Chapter Thirteen

"We from the greatest body move,
Emerging in the heaven that is pure light;
Light of the understanding, full of love,
Love of the true good, full of joy within,
Joy that transcends all the heart conceiveth of."
—Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXX, Lines 38-42

Optimus Primal slouched in his seat in the hopper, properly-proportioned arms dangling between his legs. In front of him, Mirage and Sunstreaker talked in low tones as they ran through the take-off sequence. Solarflare seemed preoccupied, staring intently at a hand-held vid unit; Primal could not hear any audio, for the femme was plugged directly into the device.

Still slouching, the reborn Maximal turned his head slightly, watching the landscape change as the sleek craft rose into the air. This vehicle was very different from the old junk heap he and his crew had boarded – what, a week ago? Two weeks? So much had happened, he wondered in the back of his core consciousness if this was all real, or had Megatron actually managed to pull off a victory?

Anything would be better than having to face Optimus Prime, he knew that much. He wondered what the old Autobot commander had in store for him, what he was going to say to the mech who had held his own spark in his body.

"We're all over the newsvids," Solarflare murmured.

"Really," Mirage drolled lazily over his shoulder. "Let's hear."

"In a stunning turn of events, the high-born Tower Elites Mirage and Solarflare Ligier were allowed to walk free from a hearing before the High Council this afternoon. The Ligiers, once Autobot soldiers on Earth three hundred years ago, were accused of planning and following through with the assassination of the Predacon rebel known as Megatron. Sources close to the Towers say that the Ligiers have never been content with their positions as forgotten war heroes, and conspired with other former, non-reformatted Autobot soldiers to commit this act of termination using several Maximals as their agents.

"Proceedings were interrupted when Lord Mirage Ligier incited a small riot, causing the forum to empty onto the dais where the Elders were swamped with protests from more ex-Autobot warriors. As of this reporting, the Protectorate is still trying to sort out the mess left by the Ligiers. Stay tuned; coming up, we will be canvassing the Council Hall and taking opinions from many of the former Autobots who still remain."

"At least we're not wanted," Mirage noted. He cocked his head over his shoulder. "We're not, are we?"

As far as Primal could discern, there was a touch of unease in the spy's tone. From where he sat, was it his imagination, or was the cock-sure spy's shoulders dipping with the weight of the pronouncement?

"No," Solarflare replied. "They're just painting us as bitchy, PTSD soldiers who have a beef with the government."

Sunstreaker laughed rudely. "I'll say. Hey, Raj, what are your high-priced fuck-buddies going to say about you now? I'm sure that this'll make for interesting conversation at the next turbofox hunt."

Primal watched as the noblemech leaned back in the pilot's chair, his shoulders suddenly gone stiff. "I'll concern myself with that later, Sunstreaker," he said at last, ice forming on the edges of his words.

Solarflare pocketed the vid. "Don't antagonize him, Sunshine," she reproached. "He's been wired all day."

The yellow melee warrior's chin tipped down as he peered around the corner of his chair, steering with his knees. A cold frown formed on his silver face, optic ridges drawing close together. Defiantly, the femme stared back. They locked gazed, until, against Primal's bet, Solarflare turned away first, looking out the window. Sunstreaker continued to peer backwards, settling his predatory optics on Primal.

"Well, don't you look happy," he drawled sarcastically. "I don't know why Prime wants to see you, after all of this, but I tell you, skidwipe, you better come clean."

Primal jerked upright. He stared at the yellow Autobot, optics wide. Sunstreaker sneered. "Got a reaction outta you, eh? Good; tells me you're not addled."

The Maximal sighed; how much more could he put up with this? With the need to prove their intentions over and over again? In front of him, Solarflare pressed the palms of her hands to her optics, a low rumble emanating from her vocalizer. Concerned, Primal leaned forward, reaching out with one hand to touch the femme's knee-spike. After everything, she had somehow stood by them, championed them against her comrades and her bondmate. "Don't you see you're upsetting her?" he said at last, challenging himself to meet the purported psychopath's steel blue optics.

"Flare can take care of herself," the yellow mech growled. Beside him, Mirage remained unsettlingly quiet, staring straight ahead to pilot the craft through the miasma that was evening Cybertropolis traffic.

Primal stirred, taken aback by this harsh coldness and complete disregard. "What more can I tell you? How much more can I give? I'm sorry; I've apologized for myself and my crew a hundred times already, and that doesn't seem to be enough for some of you! We were wrong, and I admit that."

Sunstreaker snorted, eyeballing the hand on Solarflare's knee spike. "Whatever." And he turned around, leaning over the controls.

Sighing, Primal lifted his hand from where it touched the femme, only to have her slim black fingers slowly curl over his rough digits. "Forgiven," she whispered, and gently let him go. He watched as she rose and moved to another part of the craft, propping her elbow on the window sill. Pity washed through the Maximal commander; pity for himself and for them, for all the anguish and despair, for the shunting aside, for their pain. Pity for the fact that no matter what he said or did, it would never earn him back the respect and trust that had been so fragile in the beginning. That was gone, completely and utterly lost. And while a medium might suggest that it was both their faults, perhaps they should have come clean when they were first approached.

He kept coming back to that conclusion, didn't he?

Time slid by in uncomfortable silence; Solarflare remained where she had removed herself to, staring off into space. Though, now and then, if Primal looked up, he could see the blue helm of the Ligier spy turn slightly, checking on her.

Just when Sunstreaker and Mirage began powering the hopper down in the courtyard of Ligier Tower, Primal was shocked into realizing that he had prepared no words for Optimus Prime. His lines ran cold and his cortex buzzed with the apprehension.

No, his rational, commander personality thundered, stand up. Everything will be all right. You are, effectively, two Primes talking to each other. Be nothing but yourself. Above all: be truthful.

Resolutely, Primal pushed the doubt and anxiety to the side and stood up as Mirage threw open the hopper's door. When Sunstreaker loomed over him, seeming to be his escort, the reformatted Maximal squared his shoulders. "No, thank you," and descended the ramp, walking along the cobblestone pathway without a second glance. More than ever, his destiny awaited him within.

The white-silver femme Illusion was waiting in the foyer. She looked up, startled, when he walked in alone. "Where might I find Optimus Prime?" he asked quietly, well aware she was drinking in his much-changed appearance.

"Down the hall, to the right. Prowl is with him at the moment."

He nodded to her, and moved on past, to the door she had indicated. A short knock and a turn of the handle, and he was within. Two mechs sat in chairs opposite each other: Prowl, and Optimus Prime. They glanced up as he entered: Prowl, with an emotionless mien; Prime, more thoughtful, though one could never tell with the faceplate.

With a low grunt, Prowl shoved himself to his feet. "I'll be in the library, Prime." He paused in his exit, looking Primal over with a sharp, knowing optic. Saying not a word, the former vice commander left, decisively shutting the door behind him.

Optimus Prime turned in his chair, raising his head a little higher. "From one Optimus to another: Captain, sit, please."

With a deep breath that filled his ventilators, Primal sat, gripping the arms of the chair. "Sir," he began, meeting the elder mech's optics square-on, "I will begin at the beginning." Optimus Prime merely nodded, a far-off film hovering on the borders of his optics. And so, Primal commenced.


Mirage sat at the kitchen counter, sculpted chin propped between his hands. Sunstreaker had left almost immediately, to spend his precious time in one of the houses of ill-repute, rather than wait. Elita-1 had taken Solarflare to another room almost as quickly, her judicious blue optics narrowing with reproach when she saw how stressed the younger femme was. Illusion went right along, leaving the spy completely alone. Not even Prowl would join him, preferring to gather as much information on the proceedings as possible, in case he had to end up as the de-facto lawyer. So, for the first time in about five hundred years, Mirage was completely alone, isolated within his own home – one that he had spent so much time and energy building, making it the perfect residence.

A basket of Earth pears sat before him. Half-heartedly, he reached for one, despondently crunching through it, reflecting on how he had had his systems recalibrated for organic as well as Energon. So much he had done, so much time and money. Was it really worth it when no one other than the snooty Elite cared where you came from? There had been a time when that was all that mattered, but that Mirage was a long-distant memory, a moral for his current personality.

He thought about the look on Flare's face, tossed her words of defense around in his cortex over and over again. His shoulders hunched and his head dropped further. That captain had the right of it, he was so sore to admit. While he could not forgive that act of mistrust, he could not justify hurting the one Transformer who meant everything to him. It was she who bore the brunt of the arguments, bore it high on her struts and with increasing strain. How could he make it up to her?

A whisper of a touch on his shoulder caused him to lift his head and set aside the pear's core. "We'll get through this, won't we?" Solarflare murmured, her talons gently grazing his armor.

Wordlessly, he reached up and took her by the waist, pulling her into his arms, onto his lap.

Surprised, she wrapped her arms about his neck as he buried his face in her throatlatch. "We will; we always have. But … Flare, I will personally hunt down and destroy whatever mechanism or organism comes between me and our family," he murmured passionately. "I fought too hard and too long, lost everything and almost everyone because of the ambitions of others. And if that means flicking a few credits in the direction of politicians, so be it. Or standing atop a crumbling structure and shooting a few slugs into the maniacal cortex of a madmech, I will do that as well. And no one will tell me differently."

"Raj …" Her fingertips ran along the back of his helm soothingly.

"Forgive me, Flare, for my callousness. For hurting you when you so desperately tried to make everything all right."

Gently, she kissed the top of his pharonic helm; his fingers pressed into her plating, and he lifted his face to hers. "Flare?"

A small smile formed on her charcoal lips. "Forgiven. Just … listen to me, next time."

Mirage returned the smile, albeit a little sadly. "I think I just might be asking a lot of your opinion in the coming months. I don't believe we're out of the woods just yet. If the reaction to the hearing is as large as I hope, we might be on the verge of a massive political reform."

Thoughtfully, she tweaked his noble nose. "You're never going to stop until you own all of Cybertron, are you?" She smirked lightly.

Playfully, he returned the favor. "No, I suppose not. A mech has to have a hobby." He paused. "But seriously, Flare."

She nodded. "It'd be great to go out and wear my symbol and not that stupid holographic image."

"I know," he agreed, pulling her close. "Me, too." He turned his head towards the hall. "I wonder how they're doing."

She followed his gaze. "We'll find out sooner or later, I suppose."


At the end of his tale, Primal merely shrugged to say "that's it". Across the smartly tiled floor, Optimus Prime appeared lost in thought. The silence stretched for a long time, so long, in fact, that Primal began to worry if perhaps the older mech had nodded off. But his blue optics were still gleaming, the small sensors lowered to the floor. At last, the great Autobot commander lifted his head. "I suppose," he began in a low drawl, "you want to know why I gave it all up."

Primal's brow ridge flew up into his new helm. It wasn't the conversation he'd been expecting to have, but as he watched the rise and fall of Prime's shoulders, it seemed as if this was something the older mech wanted. He leaned forward. "Back at the Academy, we were taught that most of the Autobots had accepted the reformatting process, as well as the upgrade to the new Maximal program. They said that you had voluntarily vanished from the public eye in order to help society. It wasn't until we came here that we learned the truth."

Prime tipped his head. "Solarflare and Mirage told you, I see. They were two of the ones who were most upset at what happened at the signing of the Pax Cybertronia."

"More or less," Primal agreed, clearly recalling Mirage's passionate proclamation at the hearing.

"I thought about signing the Pax, but when I learned that none of my warriors were going to be invited to place their names among the roster, I backed out." Optimus Prime paused, thoughtfully running his thick blue fingers over the steel blue of the chair. "There was no way in the Matrix I was going to put my name on a document that would not have them with it. There was certainly enough room, but the Elders thought that it would be more significant to just have me. We argued about it for a good while, until I decided that it was either all of us, or none. They rejected my ultimatum and thus I walked away. I did not recount the full of events to my warriors, former at that point, because I'd grown tired of the fighting, and I knew that those of my old command, such as Hot Rod, Ultra Magnus, Jazz … they would not stand for it.

"I look back on those days now, and I wonder, if perhaps I had pushed harder, exerted some force left within me, I could have gotten the Elders to withdraw their protests." The great head turned and again stared Primal full in the face. "What you were taught in the Academy were well-spun half-truths. Yes, the majority of the Autobots did upgrade and reprogram, but for some reason, those of my old command refused the Maximal reprogramming. I did as well. I do not know why, completely, but I feel that I could not hide all of myself. Each one of them will give you a reason, but I suspect it was out of loyalty for me."

Quietly, Primal drank in every single word from the Autobot's vocalizer and stored it away for further reference. When Prime spoke no more, he realized it was his turn. "Of course it's loyalty," he returned in a low voice. "How could they not? Forgive me … Optimus … but they believe in you, and they love you, beyond that love with which a good commander holds his troops. I saw you in that meeting you held here – how they all stood to attention and listened, even though the war is far gone. You are more than a military commander to them, you are … a leader. One that should rightfully be sitting with the Elders –over them, preferably."

Along Prime's right optic, metal tic'ed. "It is strange to hear that from a Maximal," he replied with a hint of a chuckle.

"But aren't Maximals sparked from Autobot core consciousnesses? From Autobot technology?"

"True."

"I believed in the Elders, and I held them in trust, but after seeing the contempt with which they handled the situation with Mirage and Solarflare … I cannot do that anymore. Your friends are out there, Optimus Prime – they're waiting for you."

Slowly, the great commander rose from his chair. There was an audible creak of joints and servos that had not seen repair in a while. "But here is the problem," he said quietly. "I do not think I can do it."

Higher and higher rose Primal's brow ridge. "But you can. They believe in you."

Pity shone in Optimus Prime's optics. "Someone can believe in you as hard and as true as they want, but belief cannot power an aging system, Optimus Primal. One must have the want and desire, no matter how small. And I am afraid I no longer possess it."

Primal clenched his teeth, his neuros raw with stress. "What about all the Autobots who you say live in obscurity, walking around with holographic Maximal symbols because it is unfavorable to be an Autobot anymore? What about them? Say the word and society will change for you."

Slowly, Prime shook his head. "I'm sorry, Captain. I can no longer be the figurehead."

The Maximal rose from his chair and reached out to clamp his paw on Prime's shoulder. At the moment of contact, a bright light flare out from where the two touched. Optics shining with a radiance that had not been seen in a long time, they looked at each other. From within the great Prime's chest, the Matrix glowed, and overpowered them both.


A short – or long – while later, Optimus Primal lifted himself from the floor. Across the room, Optimus Prime lay propped up against the wall, his chest open, the energies of the Matrix shining through its protective casing.

Oh, Primus! Primal thought in shock, scurrying over to the Autobot. I've terminated Optimus Prime! –Again! "Optimus, Optimus Prime!" he called out, low and harsh, hoping no one had heard the thud of two large mechs hitting the ground. "Please, dear Primus, tell me he functions."

Shuttered blue optics fluttered, then lifted up, displaying the glowing orbs Primal had looked into back on Earth, in the Ark. Prime grunted, levering himself off the wall; he pushed himself into a sitting position and peered within his chest. Slowly, he lifted his head. "You revitalized the Matrix," he murmured. "I … I feel …"

"Reborn?" Primal offered with a wry twist of his lip components. "I've had that feeling more than once."

"Stronger, powerful, peaceful," the older Prime agreed. He pushed harder and stood, reverently folding the two halves of his chest shut. "I haven't felt like this since I used the Matrix to revive Cybertron."

Cautiously, Primal offered a question. "Does that mean …?"

"That I will go forward and press for change?" Prime reached down and lifted the Maximal to his feet. This time, no light flared, but a small current of electricity did pass through each mech. "Yes, I believe I shall." He let go of Primal and flexed one arm; no creaking could be heard. Turning his head, the Autobot leader favored his other self one more glance. "And thank you, Optimus Primal, for believing in me."

Primal merely smiled, feeling within his spark – that soul they both shared – that while it would take a long time to change, things would be all right.

"Til all are one," he quoted with a grin.

"Til all are one," Optimus Prime agreed.

---

High on a balcony in one of the shining minarets, a grey femme and a white and blue mech stood, overlooking Cybertropolis.

"Deliberations begin tomorrow," Mirage murmured.

"Are you ready?" Solarflare asked.

"With my friends and family on our side, of course I am."

She smiled, leaning over the balcony to stare at the large red Face of Primus that hung like an angel over the capital of Cybertron.

Finis

AN: To see one artist's interpretation of G1 Solarflare, copy and paste the following URL, and don't forget to remove the spaces. :D www. vahazayi. com/ gallery/ fax2/ fax2novjaggyd. jpg
Art © Jaggyd.