Dying Embers 19
These Roads We Travel
A Transformers Prime FanFiction
A massive wolf loped along through the night forest. Moonlight glinted off his silver-grey fur when the orb peeked out from behind the clouds. A close observer might have noticed that the figure riding the creature was exhausted. Still the young man managed to keep his seat as the wind whipped his long ponytail out behind him. The two approached the main road running north and south in this part of the continent. Two big rigs were rolling along their lights glowing warmly in the darkness. Swiftly the wolf matched speed with the lagging semi. The rider swung down off the creature's back and was pulled into the open cab door by a black tie strap.
"Whoo," Zech gasped out as he fell against the cushions, "I don't know how you wolf riders do it Cousin Sarah. Give me a big rig any day."
The woman let out a chuckle and rearranged her pony tail.
"All it is is practice Cuz. I'm sure a day of trucking would tire me out just as well."
"And Zech is just out of shape," Galina smirked at her older brother.
He growled at her playfully and stretched out as far as the cab would allow.
"You just be glad you're carrying babies right now or them would be fighten words."
The interior of the cab grew quiet as his words turned their attention back to the children.
"So, ah, how are they doing?" Sal asked to break the silence.
The blond woman carefully scooped the spherical eggs out of the pouch and held them up for the rest to see.
"Two are strong. There is no doubt that they will grow stronger with each day. This third one, Skyfire will need close watching and care," she said.
"What are they going to hatch out like?" the big rig continued his questioning. He was feeling a bit ignorant among the healers collected in his cab.
Galina passed the eggs around to be crooned over and admired before she answered.
"As the time of their return is unknown so will be their form. An unfertilized dragon egg will only rarely give a hosted embryo dragon characteristics, and the water dragons were sure to purge any of their own guidance from the shells before the transfer. It depends now on how much they remember of their old forms and how much they will be influenced by their human father."
"So is that the long way of saying you have no idea Sis?" Sal asked in frustration.
"Essentially yes," the brunet interrupted, there was a subtle note of irritation that the semi caught.
The big rig's instincts flared up.
"What gives?" he demanded bluntly.
The woman blinked back at him and tilted her head in a question face suddenly composed.
"Don't try to wriggle out of this Cousin Sarah," the creature warned her. "Something is bothering you, I can smell it."
She glanced out the window to make sure the pack that was following them was at a safe distance. The woman gently placed the egg she was cuddling back in Galina's sash before throwing back her head and growling. The other humans started at the unusual sign of aggression from the healer.
"The children are his," she fumed, flexing her hands like talons. "We should not be taking them from him, breaking up his family. We should be bringing him with us. I know he doesn't have the proper support to care for them until they hatch but…" her voice drifted off in frustration as the three others stared at her in shock.
Zech shifted excitedly in his seat.
"Wait? Does this mean that if we Franklins invited the Darby's to come live with us HE would be allowed to regain his mem,"
"NO!" she snarled; crushing the spark of hope that had flared up for his friend. "I don't like it but this is the only way. Already there are murmurs among the others. We cannot risk the voidwalkers being discovered. The eggs can be hidden, but if their father were anywhere near them the resonance would attract all sorts of predators, and no matter how many the wolves slew eventually one would escape and carry word of this to those who have neither the dragons honor nor the wolves compassion."
"But you are the sh yáéiyi shaatk'," Zech protested. "If you get behind it and throw your power around a bit no one would dare oppose you."
"Zech," Galina said quietly, stilling her brother's impassioned argument.
Bearpaw sighed and leaned forward to rest her elbow's on her knees.
"This is why I didn't want to say anything," she muttered. "I knew you'd get all worked up. This is as much as I can do. It is the only way I can see right now to save the sparklings and they have to be saved. Even if I don't like it emotionally. I know that it would be pointless to try and change the minds of the counsel. You greatly overestimate the influence I wield Cousin."
"What do you mean they have to be saved?" Sal asked, ignoring the rest of the speech for the moment. "I mean other than the obvious, we can't let children die."
"They are the last children of their race," the healer replied. "Much will rest on their shoulders in time."
With that cryptic statement the woman opened the driver's door and leapt out into the night. A swiftly running form, similar to Amarok but far larger, overtook the semi and raced off into the darkness. Zech shook his head and muttered something to himself.
"Come again?" his sister asked.
"I said, that raises more questions than answers."
"Speaking of questions, how's Lola?" Galina asked slyly.
The woman could sense the tension in her brothers and was eager to clear the air of frustration over life's injustices for the sparklings' sake. The question had the desired effect. Zech turned a bit red and sputtered for a moment, but Sal perked right up and chimed in.
"Oh she's wonderful, in fact Zechy spent nearly two hours in Ensenada telling her just how wonderful she was."
"Sal!" his brother howled in mock anguish at the betrayal.
Galina sat back with a smile and rearranged the eggs while she watched the chaos she had initiated unfold.
"Prime?" Fowler stepped into the base hesitantly; his usual bluster seeming to have abandoned the agent.
"Welcome Agent Fowler," the Autobot greeted him warmly, rising from the human's living area where he had been deep in conversation with Jack.
"I have a message from my superiors," Fowler said shifting his eyes around the base nervously, not wanting to meet Optimius's optics. "A request really."
"And what is this request?" the Prime inquired patiently.
The agent visibly braced himself, shot Jack a guilty look, and took a deep breath. The rest of the Autobots had wandered over by now and were staring curiously at the man. It was rare to see him so flustered.
"They want the bodies of the sparklings to study," Fowler got out in a rush.
In the dead silence that followed the agent just stood there with his head down desperately trying not to make eye contact with Jack. Arcee recovered first.
"Fowler, how dare you…?" she snarled moving towards the agent menacingly.
"Arcee," Optimus spoke quietly but firmly.
The cyclebot stopped in mid stride but still glared scorchingly at the human. Bumblebee moved up beside her and laid a restraining hand on her arm chirping softly.
"Yeah, it's not his fault," Bulkhead pointed out.
"Well if that's a 'no' I'll just," Fowler backed up towards the elevator but the voice of Optimus arrested his retreat.
"Agent Fowler, wait. Arcee, stand down. Jack, please come here. Ratchet."
The silo grew quiet as Jack and the medic approached Optimus. The Prime nodded to Ratchet and stepped back.
"The decision is ultimately Jack's as their guardian," Ratchet said heavily. "But,"
"Wait," Bulkhead demanded. "You can't tell me you're actually considering,"
"Bulkhead, enough," Optimus rumbled. "Ratchet, continue."
Fowler was looking every bit as stunned as Bulkhead and Arcee. He glanced over at Jack the boy, no, man, he thought was standing there calmly listening to the medic with the detached manner of someone who has already made their decision and was only waiting for everyone else to have their say.
"As I was saying we need to examine them," the medibot's voice was harsher and more clipped than usual as he spoke. "Far too much of the pathogen was released into the atmosphere of this planet. I think it will all degrade harmlessly but I can't know without more data. Observing the sparklings," his vocalized seemed to freeze up for a moment, "degradation rate will give us invaluable data. The pathogens pose too great a risk to Cybertronians but human scientists would be able to at least make observations. I have already discussed this with Jack," the medic nodded to the human.
"I don't like the idea of someone dissecting them," Jack said softly, addressing everyone but looking at Arcee, "but Ratchet is right. We need to know what a scientific analysis can give us."
The cyclebot stiffened the nodded curtly.
"It's your choice," she said stiffly. "But I still don't see why Ratchet can't do it himself. Starscream somehow managed to work with the stuff…"
"Maybe I could rig up a safe system," the medic harshly interrupted her, "maybe I should. But,"
The rest of the Autobots watched in shock as the normally stoic medic staggered back against the railing and covered his faceplates with his servos with a groan.
"I should be able to do it," the red and white mech whispered. "I'm a scientist. I should be detached, reasonable, but Primus help me, I can't. I can't bear to see them like that, to treat them like," he broke off and stared at the concrete floor of the silo in shame.
Optimus came forward to rest a hand on his friend's shoulder. Bulkhead and Bumblebee stared in amazement at the medic. Arcee felt burning shame. She hadn't even considered how the weeks of constant stress had affected the healer. He had watched them die, she realized suddenly, watched them far more closely than any of them, and now he blamed himself for being unable to save them.
"I'm sorry," the cyclebot said softly.
The medic visibly shook himself and stiffened his shoulders.
"Jack?" he snapped out.
"Fowler, the answer is yes," the human stated firmly, "with a few restrictions."
In due time all the necessary forms had been filled out and the agent left the base with the three cheerless little caskets. Fowler had taken Jack aside and sworn that he would personally see to it that the little one's remains were treated with respect. But oddly enough Jack found the ultimate fate of the empty shells didn't seem to matter that much. He closed his eyes and sought out that faint warm sensation he had come to associate with the sparklings.
On the Alaska highway, in the northbound lane a gunmetal grey semi rolled on seemingly unconcerned that it's tall Native American driver was dozing peacefully. In the passenger seat an equally tall Scandinavian woman slept with her hands clasped over a colorful sash.
Sharp eyes noted each milepost they passed and relayed the information. Carefully plans were made. Odd dark haired men placed 'out of order' signs in particular rest stops. Certain roads were blockaded, and at the intended location a dark form waited.
Galina stretched lazily and blinked. She looked out over the darkness and let out an inquisitive grunt.
"Nearest open rest stop is Trails North," Sal informed her, "three miles."
His sister nodded in consent and dropped back to sleep. She woke when the big rig slowed down to turn into the parking lot. Zech didn't even bother waking up. The woman climbed down out of the cab and strolled into the restrooms. When she came out Galina took a moment to stretch and breathe deeply. In the middle of the movement there was a flurry of dark feathers. Before the woman could react sharp talons had slashed open the sash and a powerful beak rapped down three times. With a laughing cry the raven dodged Galina's grabbing hands and flew out into the surrounding trees.
"Aankaawu Yeil!" Sal roared out in furry once he recognized the perpetrator. "Galina, get in, hurry."
The woman jumped into the open cab and the big rig slammed the door behind her. She pulled out the eggs and examined them with a curious frown.
"I can't believe that garbage eating crow did that!" Sal snarled. "Attacking eggs who were under clan protection? If they are injured at all I swear I will be chewing raven bones from here to the,"
"Sal enough!" Zech barked out.
Like their sister he was closely examining the spheres.
"He didn't hurt them," the young man spoke slowly.
"They were too strong for him?" Sal demanded.
"No," Galina explained holding up one for Salcha to see. "He blessed, them."
On each egg was a reflective black symbol, but the shells were sound.
"Health, cunning, and companionship interconnected," Zech read the marks with a curious frown.
"Well he might not have hurt them," Sal said, still in a huff, "but even a blessing from that raven is a crapshoot. Who know what it will do to the kids."
"It was a freely given blessing," Galina said softly as she ran her hands over the smooth shells. "True we can have no idea what form it will take but we went from knowing nothing to knowing nothing so that changes little. I can sense no malice in the gift. He truly means it as a blessing. I will have Cousin Sarah examine them again when we get home but I do not thing any evil will come of this."
"So no eating birds on the way home," the big rig sounded a bit disappointed.
"No, just hurry back to the ranch."
As they pulled away a large raven hopped out of the spruce scrub to watch them leave. It cackled to itself in satisfaction. Wolf clan had had far too many chances to prove themselves loyal allies to the humans in the years since the disaster. It was good he had heard of them moving the eggs. Now the humans would be sure to see what powerful, what clever, what useful, allies Raven clan was. No wolf could give such a blessing to a dragon egg, no eagle would. He preened his battle scarred body happily. He did love it when a plan came to fruition. The creature pondered what he had given the hatchlings until something shiny caught the raven's eye and the summoned his minions to come investigate it.
Bearpaw confirmed Galina's surmise. The raven's blessing was just that. No malice had been intended and no mischief should result. As to how exactly it would affect the eggs however she could give at least a partial answer. A powerful but subtle bond was forming between the three siblings triggered by the blessing of companionship interconnected. She could detect the sparks responding to each other. The bond was something inherent in the essence of the embryonic voidwalkers, not introduced by the raven. How that bond would manifest once the eggs hatched would be something to witness she mused.
Every egg needs a nest. After much prayer, thought, observation, and time spent consulting the elders Galina had designed one for the sparklings. The spherical eggs seemed to need metal and absorbed it on contact. This was the main inspiration behind the structure.
At the far north end of the ranch was a circle of standing and tumbled down glacial boulders. Cousin Gabe came out and dug a hole as deep as his backhoe could and still make it spherical in the center of the ring. The ranch and all surrounding properties were scoured for every non-running vehicle, old refrigerator, and all sundry scrap metal. Any nonmetallic material was carefully stripped off and the metal was compacted down into the nest.
Using high grade railway steel Uncle Thomas had left over from some project the woman welded together a geodesic sphere just big enough for her to sit up comfortably in. The bottom hemisphere Galina plated with pure copper. This was set in the center of the nest. Now favors had to be called in. Word went out and within a few days sacks of unprocessed gold dust began arriving from all over Clan territory. When enough had come to half fill the sphere Galina and Ma Franklin tenderly placed the eggs into the glimmering bed. More dust came and soon the sphere was filed and the last copper plate secured on top. More metal was brought in and the blond woman spent weeks welding frames from dozens of different vehicles together; from lightweight piper cubs to surplus military tanks.
She left a sturdy path she could crawl through to get to the little ones to check on them but otherwise it was a solid mass of metal the size of a small house. The spherical construct was causally called an art project when it was mentioned and many people came to admire it, never guessing the true treasure it contained. As the years passed she would often add more metal as the growing embryos absorbed what they needed.
Winter turns to spring in the far North with a rush of growth and the calling of returning geese. The geese mate, lay, and raise their young; returning south with the coming of the snow. Deep in the core of a very odd nest, three felt these rhythms repeat themselves for the first time. When the calling of the geese came again the thrumming of their mighty wings sent a thrill down through the nest and it was felt by one of the three. Inside the egg the little one twitched her own germinal wings in eagerness and her brothers responded in kind. When the birds left again a deep longing filled the bond the three shared.
Just as little bodies were taking form from the metals absorbed, thoughts began to take form, These thoughts were nourished by the constant outpouring of love and care from the large Franklin clan. The desire to find something, to fly away and seek for it grew stronger with every passing day. From thoughts speech would arise, and when the geese returned again the thoughts solidified into a single word shared by all three.