following" but this particular plot bunny has bugged me for several days. I'm learning to go with the flow otherwise I set and stare at a blank screen, type, then scrap it over and over until I find the right idea, getting mondo frustrated in between.

So enjoy, because Optimus won't. But hey, it all goes with being team leader, sparkmate to a fiery femme, and unexpected results from normal actions. Onward to playing escalato and losing badly.

TR TR TR TR TR TR TR TR TR TR TRANSFORMERS

On Diego Garcia Island, NEST base, not a sound was heard in the Autobot brig main entry. Ultra Magnus waited behind Red Alert, wondering what was taking the younger mech so long to key a simple entry lock. 'Prime is going to frag his aft when he returns. Worse, he drags me into this as a seasoned commander. Too many bots forget Optimus is spark brother to Megatron. Just because he rarely shows his temper doesn't mean he is not capable of ripping things apart. Worse the matrix wisdom tells him exactly how to do it. All they see is the Prime and the slagging miracles only he can pull off. They want that power without the responsibility or horror that goes along with it.'

Red Alert stood before the door to the brig cells and pulled air deeply into his vents; savoring the feel of control that door gave him. The tall red and white mech remained immobile, his white armored hand holding a cable's width for the control pad. 'Because it isn't just a door that stands before me. It is a physical barrier between the mech who runs security operations under Prowl and Prime and a mech with real, command authority,' he considered. 'Too many times they ignored my warnings, telling me I'm paranoid. Any bot can be a danger, become a threat but they laughed. Now who is laughing, hmmm.' He keyed the number code and strode through, barely aware of the larger white, red and blue mech following.

Inside the brig, three of the four cells were empty, recharge berths and table cleaned and ready for use. The nearest one tingled with its glowing power bars engaged and the lone occupant that stood facing them.

Elita felt anger at the two mechs staring through the glowing bars at her but nothing showed. Externally the rose colored femme was the calm, war seasoned officer they had fought beside and respected. Internally she was ready to chew them up one side and down the other and spit out the pieces. Lots and lots of little pieces. 'Bad enough they throw me in here but to treat me as though I had actually committed a crime and not to wait for Prime, oh these two are going to pay.'

"The law is the law, irregardless of who has committed the crime," Red Alert began formally. "Elita One, femme commander, you stand accused of violating Prime's rule regarding safe conduct around the humans. Charges are you did willfully and intentionally endanger a human with your actions and a careless disregard for their fragile physical and mental nature."

"All that? Impressive," She commented, keeping a rein on her temper. "And?"

"You made them scared of us," Red Alert continued.

"Scared?" She snapped. "They're scared of everything from spiders to a lack of light when the sun sets. Our relationship with the race is not changed because of a few narrow misses from my rifle on its lowest setting."

"You admit to firing your weapon at a human?" Red Alert challenged as she moved closer to the glowing bars separating them.

Ultra Magnus winced, recognizing the femme's stance. His protective protocols began screaming for battle readiness in full. 'Her weapons are disabled by the coding locks built into these walls same as med bay. Then again, her mind and wits are deadly. Maybe I can leave here, get in a fight with a Decepticon and claim battle damage erased this memory? Excuse for my poor judgment in agreeing to interview her?' He pondered rapidly as she remained quiet.

"By a human, not at, and I had cause," Elita finally answered, focusing both of them on her.

"How do you plead?" Red Alert jumped ahead as Ultra Magnus refused the urge to throttle the mech.

"Plead? You really want me to answer that?" she stated.

::We should wait for Prime or Prowl and the other officers to return. We have the basics, let them handle this:: Ultra Magnus cautioned.

::I hold rank when they are not present. Prime has never objected to my handling of the twins, either set or other mechs. This femme is no different:: Red Alert sent back before closing the internal comm line rudely.

"How do you plead?" he repeated.

She opened her mouth plates to answer then stopped, venting hard as a sudden idea formed in her processor. "Guilty on all charges," she said. Then held in a laugh as they both twitched, optics spinning at full as their cooling fans clicked on with audible whirrs. 'There, thought I would plead not guilty. You want to play with the big bots do you? Then be ready when the game escalates to the next level.'

Red Alert's frame visibly shuddered before he regained command of his own chassis. "I uh... that is…" he straightened formally. "By your own admission… of guilt you leave me no option but to enforce the penalties recorded."

"The law is the law," she murmured.

"You are fined 25,000 credits and sentenced to eighteen orns in either stasis lock or exile. Your choice," he managed to say without stuttering or pausing, those his tone was more of a question.

Ultra Magnus raised a hand, taking over. "Stasis is under Ratchet's care on your own recharge berth. And any command officer, Prime included, can approve the delay of a sentence pending circumstances. There are precedents. As well as formal review of the proceedings and their legality."

"Not a problem," Elita began, watching as they both relaxed. "I choose exile, effective immediately."

"You what!" Red Alert shouted, nearly blowing a processor.

"Not an option," Ultra Magnus snapped out, suddenly understanding her intentions. "Even if you… leave… you have to be seen by a qualified medical expert. Ratchet has not examined you, being on the same mission as Prime. First Aid is not ranked high enough to qualify. Exile is not abandonment or condemning an unprepared mech."

"Really? I had a physical last week and topped off my energon this morning before the encounter with that fleshling. I am leaving now. That is my right," she hissed. "Once sentence is given you cannot deny me speedy justice."

"But Prime," Red Alert began, waving his arms all directions at once.

"Will review the case. He will not make an exception for me. The law is the law. Now let me out of here so I may leave," Elita growled. Ten minutes later, the three of them stood facing a DC-10 Cargo plane on the main runway.

"You must board in the next two minutes ma'am," the human cargo master instructed, adding her routing orders to his schedule. Assigned to Diego Garcia from the beginning, he never questioned last minute additions or changes. She wanted off the island to transfer to a military base then he would ensure she arrived with the minimum of transferring and utmost secrecy.

:: Elita, please reconsider. Don't hurt Optimus this way:: Ultra Magnus sent to her alone. He condsidered tackling her then refrained. She would only hurt him badly and still leave as he lay in med bay.

::I am not hurting him and you both hurt me. Neither of you ever asked my side as though you cared. Only if I endangered one of them and not why:: Elita sent, slamming the line closed with a burst of static. Transforming, the convertible engine hummed with a power no earth made machine could match. Her rose-colored alt form rolled up the ramp and neither mech moved as the cargo hatch sealed. The plane taxied and soared away into the clouds before they moved.

Nine hours later found them both waiting in the exact spot as a blue and red flamed Peterbilt semi rolled down another DC-10 cargo ramp. The setting sun across the ocean presented a calm, painting perfect background. Humans and their equipment unloaded from the neighboring plane, their noises and laughter mixing with the tropical breeze. Transforming, Optimus, last living Autobot Prime, war commander over all Autobot forces and sparkmate to Elita One settled into his bi pedal mode. He glanced at his waiting officers, reading their stances, the way their optics moved and refused to vent in exasperation.

"What happened, who got hurt or in the brig and how many beings do I have to talk to fix the mess?" His regal baritone carried a trace of annoyance. Ultra Magnus prodded Red Alert forward. The mech kept his head down, optics nearly closed as he struggled for the right words. Ironhide transformed alongside Prowl, both coming to stand behind Optimus.

::One thousand credits he overstepped his authority and needs dadu Prime here to bail his aft out with the humans:: Ironhide teased, cleaning a tree branch out of his leg joint.

::No bet. Past performance indicates future courses of action:: Prowl commented, double checking the angling on his singed left wing door. The char mark was obvious as the cracked simulated window glass to his irritation.

::Meaning?:: Ratchet joined in, transforming to his bi pedal mode next, fingers morphing to tools to adjust Prowl's door.

::He is in trouble. Couldn't you wait until med bay to fix that?:: Prowl winced, as his sensitive door joint gave a twinge in the medic's hands.

::You don't have enough processors to comprehend how bad he spilled the energon this time. Prime is going to need all of you:: Ultra Magnus interrupted.

"I am a patient mech Red Alert. But I need information on the problem to fix it," Optimus prodded gently.

"Elita left," he mumbled.

"Left? Went on a mission?" Optimus asked even as his internal systems began scanning for her unique energy signature.

"No, not a mission. Uhm, she fired at a human and chose immediate exile," he mumbled louder, daring to raise his optics up towards Optimus.

"WHAT!" they yelled in unison but Optimus vocal range thundered out them all. He reached forward, grabbing the Red Alert's front neck ridge, pulling him up off the ground.

"What happened? Tell me or I will rip it from your processor myself," he threatened.

::Nice acting Prime. Kid is scared:: Ironhide

::I'm not acting. Either he tells me or I force jack his processor:: Optimus rotated his head to look at his oldest friend and bodyguard. Then snapped back forward as Ultra Magnus began speaking.

"It was her choice for eighteen orns. She pled guilty," he explained.

"What were the facts?" Prowl asked. "I am unable to locate an official report of the incident in either the NEST mainframe or our private access files."

"There isn't one. I'm still working on it," Red Alert squirmed until Optimus released his chassis, dropping him back to the pavement.

"Spill it junior before we take you apart. What happened?" Ironhide warned, rolling his arm cannons.

"We're not sure," Ultra Magnus admitted, refusing to recoil from their anger. He matched Optimus' size and experience and would help Red Alert but not cover for him. "The incident took place beyond camera range and only two humans were involved, neither willing to discuss the incident other than the claim she fired her weapon at one of them. Both are in secluded in their private quarters. Neither were harmed physically."

"Humans I don't trust. What did Elita say?" Ratchet asked.

"She admitted to firing a weapon at the human for cause," Red Alert said.

"What cause?" Optimus rumbled, moving a step forwards as the other mech shrunk down on his chassis and shuffled backward.

"Uh, she never said," he squeaked out.

"You never gave her a chance to. Watch the brig security tapes Prime. You will understand," Ultra Magnus advised. All the mech's optics dimmed for a brief instant as the accessed and replayed the entire sequence super fast.

"Every accused has the right to speak for themselves, present relevant evidence and ask for a review of the entire proceedings to ensure justice," Prowl beat Optimus to speaking first. As second in command it was his job, his duty, even his life to assist Prime. Keeping him from ripping the spark out of a fellow Autobot that had really messed up was at the top of that list.

"She chose exile, to leave," Optimus rumbled even as his processors played out every likely scenario of where she had headed to.

"Tsk, tsk," Prowl pantomimed a human judge he had seen once. "Her inability to present her side invalidates the entire proceeding, based on denial of proper etiquette and denial of a prisoner's rights. The humans were not formally interviewed, the scene not examined?" he guessed, watching Red Alert wince at each question.

"Even a Decepticon has a right to say last words before being offlined. To be heard and a message passed on if necessary," Ironhide said, his cannons still spinning. The others turned to stare open jaw at him. "Can't help it if I'm a good shot and they don't stay online long enough to talk. But they have the right," he mumbled.

"Then that solves it," Red Alert's optics brightened as he stood up straight. "All charges are dropped and you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. You can talk to the humans and get this… misunderstanding straightened out and Elita can tell her side. Problem solved, right?"

"And how do we tell her that?" Optimus growled, crossing his arms and tapping one hand on his military grade armor arm panel.

To be continued…