Innocence

A Transformers Prime Fanfiction

Set after "Evolution"

::Warning SPOILIERS::

Primus. Oh Primus; what have I done?

"Is your hand bothering you Commander? Should I get Ratchet?"

The small voice piped up at his side sending a fresh searing stab of pain through the aching spark. The mighty Autobot turned his helm and stared searchingly down at the smallest of the humans who perched on the side of the medical berth. There was something in his silver faceplates for a moment; a look of pure agony as he studied the child. Then it was gone; smoothed over into the impassive mask of the perfect soldier. But in that brief moment what he had glimpsed terrified Rafael.

"No Mr. Esquivel. I do not need to see the medic. While my damaged appendage does give me some small pain it is insignificant."

"Oh, I see, I'll be going then," the boy stuttered as he backed away nervously.

His obvious fear and discomfort lanced through the mech.

What am I becoming that I terrify younglings by my presence?...Killer… What have I done? … Murderer…Primus what-

His good hand clenched spasmodically; servos digging into his palmplate until they left dents and his helm dropped as his optics offlined as a wave of shame and guilt threatened to send him into the welcoming blackness and oblivion of stasis lock. The damaged hand on the opposite side tried to mimic the move but only twitched painfully and gars and articulating cables tugged on damaged mesh and components that were no longer there.

"Commander!"

The urgency in the tone snapped through Ultra Magnus like a whip.

"Prime!" he came instantly alert sitting up with some effort to face the leader of the Autobots.

"At ease old friend," Optimus stated gently reaching out to take up the damaged appendage. "You are leaking."

"I, I must have strained the new welds. My apologies. I will report the damage to Ratchet immediately," the mech stated quickly trying to pull his missing hand away from the Prime.

The larger red and blue form released his injury easily enough but the black servos came to rest on the Second-in-command's shoulder guards.

"Our medic has gone with Nurse Darby to acquire more needed supplies. Come. I may not be Ratchet but I am somewhat capable with a line welder."

Seeing no way to avoid the issue the commander nodded and held out the injury dutifully to Optimus and sat mutely as the Prime gently took the end of his arm and began applying the line welder to the damaged energon lines.

"Ratchet will soon have a replacement ready for you," he offered. "It will not perhaps be what you are used to but it will be functional."

"I appreciate what the Doctor does for the unit," Ultra Magnus replied in a clipped voice refusing to look into the cerulean optics.

Fairly quickly Opimus wrapped up his ministrations and set aside the device. The commander thanked him and lowered himself back to the berth with what dignity he could muster in such a compromised position. To his surprise however the Prime did not leave. Ultra Magnus felt a hand on his shoulder struts and the soft teaking of a field against his.

"Old friend," the Prime began lacing the words through with glyphs offering to listen to whatever the mech had to get off his chestplates.

The smaller mech turned his helm stiffly away from him, dislodging the gentle touch.

"Prime-" his voice was low and even as he stared at the primitive steel beams in the ceiling above them; trying to maintain the barriers of order and habit that were keeping him from breaking down.

He was dreading this conversation, had been dreading it from the moment Predaking had spoken and the horrific realization of what he had condoned, what he had done, had struck him far harder than any of the clone's blows. He heard a tired sigh behind him.

"Ultra Magnus," Optimus began again, stepping around to face his second the glyphs subtly changing form, not quite commanding, not yet.

The commander forced his optics up past the robust chassis and to the painfully compassionate gaze. He knew there would be no condemnation in those optics, dreaded the forgiveness he would see there, forgiveness that he did not deserve.

"The crime I committed my Prime," he stated harshly before the other had a chance to speak. "It is unforgivable. What can there be said to separate the Autobots from the Decepticons if there is no difference in the actions of their leaders?"

Optimus's optics hardened marginally as he shook his helm.

"You acted in ignorance. Given the situation, with all of humanity in danger, I would no doubt have issued the same order. That is a far cry from Megatron's deliberate targeting of the young."

"Sparklings!" the commander stated flatly clenching his servos again, making the new welds tense painfully. "They were sparklings!" He drew in a controled vent of air and stared directly into his leader's optics. "Fully sentient, sparked, Cybertronian life, innocent of any wrongdoing and I. Killed. Them. There is nothing that can be said or done to negate that fact Optimus. When Predaking spoke… I knew…but it was too late," that horrific moment played over and over in his processor; the thunderous roar and boom that was the only requiem the innocents would have. "Yes I was ignorant. But it remains that I gave the order to terminate them."

The leader of the Autobots gave a weary exvent and extended his field, carefully teaking the other, feeling Ultra Magnus's field respond, pressing against his; the only sign of the internal agony, guilt, and need for companionship that was burning behind the stoic faceplates. Optimus knew well that there was nothing he could say. The commander had made the best decision he could given the circumstances, and a tragedy had resulted. Thinking them to be mere beasts he had ordered the deaths of innocent sparklings.

The Prime extended his field, offering what he could; companionship, understanding. He accompanied the teaking with glyphs indicating his willingness to listen whenever the smaller mech needed to speak of it. The Commander's red and blue frame did not relax, his faceplates gave nothing away, but his energy against Optimus's raged with shame and pain; accepting the offered presence. But soon Ultra Magnus's field retreated and was pulled tightly to his frame. He nodded stiffly and sent a quick glyph of thanks before very deliberately linking his processor remotely to the computer to complete some task. Optimus turned and walked away knowing that his presence would no longer be welcome.

War, the death of innocence, the cost of battle. The commander mused as he turned his attention from the computer to the human's area once Optimus had stepped out of the hanger. It could be counted in sparks. The sparks of countless young lost to evil mechanizations and ignorance both, and those that slowly had their sparks eaten away because of deeds forced on them by circumstances beyond their control. The sound of laughter and subdued screams interrupted his thoughts and he glanced over at the sound. In the far corner of the base, half hidden by a stack of crates Smokescreen was lying on his back as the three human children climbed over him wielding something they called laundry markers. The four were laughing and squealing and urging each other to be quiet as they mock struggled.

Innocence. Ultra Magnus's optics lingered on the one called Jack for a moment as he heaved himself up into a sitting position to get a better look. Lost sparklings. He wondered for a moment what would have become of the Predacon young, had they been given a chance to imprint and grow in a peaceful environment. Would they have so eagerly scrambled over their brother's frame? Would Predaking have tolerated, welcomed their attentions? Would they have made such sounds of joy and competition as they played? Or would Shockwave's manipulations have left them as warriors only, devoid of gentler sentiments. Because of his choices they would never know.

His attention was noticed by the eldest native and Jack jumped off of the young Elite Guardsmech with a startled yelp. He snapped to attention and crisply called out the commander's name remembering to add the sir as perfectly as any first cycle cadet. Within moment the image of youthful innocence and camaraderie was shattered as the children and Smokescreen scrambled to their feet and the yellow and blue mech attempted to cover the drawings that adorned his mesh while still standing at attention. A new pang of regret rippled through his already tender spark as Ultra Magnus observed the change from playful enjoyment to apprehension.

"Continue as you were," he said quickly. "I did not mean to interrupt."

With that he lay back and shuttered his optics. He heard the surprised muttering of the children and the youngest Cybertronian. Heard their decision to end the games and wash off the yellow and blue mech. But even with the more productive activity the sounds of mirth soon returned, this time accompanied by splashing water and squeals of protest.

Innocence, something worth preserving, worth fighting for. That had been one of his main goals from the beginning of the war; to protect that rare and precious commodity. That would be, must be, what kept him going. But superimposed over the sounds of laughter and the sight of Smokescreen playfully tussling with the children as they washed him was the image of the Predacon sparklings struggling in terrified ignorance as the yellow fluid drained out of the only world they had ever known and lightning danced viciously over their helms.

Innocence.