Where the Heart Is Epilogue 2
A Transformers Prime Fanfiction
Set During the Events of "Darkest Hour" "Darkmount NV" "Scattered" "Prey"
The dark clouds overhead seemed to block out the sunlight from the small canyon the mech and the semi occupied. The shrubs on the steep walls brushed the powerful red shoulders as the Prime shifted to crouch closer to the gunmetal grey big rig. Confusion and concern warred across the silver faceplates finally giving way to simple curiosity as he stroked the truck soothingly.
"I do not understand," Optimus prompted when the semi had been silent for some time.
Salcha groaned and rolled back and forth sending coarse orange sand spraying against the Cybertronian's peds.
"Okay. When Nurse Darby and Agent Fowler first met you they immediately recognized you as 'not us' right? Alien is the word."
"That is correct," Optimus agreed.
"They are fully mature humans, confident in their understanding of the universe. They know what 'us' is and you were 'not us' but they have come to see you as a friend, family even. That is he humans, power. None of the Others can do that. The humans are changing the reality of the situation. Before you were alien, now you are family. Both," Sal paused and ripped one of the low Manzanita bushes out of the ground in frustration, spitting red dust back out, "situations," he finally decided, "were and are equally real. Still there will always be that part of them that recognizes you as a voidwalker, an outsider."
The death grey semi seemed to require a response to this so Optimus nodded slowly.
"We could not expect them to change their core programming," he stated softly. "They are what they are and we are what we are."
"Ah!" Sal interjected a bit smugly. "That is where you are wrong, and right. Now Jack, Raf, and Miko they are all at least a decade away from full maturity. Their perception of reality isn't hard yet. Jack looks to you as his father and took three of you as his children. Their acceptance of you as 'us' is much more solid but still they knew a world without you."
The keen analytical processor of the former data clerk began to hum rapidly as he saw the direction this conversation was headed in. Automatically he gathered all that he knew of humans, of their differences from Cybertronians and strung it together with what he was being told. The Prime's vents hitched audibly as the first glimmerings of Salcha's meaning began to crystallize in his processor.
"Jack for instance," Sal was continuing seemingly oblivious to the Autobot's sudden tensing. "He is going to have kids. You can tell by the way he handled those sparklings. From the way he treats his Mom and Miko. Some males are born to be fathers and he's one and you will be its grandfather. Jack's first offspring, from the moment of its conception it will know the sound of your voice, the feel of your life force. You will be a part of its world. Yes it will have books and stories of a time without you but those will be no more real to it than any other story. It will know that you are just like it; a member of the family. Multiply that by the majority of the human race and what is there for the Others to see? They don't deal in facts and numbers like you and humans do, only emotional perception. Now the humans can speed this process up or delay it. When they throw themselves into accepting someone it takes between three and four generations; about forty to sixty years. Their perception of 'us' expands. That is the Wilderness Protocol."
"So the humans planned to keep us a general secret," Optimus summarized thoughtfully, "revealing us gradually and only to a select few who would accept us as family as the Darbys have done, and leaking vague information to the public until the Protocol took effect rendering us invisible to the Others."
"Yes, and it's been a whole cultural thing to make it go faster even before you got here. All those sci-fi shows they watch? That is all part of the longstanding plan to get the population to accept voidwalkers too."
They were silent together for several moments in the dark and lonely desert canyon and finally Optimus spoke.
"Why are you telling me this? Is there something I can do to make this situation easier for the humans?"
"As far as the governments who deal with the Others are concerned, no. They have built their plans around who you are and your ignorance. You just be you and their plans will fall into place in due time. It's Jack you need to be worried about."
The Prime glanced sharply at his companion and the semi nudged him reassuringly reaching out with a tie strap to stroke down the Prime's back plates.
"It's nothing really bad. You just have to be careful the questions you ask him."
"The mental blocks," Optimus said softly, guilt firing through his processor as he remembered all the times he had pressed Jack for information on the strange happenings.
"Yup, and remember how I said that certain bloodlines were given control of weapons by the Others? Well over time those genes, or whatever they are, diffused throughout the population following the female lines. The sons could inherit them but only the daughters breed them true. Now what the scientists call 'natural selection' doesn't really favor them because the women who have them full strength tend not to make as many babies as pure-blooded women, something about stress levels, but still a good part of the population is affected and while it gives them certain powers that worked against the voidwalkers it also suppressed certain natural human talents."
The clouds began to clear letting orange evening light play over two strange companions. Sal's rambling had stalled again as he seemed to lean into the warmth.
"And Jack, through his mother is a descendant of one of these warrior lines?" Optimus prompted the worry in his spark for his charge leaving him with small patience.
Salcha huffed and snorted in derision.
"No, Ma Darby's line is pure human. I could smell that the first time I scented her. Humans like her," Sal hesitated again and leaned into Optimus with a small noise that the Prime had learned meant the trucker was struggling with shame. "Humans like her, they taste the best and you can get all kinds of power from eating a, from, from," the big rig trailed off and Optimus patted his side soothingly.
"And this purity affects Jack how?" the Prime pressed changing the obviously distressing subject.
The grey semi eagerly grasped at the new direction and continued.
"There are very few pure human bloodlines. While none of them have the specific powers the Dragons granted the humans they are not without their own abilities. All humans are born with the capability to manipulate energy fields to some degree. It's how their watchyamacallit, their nervous system, works. There are a lot of humans who have the power in higher levels but are untrained. These can't wear digital watches because they mess with the EM fields without even meaning to and the watches die. Jack, he has the power full strength. He can sense and manipulate energy fields, even conduct energy through his own body, but I'm pretty sure you've already noticed this."
"Indeed. Jack was able to follow the path of the Predacon through the hull of Ultra Magnus's ship. This also is the source of his healing ability I assume?"
"It is why his shows up even when he has no inherent talent for healing," Sal stated a bit dismissively. "Again, all humans also have the healing touch in small amounts. Why do you think solitary confinement is such a harsh punishment for humans? Without the healing effect of their community they go mad and get sick. But no, he is a warrior, not a healer. Agghhh!" Sal shook himself. "Focus! Getting to the point! Jack is also from one of the bloodlines that was supposed to forget the Others to deal with the voidwalkers. The two things go together often but not always, because the Dragon blessed lines were too close to the Others to make working with voidwalkers really safe. His powers lay dormant and would probably have never manifested except as a heightened intuition except for that time we fought the Decepticons together."
"At the gravel pit in Canada," the warrior acknowledged.
"Yeah, and by the way? That was one of the Others who clipped that energon line on you. He was trying to get me, we have this rivalry thing going over our humans, Wolf Clan/Raven Clan thing, but I was too sneaky for him and he got you by mistake. I'm really sorry about that."
The semi bumped him apologetically in the darkening light.
"But focusing! Zech spotted the damage to you and started it healing before he realized what you were. My Zech is a skilled healer, not the most powerful in the clan but up there, and Jack got caught in the healing wave and it pushed his abilities to the surface. Then Zech saw something coming in on the battle. It was the jet Decepticons but he didn't know that so he gave Jack's senses a direct boost so he could ID them for us. That fully woke the kid's powers and now they have to be trained or he could hurt himself. He nearly killed himself taking care of the sparklings before we figured it out. And his isn't just any power. He is what they call a Wavemaster, one of the rare ones who can manipulate any form of energy, or he will be after a few more decades of training. Usually there is only one born per generation of humans and we already have Cousin Sarah. She really should be the one training him, not Zech, but she belongs to one of the bloodlines that is deeply involved with the Others and it would be too dangerous if she was known to be working with the voidwalkers. They would kill her out of jealousy."
"So that puts Jack in the position of knowing about the Others and being constantly exposed to aliens," Optimus stated deep fear suddenly flashing in his optics as he deciphered the semi's ramblings.
"Yes, up till now it hasn't been a real serious problem," the grey semi explained. "Children's minds are malleable and resilient and the mental block really doesn't take effect until maturity, usually somewhere between sixteen and twenty six. Jack has been growing up fast lately though. Zech and I have been careful with his training. My brother knows how to set it up so stray thoughts won't literally give him an aneurism. But you need to be aware that if you or any other mech he respected and wanted to answer were to press him for questions about the Others it could be deadly."
The Prime nodded gravely, fear churning his fuel tanks, as the semi went on.
"Also, there is the simple factor that you exist on such a different plane from the Others. Zech explained it to me like you are a blue wavelength light and they are red and you can't see each other. Humans are kind of in the middle at yellow so they can see both but they have to focus on each individually. And the process of shifting their senses form one to the other is dangerous. That happened to Zech when he was scouting your base after the Cons leveled it. He was looking for you and strained something."
"That is why you could not let him know you are telling me this."
"Yup, the damage is cumulative. His bloodline ages more slowly than the rest of the population, big Clan secret by the way, so he hasn't reached physical maturity yet but now he is old enough that the damage is really starting to add up. He can still hang out with you guys he just has to be careful. I'll tell him I freaked out and you came to calm me down. That's true enough."
"Thank you my friend," Optimus said gravely staring out into the canyon, mulling over what he had been told, a tale full of honest intent but spotty; both where the semi had been simply careless and was most likely deliberately hiding some facets of the situation. "I appreciate the risk you are taking telling me this and you have given me much to think about, but if these Others find it so hard to perceive us how do they now know of our presence?"
"Several reasons; first that beam of light that created the Decepticon's tower was living energy and all the microbes and insects in the atmosphere in its way were torched, those that were on the fringes reacted to the energy and released energy of their own. So the Others saw essentially a reverse image of the beam as it came down from the void. Then when the Cons torched the base several Others were killed."
Salch sighed at the stricken look on Optimus's faceplates.
"And you want the details don't you? Even though it will only make you feel worse?"
"If you please."
"All right, they were just shadow dancers. The humans who lived here before used to go into the caves and build fires for them on special occasions. Then they would all sing and dance together, big party, they weren't good for much else. No human could see them directly. They could only watch their shadows on the walls. I think they liked having the kids there with the television. They would watch with Miko. Nice inoffensive sorts but they did defend their territory from invaders and humans like to build their forts in protected places like that and their presence is one thing that attracted the missile silo builders in the first place. The sun burns them though and Megatron destroyed the rock that protected them in the full light of day."
The Prime bowed his helm and gave a soft mournful exvent.
"See," Sal grumbled. "Now you're getting all droopy. That comes from being too soft! Anyway then there was all those soldiers who died and were injured. The Others feed on humans remember, and injuries leak energy? There is nothing they love more or can spot from further away that a battle zone, and enough know about the current political set up to know that it was weird to have one in the middle of Nevada. So they connected the dots pretty darn fast. Now the humans are going to have to defend their choices, namely keeping you alive and not blasting you out of existence with the dragon power, at the Counsel. They stand a real good chance of maintaining the status quo because so few humans died. As long as they can convince the Others' Elders that this course of action will be good for the human population as a whole then they won't interfere and you should be good."
"And if they cannot convince the Elders of this?" the Prime asked optic ridges drawn together in concern.
"Then you probably will all die in horrible and painful ways after having your minds broken and after watching a lot of humans die trying to protect you."
Optimus's optics dilated and he stiffened at the blunt and casual statement.
"But not to worry! Northclan is handling the explanations so everything will most likely go fine! Cousin Sarah rocks! And she can rip a Wolf in half when she gets mad. Oh! And before I forget." Sal rolled forward and wrapped a tie strap tightly around the Prime's forearm. "The main reason the humans back you up on that me not eating Cybertronians thing? It's because all the Others just assumed that voidwalkers would taste nasty. If word gets out about how, how, delicious and yummy you really are," the sound of drool dripping down to hiss and burn the sand beneath them began to be noticeable, "it would be really hard to keep the rouge hunters off of you! But don't worry! I haven't told anyone how delicious you are and I won't!"
"I appreciate your discretion," Optimus said seriously despite the twinkle in his optics at the earnestness of the macabre pledge.
Seeming quite proud of himself Sal released his arm and rolled back before continuing.
"In fact some mindless parasites were already draining you before the kids showed up. Just little things but a lot of them on you at once can be harmful and you guys had no natural defenses. But hanging out with the humans fixed that."
"How did their presence deter these things if they also feed on humans?" Optimus asked, his plating twitching a bit unconsciously at the thought of energon sucking parasites.
"Huh, I'm not sure," Sal admitted stroking the warm red mesh almost a bit possessively, "maybe because in order to avoid those things the humans developed rituals and stuff; like washing their hands but for energy suckers instead of germs. You Bots mimic so good that you picked up on a lot of them without even knowing it and it helped. Like soaking in the sun, before Arcee started doing it for Jack's sake how often did she greet the morning and evening light? I know that burns some out. Also Jack has been secretly killing off the worst of the parasites and purifying the ones in the energon you drink. He's good at killing things."
"Ratchet did note that our gross energon processing efficiency has increased dramatically since the children came into our lives. The question as to why has been bothering him for some time," Optimus said softly filling away the fact that his son had been secretly protecting Team Prime this way for later consideration.
The Prime frowned and glanced at Salcha.
"You are one of these Others?"
"Sorta, kinda, not really."
The Cybertronian tilted his helm to the side and arched an eyebrow.
"You have said it will be lethal for a human to reveal the presence of the Others to a voidwalker but Jack and Zech have both explained you to me and neither seems to have suffered for it."
"Oh yeah, that. So far everything that I am and that I can do can be explained by human science. Even if I was one of the Others remember I told you how humans can rearrange their reality? That's the real reason I let those scientists poke at me. It sort of anchors me solidly in the four dimensions that the humans are the protectors of. I am now a freak of nature, not a beast of myth. That and the red oil added to the fact that the Franklins adopted me as a full family member makes me count as a human in the Erie Accords."
*Greydawn, Franklin the Eighth!*
"And there is Zech calling me. Gotta roll," Sal blurted out seeming to slump with relief that the conversation was over.
The semi turned to go and Optimus held up a hand.
"One last question; you said that the Predacons sent to Earth died because they were slain by humans but that the humans befriended some. What became of them?"
The Franklin paused and hummed thoughtfully.
"You know I really don't know. They just disappear into history. The last real record of one I know of was off on some little island up north across the Atlantic; big red thing, got in a fight over the territory with a big white one and won. Ever since it's defended the southern tip of the island from invaders and whatnot but hasn't been seen in ages. No idea what finally happened to it but the people there have a legend that he will return to defend them when the need is great. Might be alive and snoozing away in a cave for all I know. Doubt you have to worry about it though."
"I see. Thank you again," Optimus lowered his hand letting the trucker go on his way.
"Welcome," Sal said but he lingered at the mouth of the canyon as if waiting for the Autobot.
Optimus smiled and transformed coming alongside the semi. The big rig gave a contented growl and rubbed against the war machine happily. The two drove back to the base in companionable silence and were greeted by a swarm of humans and mechs interrupted from an impromptu pizza party and curious about their newly revealed friend. Miko demanded to see what he was under the hood, and promptly turned a bit green when he cracked the engine compartment to show her. Raf stared in fascination and such scientific awe it made the being's black hide prickle a bit nervously. As the girl was no longer paying attention to her food Sal took this as permission to snatch the slice of three meat jalapeño out of her hand as she had clearly lost her appetite. The ruckus that ensued lasted until Zech collected his brother and they headed out for their next run.