Lament of Winter
Layer upon layer of datapads, discs and oversized sheafs of paper littered the sparkling new desk of the risen Prime, Rodimus. Not a few hours into finishing installation, various Autobot City personnel were bringing reports and stacking them upon the wide surface – and when that cup runeth over, they started on the chairs. Tired and dull-optic'ed from scanning the latest coded intelligence articles from the Autobots' fledgling base on Earth's moon, Rodiums pushed himself away from the clutter and gazed out the window. Down upon the City's carefully manicured lawns, Autobots and humans meandered, passing the time or just resting under large canopies.
A low, dull roar thundered overhead; beyond, the Aerialbot contingent appeared, vibrating the various materials on his desk with their passing. The sight of the gestalt team sent a pang of remembrance into Rodimus' cortex. He still had to deal with the possibility of reassigning the senior warriors. Truthfully, after sitting down with Kup the evening after their "memorial", Rodimus was having second thoughts. Not because he was afraid of what they would do if he did decide, after careful consideration, to separate them for the good of Cybertron AND Earth, but because they provided a convincing, if elitist, argument. (Okay, a miniscule part of his spark trembled at the thought of the Twins – and then, there was that one mech who could turn invisible.)
Staring prove fruitful, for Rodimus caught sight of Perceptor making his way across the green, carrying a large bundle in his arms. One glance at his overladen desk was enough; the flame-colored neo-Prime bolted from his office and all its heavy reminders of responsibility. He had enough presence of mind to return the smart salutes given unto him by the mechs and femmes he passed in the halls, though it still felt wooden and unnatural.
Bursting out into the crisp, clear sunlight with its cloudless blue sky, Rodimus raised his hand. "Yo, Perceptor!" he hailed, startling the scientist so that he mis-stepped, crossing his legs and almost banging into a picnic table. Full of chagrin, Rodimus hurried forward to help the poor mech with his footing. "Sorry," he coughed, sensitive facial plating growing warm in embarrassment.
Perceptor struggled to shift the bundle back into place, gave up and dumped it on the Autobot-sized wooden structure. "Uh, yes, no need to worry, Rodimus. Here are the datatracks you asked First Aid and I to prepare for you. Every tic, nick, scratch, neurosis and talent that Ratchet and Wheeljack managed to compile on the Ark warriors."
Heedless of the eyes and optics that were pointing in his direction, Rodimus slid onto one side of the table and gestured Perceptor to do the same. He propped one foot on the bench and stretched the other far under the table, leaning forward and undoing the careful straps that bound the bundle. Over twenty slim datapads with each Ark warrior's name embossed in gold and silver were presented unto the Prime. Perceptor jiggled in place: "First Aid and I decided that it would be best if everyone had their own file, rather than compiling the extremely extensive information onto one pad."
Rodimus picked up the first datapad, embossed with the name "Tracks". "While this is really nice, Perceptor, wouldn't it have been more … prudent … to put it all on one track?"
The scientist avoided optic contact as he dutifully replied, "We are out of mega-capacity disks, sir. The new shipment from Cybertron was delayed, of course, by Unicron."
Rodimus blew a jet of hot air through his nasal passage, skimming the names. "Perceptor, sit. Do I have to make it an order?"
As if he were made of petrified wood, the scientist complied, setting his forearms at 90-degree angles and keeping his trilythium spinal column as straight as possible. Rodimus sighed, flickering through the names once more. Something … someone … was missing. He looked up into the most guileless blue optics he'd ever seen on Perceptor. "Perceptor," he began slowly, watching the microscope-mech judiciously, "did you drop one on the way over?"
The red mech's fingers twitched. "No, I do not believe it to be so. Did I forget someone, Rodimus?"
He was hiding something – Primus! Who would have thought Perceptor capable of attempting deception? "Perceptor," the flame-colored mech repeated in what he hoped was his most ominous Optimus-esque tone.
With a sigh and a roll of his head, Perceptor dug into a subspace pocket and produced an identical datapad, this one embossed with the name "Solarflare". As he handed it over, Rodimus' optic ridges drew down, creasing in confusion. However, he said nothing as he powered the unit – it started up easily enough, and immediately presented the Prime with Solarflare's basic data: height, weight, optic color, wingspan and a comparison shot of her in altmode next to one of her in basemode. Across the table, Perceptor continued to stare straight ahead; Rodimus cast a sidelong glance at the scientist before giving a mental shrug. Mechs like Perceptor were strange to begin with.
After a moments' perusal, Perceptor shifted. "I regret that I must depart, Rodimus; if you have any more need of me, do feel free to call." And then he was gone, moving with such alarmingly rapid strides, Rodimus wondered if someone had a bead on him. The fast mutter of "sorry, sorry, sorry" didn't alleviate any suspicions, either.
Shrugging physically this time, Rodimus keyed in Solarflare's biography. As he read, something began to niggle him in the back of his cortex. It stated that she arrived at the Ark in 1986, alone. Her talents were communication and long-range sight; she also had acute single-mindedness, which Rodimus had been in the presence of at least twice. Pursing his lips, the Prime called up her medical file – and was presented with a large, red CLASSIFIED.
Confused, Rodimus pulled out his communicator and keyed in Autobot City's medbay. "First Aid?"
There was a pause, then: "Yes, sir?" The Protectobot medic's red and white face blurred onto the small screen; something moved in the background, which First Aid readily shifted to hide. "Do you have a question about the datapads Perceptor brought over?"
Rodimus laid the comm on the table and folded his arms over it so that he stared down into First Aid's face. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. This medical file on Communications Officer Solarflare is classified. Why?"
First Aid's shoulder plates hunched and he visibly flattened them. "I'm sorry, sir. But that information is layered under codes created by Prowl, and no one has been able to crack them. I wish I could help you more, but I cannot."
Rodimus frowned, his ire increasing by the moment. It wasn't like him to get this irritated, but when people were plainly screwing around with him, as Spike was wont to say, it twisted his servos like nothing else. He didn't want to demand the Autobots' respect now, but if they were going out of their way to make it hard for him … well, he could play that game, too. Blowing a long jet of air from his nasal passage, Rodimus waved his hand over the view screen. "Thank you, First Aid." The medic merely gazed back at him before tipping his head and turning around. Rodimus caught a glimpse of white and blue in the nanosecond before First Aid cut the connection.
Pocketing his communicator, Rodimus shoved himself away from the picnic table, scooped up the pads and made for the inside. After a brief stop in his office to deposit the bundle, the flame-colored mech rode the elevator up to the Comm Tower. Work was still in progress here, as evident by the ladders, tarps and various building material scattered around the floor. The hole in the roof where the Cassetticons had ambushed Blaster had been completely repaired, a new layer of a thick, laser-proof Plexiglas-like substance letting the bright sunlight through. Unlike the Intelligence Bureau below, the Tower was a serene affair, with all of two Autobots manning it any at given time. Sitting in altmode on a large chair in the middle of the floor with a few wires plugged into various sockets was Blaster, a human-slang-spouting mech with a flair for exuberance, much like Jazz; off to the side, a mic touching her black lips and one cord connecting her neck to the console she was perched at was Solarflare, a femme described by her comrades as cheerful with a penchant for loosing herself in her work.
Both seemed deep into their duties, so Rodimus decided that he would make this visit as short and as concise as possible. Skirting Blaster's chair with its panoramic view of Autobot City, the Prime made his way over to Solarflare's station. Several holos were arranged with care on eye level with the seated femme. Rodimus paused, never having seen them before. One was of her and her bondmate, the spy Mirage; another showed several Autobots being completely silly by a waterfall; yet another was a group shot, all lined up in front of the Ark. Rodimus felt a pang of sadness and guilt strike his spark as he spied Optimus standing in the direct center, one arm around the terminated Ironhide, the other around Prowl, also terminated. A fourth showed a very … happy … Ratchet, gazing at Solarflare with an almost paternal expression. Both of them seemed so content …
With a shake, Rodimus gathered himself; this was to be no walk down memory lane. He squared his shoulders and approached the femme from her right. Plastered next to her silver comm unit was a large poster with the words "HOW TO APPROACH" printed in massive font. Under was a short list:
Step 1: Hit buzzer.
Step 2: Engage shoulder if buzzer does not work.
Step 3: Shake harder.
Step 4: Blow up console
This last "step" was scribbled in black magic marker and a stick-figure devil was drawn underneath, a testament to the identity of the culprit.
Rodimus pursed his lips. How lame, he thought, leaning over with a polite cough. "Solarflare, may I speak with you?"
His response was a flurry of finger movements as the femme's sightless optics flew up and down the console; one hand lifted and traced a pattern in the air, possibly using VR sensors. "Quadrants three and four clear, Warpath. Static free. —Autobot City, Comm Officer Solarflare speaking, what is the nature of your call? … Transferring. —I read you, Silverbolt. Transferring data to Intelligence."
Rodimus gaped, not believing his own audios. It was as if she were carrying on ten conversations at once! Reaching out, he tentatively shook her angled shoulder strut – nothing. The femme kept right on talking, moving and, apparently, listening.
With an exasperated sigh, the Prime reached over and ganked the plug that connected her to the comm unit.
Bad idea. Very, very bad.
He was thrown backwards to land on his skidplate in the center of the room, hands jammed against his outer aural receptors by her savage body jerk, coupled with a shattering shriek of pain. Solarflare shot up like a rod had been shoved into her spinal column, sparks pouring from her neck and mouth. The screams just kept coming … and coming!
Blaster shoved Rodimus to the side and grabbed Solarflare, throwing her down onto the ground where she continued to keen and seize. Rodimus watched in horror as her transforming mechanism was shot to hell, and she began to curl and uncurl, the avian head on her back scraping the tile in an effort to shoot over the top of her helm and lock into place.
"AID!" Blaster bellowed, scrambling to keep the femme's limbs in order. A thin line of coolant flowed from her mouth and nasal ridge; sparks spat in weak streams from her audios. The all-comm call coupled with Blaster's verbal cry was enough to give Rodimus a very large headache – if he didn't have one already.
Not a moment later, First Aid's pounding feet could be heard, and the now-senior medic slid into the Comm Tower, kit in hand. As Rodimus watched, the Protectobot ran up, bent his knees, and skimmed the tiled floor, landing with perfect precision by the grey femme's side. Wasting no time, First Aid withdrew a cable and box and jammed them into the open port at Solarflare's neck. The femme's body gave one massive heave, and then subsided into a quiet tremor.
"Rodimus Prime, sir," First Aid began in a low, serious tone the leader had never heard him take before. "Do you know what you have done?"
Mutely, all the flame-colored mech could do was shake his head. First Aid glanced over his shoulder once, before digging into his bag, instructing Blaster to peel a plate away from Solarflare's helm. "By disconnecting her from the comm before she's been able to severe the contact herself, you've caused a backlash. While Solarflare is hooked up, she essentially becomes the comm – meaning, all that information that is stockpiled in there suddenly finds itself in need of a storage facility, and the first one is her head."
Rodimus fairly squirmed. "I – I didn't know." It was the lamest excuse he would ever utter.
Both Blaster and First Aid stopped what they were doing – something with a plug and a box – and turned in their crouched positions. "That sign there tells you what to do," Blaster replied with all seriousness, pointing.
"Button? Shake? Seriously." He tipped his head, looking for that elusive button – and found it. It was small, but very red, and had been sitting under her right forearm.
First Aid was silent for a moment while he worked to undo whatever damage had been caused by the Prime's impatience. "It takes a while for her to disconnect from the system. If you'd been patient, and done as was noted, she would have been able to talk to you within a few minutes. Depending on how many things she was into at the time – which can be a lot."
Commotion drew Rodimus' attention away from First Aid's uncharacteristic chastisement and towards the door where two human orderlies were piloting a Transformer-sized gurney through. Carefully arranging the femme's limbs, Blaster and First Aid lifted her and placed her in the center. Rodimus stood up and recoiled slightly as collected fluid dribbled from her black lip components. First Aid pulled a rag from subspace and delicately wiped her mouth clean.
"Will – will she be all right?"
First Aid punched a few codes into the gurney before replying. "Hopefully. But I wouldn't plan on sending her any flowers if I were you. She takes these things personally – just ask your friend Arcee. She hasn't spoken to her since the day she pulled her plug. Luckily, Flare was only on a base-level communication run and she got a headache and spat sparks for thirty minutes." Setting his hands on the gurney bar, the Protectobot medic waved the two human orderlies to the side. "Okay, guys, let's go."
An hour later, Rodimus called Jazz into his office. The black and white saboteur was quiet and reserved as he entered, throwing one leg over his knee after accepting the Prime's invitation to sit. "Y'wanted t'see me?"
Formally, Rodimus folded his hands over the top of his desk and cursed the nightmare that brought him to this position once more. "Yes. I just wanted to know how Solarflare was doing."
"Y'coulda asked Aid," Jazz replied succinctly, and Rodimus knew that he would garner no sympathy from the enthusiastic mech.
The Prime sighed, shoulders sagging with so many different weights, it was getting harder and harder to discern between them. "He's not happy with me. I accept complete responsibility for my actions, Jazz – how do I make this up to her?"
Jazz shifted, hitching his hip against the arm of the chair. "Y'don't. Flare don't take these things lightly, yanno."
Reaching up, Jazz scratched one of his helm horns. "Look, Roddi, I know it's hard –"
Rodimus' head jerked up. "Do you?" he breathed. "I don't know, Jazz. Did Optimus have these kinds of troubles?"
The black and white Porsche sighed. "I'm not that old, am I?" he asked, half to himself, half to the ceiling. "O'course he did! Yer new, yer gonna make mistakes. Ya just gotta roll with the punches and learn from them."
Rodimus folded his hands and stared at his thumbs. "Easier said than done."
Jazz made a low scoffing sound in the back of his vocalizer and shook his head. The new Prime paused in his finger reflection and slowly tilted his head up to stare at the saboteur. "What kind of flowers does Solarflare like?"
Jazz blinked, his optic shutters flickering several times. "I told ya, bossman, the girl won't like it."
The other mech shrugged. "Can't blame me for trying." Really, how could he gain their respect if he didn't respect them in the first place? Wasn't that what Optimus' leadership was based on? Or, that's what he heard from Kup once.
Jazz peered at him from under his helm, then blew an exasperated sigh. "No, I can't." He scratched his hip guard reflectively. "Anything but roses – especially red roses." He leaned back, propping his chin on the heel of one hand and looked at Rodimus. Something in those guileless blue optics told the Prime that there were some questions he wasn't qualified to ask. "Red roses" seemed to be among one of them. Dutifully, Rodimus scribbled the note on a spare digipad; when he looked up, Jazz was still there, his posture one of ease.
"Jazz," he began slowly, carefully considering each word. "What is your opinion on the matter of relocation?"
The Porsche shifted slightly, like a cat uncoiling from a summer's nap. "I'm sure y'heard th'whole tale from Kup," he replied promptly.
Rodimus sighed, rubbing a spot between his optics that had started to pulse like mad. What did Daniel call them? Headaches – more like circuitaches to a Transformer, anyway. How was he to get anywhere with this "old guard" if no one came forward? "Jazz," he all but pleaded.
"Look, man, no one's happy. Everyone's tryin' t'deal with events th' best that they know how. Takin' them away from here when it's all they've known, all their comfort, it's not a good idea."
The pulse wormed its way across Rodimus' temple and began jabbing him in the left optic. "Don't you think I know that, Jazz? Don't you think that I'm still trying to deal with the death and destruction, too? Don't you know how –" He paused, choking on the word. "—guilty I feel?" Suddenly, the pulse rose into a crescendo, eliciting a small cry of pain from the flame-colored mech. Jazz leaned forward, concern etched into his facial planes. Rodimus waved him off; he would have none of the Porsche's sympathy. "I want Optimus back more than anyone – but it's not going to happen. I have to face this reality as much as you do! I don't see anyone asking me if I'm alright – and I was the one who caused this mess in the first place!" The admittance gave birth to a low, shaky moan, and Rodimus Prime flung himself back into his chair and covered his face.
"I'm sorry," came the quiet rejoinder. Through the tremors, Rodimus heard the Porsche get up, felt the low pounding of his feet as he crossed the room and the soft, hydraulic swish of the door as it opened and closed.
Left in his pain and anguish, Rodimus Prime could only sit there and wish for the past, knowing that Jazz had never really given him an answer.
The saboteur padded along the corridors in quiet contemplation. He nodded at some pretty paramedic femmes and flashed them his cattiest grin; they paused, giggled and waved with their fingers before swishing down the opposite corridor. Once they were out of sight, Jazz allowed his posture to slump. It was one thing to personally believe that Hot Rod had been responsible – in part – for Prime's death; it was another to tell that to his face. It was something he couldn't bring himself to do. It was like shouting "Optimus Prime is dead!" at the top of his lungs and within range of his comrades. Everyone was walking on ice and razor blades since the great battle with Unicron. They all had to readjust to a new life, a new leader. It wasn't easy, and it certainly was quite hard.
Jazz understood Rodimus' reasons; he understood them perfectly. But now was not the time. Yes, there was a war going on, but as the Decepticon forces were hiding on the outskirts of the galaxy, at least they could have some recuperation time – time to mourn, time to rebuild. All this talk of rearranging the forces (so soon) was a bad idea and a poor lapse of judgment. A leader had to be sensitive towards his troops while still retaining that aura of command. Perhaps that is why they had survived this long – Optimus allowed some semblance of "normalcy": games, concerts, other interactions with the humans had kept them sane and functioning. Such things had been allowed back on Cybertron, too.
It was natural for a new person in the leadership position to want to arrange things so that he could contemplate them better. But that new leader also had to understand that things were the way they were for a reason. A tweak here and there was the best possible resort at the moment. Jazz had his own opinions on the matter – such as covert operations to Cybertron, to rebuild and search for survivors. Blaster and Solarflare had been picking up coded messages from all over the planet, asking for aid or saying that they could give it. The best thing that the Earth Autobots could do now was to fix the home front – which was this very planet – before going onto Cybertron. Galvatron might want control of the homeworld, but the resistance and persistence of the humans with their Autobot allies made Earth the larger target. Hit and run operations like in the past were their best bet to climb back on top of things.
Feeling a bit peckish, Jazz went in search of some Energon. His keen olfactory sensors led him to the rec room, which was, oddly enough, almost empty. Some reservists were in the corner, and they ignored him, to which Jazz was grateful. He didn't know who they were, and really, he didn't feel like talking. How out of character, he mused, taking a clean mug and filling it at the nearest tap. That was a sign that he wasn't doing well, either – when stalwart, jovial, unflappable Jazz was downtrodden and morose. Primus, he missed his friends.
Picking up a stray news feed, Jazz quietly sipped at his Energon, catching up on the City reports. How long he sat there, reading every bit and piece of text, he didn't know. The next thing he knew, something slim, pretty and grey was sliding with slow, hesitant motions into the chair across from him. Jazz looked up and smiled. "Babydoll! How're you feelin', girlie?"
Solarflare provided the mech a wan smile, reaching into a subspace pocket and plunking a small box on the tabletop. She cracked it open and pulled out what looked like a horse pill. "No worse for wear," she whispered, static underlying her words. "See this?" She held up the massive ovoid, twisting it in front of Jazz's face. "This keeps me from conking out from the pain. When Rodimus ganked my plug, he blew all my regulators. If I don't take one every half hour, I'll black out. And it'll be almost a week before replacement parts arrive from Cybertron." She sighed, and tossed the pill back with a grimace. "Never did like those things," she murmured hoarsely. Jazz passed her his half-full mug, of which she partook with a grateful smile, then passed it back.
"He's sorry," the older mech offered, setting the mug aside.
Flare looked to the side, leaning forward on her forearms. "I'm sure he is," she answered quietly, seemingly unconvinced. "But he can't afford the recklessness he was allowed when he was Hot Rod." She gave a low, husky laugh. Something rattled in her chestplate and she whacked herself a good one before continuing. "Aid said that you went to see him. It was about us, wasn't it?"
Absently, Jazz nodded. "Actually, he asked about you."
Flare's crest and optic ridges flew upwards. "Really. Considerate, but –"
Jazz reached out and curled his fingers over her forearm. "Baby, like it or not, he is our leader. Y'can ignore Arcee all y'want, but I don't suggest y'do the same t'him."
She sighed. "I know, Jazz. We all know – intellectually we know. But emotionally, we're still spectres, hovering over our friends' graves."
"It'll ease, babydoll."
The grey femme shook her head slightly, but a small, sad smile touched her lips. "I know."
Jazz squeezed her arm comfortingly, keeping his hand there for added support. "So, what exactly is in need o'repair, ceptin' yer receptors?"
"Uhm, that's about it. Well, that and I can't do any heavy comm work. He also blew the area in my cortex which I use to process the signals. Blaster's gonna have to do double-duty for a while. I think Aid's going to petition Magnus that I be placed on light duty for the time being. Maybe I'll be shipped out for scout work." A true smile graced her features, crest angling. "I miss that. Ever since the City was completed and we got the new forces, I haven't been out much. Funny how those things go."
"Yeah," the Porsche agreed. "Haven't seen you on the cannons lately."
The sadness in her facial planes returned, briefly. "There are some I can't welcome home," she replied softly. "But, Raj'll be back in an hour or two. I suppose I can go out there now. Fall's coming, and the breezes are nice."
Jazz waggled a half-serious digit at her. "Y'keep that Invisible Man o'yers on a tight leash, hear, missy?"
She nodded dutifully. Both of them were very mindful of Mirage's penchant for overprotectiveness when it came to her well-being. Solarflare once confided that it stemmed from the residual guilt he felt over her human death. "I'll make sure he knows. At least I'm up and walking." She gave a coy wink and pushed herself away from the table, coming around the other side and kissing the Porsche on the cheek. "Thank you, Jazz."
He knew better than to ask what he was being thanked for. Drawing his mug close, Jazz sipped, contemplating. Cybertron did not have seasons, but after years on Earth, Jazz had learned to associate feelings, emotions and events with the changing of the weather. Right now, Autobot City was slipping into fall, and then winter. A time of sorrow and dormancy. However, with winter came the promise of spring. Winter's lament would give birth to the sweetness of spring.
Would they move on? Certainly. Still, it would be hard.
Jazz sipped again, wondering if the new and old guard would ever come to a consensus. He would have to find out tomorrow. For now, let it be.
Darkness claimed Autobot City. Across the shaded grass, the humans' housing complexes and businesses gave off a soft, golden glow. Rodimus Prime lay with his head on his desk, pillowed by his forearms. A work order from 1-800-FLOWERS lay at his elbow: 100 tulips, 50 daisies, and a spray of yellow gladiolas.
Yes, it was complete and total overkill, but hopefully the femme would see that he meant every single word of apology, even if it had been through Jazz.
The new Prime looked up to see light spill across his arms. Arcee pushed the door open and slipped through, walking up to perch on the edge of his desk. "Are you all right?"
Rodimus quickly palmed the order into an open drawer, but kept his head down. If what Jazz said was true … Arcee wouldn't be too pleased to see him trying to make up to the senior femme. "Not really." He rolled his head to the side and looked up at the warrior. "I've got a ton of conflicts raining down on my head, Arcee."
The pink femme drew her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them. "The Ark boys are giving you trouble, I hear."
Arcee snorted. "You're the leader now, Rodimus. You do what you feel is best."
He sighed, reaching out and tracing moonlight with his fingertip. "That's the trouble; I don't know what the best is. I need their expertise, Arcee. I just can't dismiss them. We need the forces, but now I'm thinking we need their experience, too."
In the moonlit darkness, he could barely see her face, baring her glowing blue optics – which were now creased with anger. "You're letting them run over you, aren't you? You have Kup and Magnus and Springer for advice. Magnus is as old – or older – than Optimus was. Kup was created at the beginning of the world, for Primus' sake!"
"I know." He rubbed at that old spot between his optics, where the pulse was beginning anew. "I know."
"What were you thinking of doing with them?"
He shrugged. "Rebuild the moonbases, send some over as support for the forces on Cybertron – whatever is left of them."
"I don't see that as an extreme, dangerous request."
"Gah! Arcee! Why is this so slaggin' difficult?"
She reached out and touched his shoulder. "Maybe because you're making it that way. You need to set aside your feelings and do what your spark tells you."
He raised his head and looked at her. What his spark was telling him was vastly different than what everyone else was saying. It was pushing him to give up this job and go and live the life of an adventurer, answering to no one but himself, having no responsibilities than to himself. THAT is what his spark was saying. But everyone else seemed to have a different take on what he should be doing: Jazz thought he should let the Ark warriors stay; Kup said to hell with them; Magnus was too busy right now, and so was Springer; Arcee said to hell with them, too.
He turned. "I'm tired, Arcee," he whispered into his arms.
Her silence was an answer enough. Quietly, she slipped off his desk and padded out the door, leaving him with his responsibility and his decisions.
And in this darkness, Rodimus Prime cried. For Optimus, for the lost Autobots … for himself, and the resolution he must ultimately come to.