“Why are we here?”
The words hung in the air, an accusation over what they had been doing for the last two days.
“We're here because Prime ordered us,” Prowl said. “What else do you need, Mirage?”
The blue and white Formula 1 race car sat there next to Prowl’s similar vehicle mode. Prowl could almost see the boredom and frustration and anxiety rolling off of his companion.
“We've been stuck out here for two days with nothing to show for it,” Mirage said. “All Prime said was that ‘something was amiss’ out this way. After hiding in plain sight, the only thing amiss is us wasting our time looking for something that doesn't exist!”
The outburst was far from unexpected. Mirage was far from enthusiastic about their circumstances. Had Prowl been in his position, he would probably act no differently. A civilian passenger pressed into military service by bad luck and circumstance, with no end in sight? Prowl was impressed that Mirage had gone this long on their scouting mission without complaint.
Still, he could not in good conscience echo the very same thoughts that he'd been having about their excursion. Feeding Mirage’s deteriorating morale would do nobody any good.
Two days in this city had succeeded in yielding less than nothing except for wasted energon and a sense of inevitability. With their numbers as low as they were, scouting missions more often than not turned up nothing. It was enough to wonder if they were actually doing any good.
“Whatever it was that brought us out here, we still haven't found,” Prowl said. “That means our target is still at large. We have no idea what the extent of Megatron’s forces are on this planet. Before we can devise any sort of effect counter strategy, we need to know more. Otherwise, we end up like Blunderbuss and walking into an ambush.”
Mirage responded with an angry silence. The loss of Blunderbuss, had been traumatizing to everyone leftover from the crash, but particularly Mirage since he had been the one to find the body.
“I know it's frustrating to wait and watch. Most people aren't cut out for surveillance work because it takes more patience than any sane person should have. But we don't have a choice right now. If we don't learn more about what the Decepticons are up to, we'll never figure out how to take them down and return to Cybertron.”
“Do you really think we will?”
“Return to Cybertron. Do you really think Prime wants to go back?”
“Of course he does. We all do.”
“Does he? Ever since we crashed on this rock, he's been more obsessed with hiding and tracking down Megatron than finding a way back home.”
If Prow had a head he could shake, he would. “What would be the point of getting back to Cybertron if we all go to prison for violating the Tyrest Accords? Leaving Megatron and his thugs would get us all thrown in a cell for the next thousand years. I'll pass, thanks.”
Mirage snorted. “I’m pretty sure we've got extenuating circumstances on our side. A war criminal escaped because of a convoluted ingenious plan involving a solar flare, a software glitch, and a patch of dirt on a sensor pad. That's something a squad of reconnaissance scouts isn't equipped to deal with. You call in the Primal Vanguard for something like that.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Prowl said. “Me, Prime, Sandstorm — we're all military. That means Megatron was entrusted to our stewardship. It's our responsibility to recapture him and return him to Cybertron for his trial.”
“And what about me and Hubcap and Hoist? Are we just stuck here until the greatest war criminal of our time decides to surrender?”
“I don't know,” Prowl said. “Sandstorm has been working on getting a long range signal out. Once he has, reinforcements will come. All we have to do is wait and keep tabs on Megatron until then.”
Even as he said the words, Prowl knew they were little more than wishful thinking. Sandstorm was no engineer. He could jury rig a communications device like any other field agent, but interstellar communication was well outside his wheelhouse. He was learning what he could from the remains of the Ark, but Prowl doubted it'd ever go anywhere.
“I don’t get it,” Mirage said. “Megatron is supposed to be a genius. If he was able to plan his escape so far in advance, why would he still be on Earth? Shouldn’t he have had someone waiting around to pick him up?”
That…was a question Prowl hadn’t thought of.
It was obvious in retrospect. Megatron’s escape was typical of his track record: elegant, minimalist, and utterly unexpected. For him to have even conceived of such an endeavor put him as one of the top minds Cybertron had ever produced.
But to have gone to all the trouble of orchestrating his escape and not had an exit strategy in place afterward? That didn’t sound right at all.
“I don’t know,” Prowl said. “But it’s a good question. If your mission is to escape to fight another day, why hasn’t he?”
“Makes you wonder what he’s really up to,” Mirage said. “And whether he’s as evil as the High Council says he is.”
“Innocent people don’t go around blowing up space ports.”
“I never said he was a saint, just that he’s not the embodiment of pure evil.” Mirage sighed. “Believe it or not, it’s possible for somebody to do bad things and still have a point.”
“Which doesn’t justify the people he’s hurt and killed.”
“Of course not. But does that mean we should ignore the legitimate problems he’s pointed out?”
Prowl would have shook his head again if he could. “Mirage, discussing the nuances of a war criminal’s ideology is all well and good when you're in a classroom or discussing it in the abstract. But when you're on the ground like we are, we don't have that luxury. Our job is to bring the bad guys down, then leave the nuances to the bosses upstairs. Anything else muddles the mind and puts your team at risk.
“I'm not saying it's right. I'm not even saying it's fair. This is how things work on the ground. The moment you start thinking that the other guy has some good points, the harder it becomes to do what needs to be done when the time comes. Is it fair? No. But it's how life's goes here.”
Silence answered him. Prowl wasn’t surprised. Mirage was forced into a situation not of his choosing, stuck doing a job he was built or even trained for. More than eighty percent of scouts burned out on the position within a handful of years, and those were people who actually wanted to be there. Why wouldn’t a civilian be questioning the not so pretty side of the military?
To be honest, Prowl was surprised it had taken this long for Mirage to voice his concerns about Megatron. There had been a reason the gladiator from Tarn had attracted so many to his cause. The issues facing Cybertron were apparent to anyone who bothered to think about them for more than a minute. Equally apparent was their political system’s inability to address any of them in a significant way. After decades of gridlock, the rise of someone like Megatron was inevitable.
Such clear thinking wasn’t going to satisfy the average citizen, unfortunately. Cybertron had grown far beyond the city-state system that had served the planet for so long. What had started as mere cracks slowly but surely widened into chasms that many citizens had fallen into with no hope of rescue or justice. Merely identifying the problem was no victory, not to the people suffering each day from it.
“Mirage — “
“Forget it, Prowl.” The blue and white sports car revved to life as a holomatter avatar appeared in the driver seat. “You can't solve all the problems in the world, even for someone as smart as you. I'll stick around for another day, maybe two, but if we don't find anything ‘amiss’ by then I'm out of here.”
With that, Mirage took off for the race track.
“Fair enough,” Prowl said.
Hopefully they would find what they were looking for out here. Otherwise, they were going to be down a man before they knew it.
Edited by Slamdance, 21 October 2019 - 06:45 PM.