The final half of this story. Optimus Prime has come face to face with his old nemesis from Earth: Scourge. The Autobot leader hopes to offer him a final chance to become what he should have been from the beginning. But how deep does the Decepticon leader's corruption run? Is there anything left of the Autobot he once was?
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Autobot No More - Part 2
For a moment, Safeguard was tensely rooted to his spot, unable to tear his optics away from the sight of Optimus Prime and the prisoner that could have been a dark brother of his staring unflinchingly at one another. Then finally regaining some of his senses, Safeguard nervously backed away and, without a word, hastily turned and exited the cell room. The doors closed after him, locking Optimus Prime and his dark twin in.
It was a few seconds more before Optimus Prime broke the pressure-building silence.
For another few moments, the dark half-clone of Prime stared at the Autobot leader that he resembled with an unreadable expression. Then he began to speak, in slow, drawn-out words, as if tasting the sound of his own dark voice, or savouring the presence of his company.
"After deca-cycles of darkness, how...'gratifying' it is to online my optics again to see my most despised enemy."
Optimus Prime maintained an unaffected composure.
"What about Galvatron? Do you not despise him as much if not more than me? Don't you remember how he tried to kill you and your Commandos by trapping you all in our Space Bridge network underneath the Earth's surface? Don't you remember how he tampered with your very spark before you even came online out of your stasis pod? He reprogrammed you to be his servant. He corrupted your original Autobot programming. And even as a Decepticon, you grew to resent working for him. So you rebelled and tried to overthrow him. And he punished you and your soldiers by wiping your memories and reprogramming you once again. If there is any bot out there that you should hate, surely it's Galvatron, for everything that he has done to you and your team."
Scourge's shadowed optic ridges hardened. His red optics seemed to burn a more vivid crimson.
"Yes. I do loathe Galvatron for all that. For controlling me, for using me." He paused. "But I am also grateful to him..."
Optimus' gold optics scrutinised his dark counterpart, mystified at his last sentence.
"Grateful? For what?"
Scourge inclined his head slightly to one side, his intense red optics never moving from Optimus Prime's face.
"For freeing me. From the Autobot code of honour that would have inhibited me before landing on Earth, a code that I am familiar with from your scanning contribution to my creation. Albeit what Galvatron did to me and my Commandos was for his own ends and goals of megalomania. Nevertheless, it is thanks to him that I am free of all Autobot burdens. I am free to be what I wish without guilt or care."
Scourge leaned his head down, bringing his masked face as close as he could to Optimus Prime's from his suspended height. His blood red optics burned into Optimus' gold ones, seeming to grow in intensity.
"You see, Optimus Prime, I am you. I am what you would be if you were unrestricted by weaknesses. I am you without morality, compassion and mercy. I am your intelligence, strength and skill unrestrained. I am you freed of all inhibitions."
Optimus shook his head slowly.
"That's not freedom, Scourge. That's barbarism and chaos."
Scourge chuckled darkly.
"The things you reject, I embrace, Optimus Prime."
Optimus' voice dropped to a sympathetic tone.
"Scourge, you may not think so, but I firmly believe that there is still an Autobot spark trapped within you. I've done research on your background. I am now fairly certain I know who you were before you and your team crash-landed on Earth stellar cycles ago. You were N-"
"Stop!" Scourge suddenly interrupted.
Optimus looked at him puzzled.
"I don't want to know," Scourge stated firmly. "I don't need to remember."
Optimus watched him uncomprehendingly.
"The past is gone," Scourge continued in a resentful tone, "Why dwell on it now? All it could possibly do is give me more reasons to resent and grieve. Look at what I am now. Forget what I used to be. Judge me on what you know of me, not on what you foolishly wish to believe. Take away my past. What is left?"
Optimus did not answer. He waited.
"Scourge is all that remains and exists now," Scourge declared.
Optimus looked imploringly into his dark twin's intense red optics.
"Scourge, listen to me. You don't have much time left before the Council sentences you to..."
"Cryogenic stasis," Scourge completed.
Optimus' optic ridges rose in mild surprise.
Indifferently, Scourge turned his head sideways to look at the wall of his prison cell.
"I expected it. It is the only 'logical' decision for one such as I, do you not agree?"
"I came here to try one final time to convince you to accept our help," Optimus truthfully informed, "I would rather give you a chance at redemption than send you straight to an indefinite frozen prison. Wouldn't you rather have that as well?"
Scourge turned his head back to face the Autobot leader. His red optics narrowed dangerously.
"There is no going back."
Optimus pressed on in urgent hopefulness.
"You have a better chance at rehabilitation than the rest of your Decepticons, Scourge. You had the strength of spark to regain most of your memories of Earth eventually after Galvatron's last reprogramming. Mega-Octane and the others still retain only short memories of the final solar cycles of their time on Earth; they remember nothing from before Galvatron's last reprogramming of you all."
Scourge lowered his head to his chest. He looked down expressionlessly at the floor of his prison. Optimus drew closer to him, raising his hands in appeal.
"You were an Autobot once, Scourge. You could be again. It's not impossible. We can help you overcome Megatron's corruptive influence. Restore you to the Autobot you once were. But you need to be willing. We can't help you if you won't let us."
Suddenly, Scourge snapped his head up at Optimus. His crimson optics flared manically. His arms shook violently in their ceiling-attached restraints. Optimus took a step back in surprise.
"I DON'T WANT YOUR HELP!" Scourge roared.
Optimus had fallen into stunned silence.
"Don't you get it yet, Prime?" Scourge sneered, "I never wanted to be helped! I would rather remain in this physical prison than be moulded back into my former mental one. I will not be bound by the chains of Autobot values again! I am an Autobot no more and never again!"
Optimus tried one last futile attempt.
"If you could just remember who you were before crashing on Earth..."
"It no longer matters," Scourge stated coldly. "Memories change nothing. They do not change what I have done. They do not change what I have become. I have made my choice."
Optimus paused for several moments.
"Then you regretfully leave me none," he quietly responded. "We will lose a good and valuable Autobot in you."
"Correction. You have already lost an Autobot in me," Scourge uttered darkly.
Optimus Prime turned away from his dark lookalike and headed for the cell doors. He stopped short of them and glanced back at Scourge with a solemn expression.
"You were one of our best..." His gold gaze dropped to the floor beside him. "Goodbye, Scourge."
The doors parted. And after a final searching look back at him, Optimus Prime walked out, leaving Scourge alone once again in his isolated prison cell. As the doors of his prison closed, Scourge's head descended and his red optics darkened. From behind, he heard the approach of his head casing seeking to confine his face again. The darkness began to enshroud his sight once more. And as the blackness closed in, the hazy images of an old memory echoed in his mind...
A shooting star descended over the night sky of Earth. But it was not a shooting star. It was a falling Cybertronian vessel. Within it, a crew of six Autobots were attempting frantically to regain control of their falling ship, but it was in vain. The leader of the crew, a bot of black, white and blue colouration with a masked face, was at the steering controls as the monitor screen in front of him flashed a warning red. Sirens were ringing around the ship. The other five crew members were shouting to one another. Then the crew leader issued a desperate command to his crew.
"The Epsilon's going down! Get to the stasis pods! All of you! Now!"
The five crew members looked at their leader for a moment before obeying. They jumped up from their seats and quickly exited the control room. The last of the departing crew, the tallest of them, stopped at the doorway of the control room and glanced back at his leader. He was still manning the steering controls.
"Sir, what about you? You need to get to a pod too!"
"I'll join you in a moment! I just need to steer the ship away from inhabited areas," the Autobot leader shouted back determinedly, "Go now! Don't worry about me!"
The tallest Autobot of the crew hesitated. Then he shouted back to his leader.
"Sir, if we don't survive this crash, then I just want to say that it's been an honour serving under you!"
The ship was tilting down. The tall Autobot saluted to his leader whilst holding on to the frame of the doorway. The black, white and blue Autobot leader glanced back briefly over his shoulder at his saluting crew member.
"The honour has been mine, soldier!" he replied hastily. "But I promise these are not our final moments online! We will reactivate again!"
The tall Autobot crew member nodded to his leader.
"Good luck, Nova Prime sir!"
He then turned and proceeded out of the control room.
The masked Autobot leader, Nova Prime, was left alone at the steering controls. Sirens blared and red lights still flashed around him. But he concentrated on the view of the Earth city on the monitor screen in front of him. Pulling as hard as he could on the steering handles, he directed the course of the ship to fly over the lights of the Earth city. When he saw that the ship was passing safely over the city, he rose from his seat and ran to join his crew in the stasis pods. He did not see that the ship was heading for a rocky mountainside on the monitor screen as he exited the control room.
Entering the chamber with the stasis pods, Nova Prime took his place with his crew in the last of the open pods. He lay himself down into the pod.
As the lid of his stasis pod closed over him, the Autobot leader, Nova Prime, breathed his final words.
"Til all are one."
Darkness swallowed him.
Darkness swallowed him. The claustrophobic confines of the metal case closed tightly around his head. The remnants of his old memory echoed away. The intense red light of his optics faded into shadow.
Into the enshrouding hush of darkness, the Decepticon leader, Scourge, breathed his final words.
"They're all dead..."