Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers.
Chapter One: Assignment
Four Million Years Ago…
Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots and bearer of the Matrix of Leadership, ducked his head as another Energon grenade went off near his position. He had been pinned down behind a particularly (and blessedly) strong piece of rubble for quite a while now, and was finding it difficult to hear anything but the noise of explosions and laser fire. He leaned forward and looked left to allow himself a quick look at the battlefield.
Trailbreaker was protecting an obviously wounded Perceptor while the Protectobots, hopelessly outmatched by the ten or so seekers that were raining down hell upon them, fought valiantly to survive. Optimus peeked up above the chunk of rubble and quickly ducked as Shockwave once again tried to blast his head off from a safe distance.
Prime uttered a shockingly explicit curse and opted to keep his head down. While in his alternate mode, Shockwave was too accurate at long distances. Optimus couldn't even see the one-opticed Decepticon; the only reason he knew it was him was because Autobot Intelligence had seen him leading the task force.
He hadn't wanted to come here. It was a waste of resources. All of the Autobots had been evacuated from the city, and Optimus was happy enough to let the Decepticons have it. He wanted to be helping Ultra Magnus prepare for the battle at Polyhex, or be fortifying the defensive systems of Uraya and Iacon, not wasting time in some worthless shell of a city.
But, needs must as the Autobot Council of Elders drives. Optimus shook his head. What was the good of having been 'chosen' by the Matrix if no-one listened to him? Apparently, Sentinel Prime had had similar problems, according to Ironhide and Kup. It was the Council's insistence that Sentinel negotiate with Megatron that had gotten him killed in the end.
With a scowl, Optimus resolved not to allow the Council the pleasure of seeing another Prime fall on one of their random whims. There was no reason to be here. There wasn't anything of value here, and now one of his mechs was down, possibly dying. Reinforcements were unlikely if not impossible; all other resources were turned towards defending other possible targets.
Reaching down, Optimus picked up a few chunks of metal that had been blown loose by a stray explosion. He tossed them to his right, and ran to his left. Shockwave fired on the first motion he saw; the chunks of metal. He obviously realised his mistake too late, because Optimus had leapt across the battlefield, landing behind the much more secure cover that shielded Trailbreaker and Perceptor.
He knelt down next to the injured scientist. "How is he?"
Trailbreaker shook his head. "He's losing a lot of Energon. We need to get out of here, Prime."
"Did you send the message?"
The black Autobot nodded. "But who knows if it reached Uraya before they started jamming us?"
Optimus grumbled something long and explicit before checking on the location of the Protectobots. They had opted to stay hidden under a piece of levelled road, although it was quickly being turned into dust by laser fire. Apparently, Shockwave was determined to bring Optimus out into the open.
The Autobot leader was more than happy to oblige.
"Stay here. I'll be back with First Aid."
Trailbreaker opened his mouth to object, and Optimus shot him a 'don't argue with me' look before positioning himself at the edge of their cover. He remembered an old technique that Kup said he always used; count to three, then run like crazy. The other one was 'rush 'em and pray', but that didn't seem relevant here.
Optimus leapt out and transformed as he flew threw the air, slamming to the ground with a crash. It was times such as these that Optimus was glad for his alternative mode of a heavily armoured Cybertronian truck; it allowed him to traverse almost any terrain. Optimus darted from left to right, hoping to avoid as many of Shockwave's blasts as he could.
Hot Spot saw his plight and directed the other Protectobots to lay down some cover fire, aiming for the general direction the blasts were coming from. While it was doubtful that they would actually hit Shockwave, it would stop him from hitting Prime until he got to them.
The red truck landed with a thud next to them and transformed into the Autobot leader they all trusted with their lives.
"Perceptor's hurt bad. He could die if not treated soon," he said, glancing at First Aid as he talked to Hot Spot.
The Protectobot leader nodded and turned to his team. "Listen up, Protectobots! We've got an injured mech over there! So we make sure that First Aid makes it across! Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir!" came the unified response.
"I can't hear you, femmes!"
"SIR, YES, SIR!"
Hot Spot nodded and turned to Optimus. "Ready, Prime."
"All right. Autobots, move out!"
Optimus once again charged forward and transformed, the Protectobots following suit and forming a 'Transformer shield' in front of First Aid, the three land-based 'Bots encasing him on the ground, while Blades shielded him from the air.
After a few bumps and knocks, they finally arrived at their destination next to Trailbreaker and Perceptor. Just as Groove entered and Streetwise was about to follow, an explosion flared up in front of the Protectobot, knocking him onto his aft and skidding away. Groove turned in a panic, trying to go out to him.
Hot Spot grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him to the ground.
"Keep your head, Groove. I'll get him."
Before Optimus could object, Hot Spot had leapt out into the battlefield again, expertly dodging laser blasts and explosions as he made his way towards Streetwise' offline form. Prime turned to the other Protectobots.
"Cover fire! Now!"
As though knocked out of a daze, the Autobot team got to laying down some cover fire for the Protectobot leader. Optimus silently cursed. Shockwave was bound to get a lock on them soon, cover fire or no cover fire.
Suddenly, a shadow descended upon them, and the entire Autobot squad cheered as they recognised the form of Sky Lynx coming in for a landing.
"All aboard, chaps!"
Optimus turned to his troops.
"Go! Trailbreaker, help me carry Perceptor!"
In a flurry of motion that Optimus could barely remember, the Autobots boarded Sky Lynx and were nearly bowled over as he shot off and away from the city of Vos.
The Protectobots all but fell into sitting and laying positions around Sky Lynx's interior with the exception of First Aid, who was working feverishly to keep Perceptor alive. Prime knelt beside them.
"How is he?"
The Protectobot shook his head. "Despite what my name might imply, I'm still not too experienced at this. I can keep him alive for a little while, but we'd better get to Uraya soon."
Optimus looked up. "Sky Lynx?"
"Say no more, Optimus!"
The Autobots nearly fell over yet again as Sky Lynx increased speed.
Optimus stared with slightly dull optics through the observation window. He was leaning against the frame of the window with one arm raised above his head, the other planted firmly on his hip. The surgeons had worked hard, and it had been touch and go for awhile, but they had managed to save Perceptor. Not that that made Prime feel any better about putting him in that position in the first place. He sighed and let his head fall against his raised forearm. He was feeling tired, and his limbs felt heavy.
"You should go and get a recharge," a soft voice insisted, and Optimus turned to see Trailbreaker looking up at him.
"I'd like to," Prime replied, pushing himself off he wall, "but I've got reports to read, and I need to talk to Ultra Magnus about the-"
"No you don't. You need to rest. Go to your quarters and at least try. Okay?"
Prime sighed. "Right. Call me if his condition changes," he said, nodding at the offline form of Perceptor.
"No problem. Now… go."
With a small smile, Optimus nodded and made his way to the elevator to take him to his quarters. Once there, he dimmed the lights and sat on his recharge bed, unwilling to lie down and go into recharge mode just yet. Something was niggling at the back of his head, and he knew exactly what. Why were they sent to a city that had no strategic value whatsoever?
Maybe it wasn't strategic. Perhaps there was something in the city itself that they were after.
Or maybe you're becoming as paranoid as Red Alert.
He looked over at the holo-picture on his desk. Optimus wanted to be with her. To hold her. Just to talk to her would be a luxury at this point. He had heard so little from the situation in Polyhex, and wished he could be there now with her and Ultra Magnus.
Slowly and reluctantly, he lay down on his recharge bed and allowed his optics to switch off.
An incessant beeping interrupted his thoughts. Optimus quickly sat up and searched around the room. It was the comm on his desk. Sending the device a glare that would have made Inferno cower, he pushed himself up from his bed and made his way over. He accepted the call.
"I don't think you need to be so formal."
Optimus quickly sat down. "Magnus?"
The City Commander smiled. "How are you?"
"As well as can be expected."
"How did the battle in Vos go?"
Prime pinched his thumb and forefinger on his nasal ridge. "Not well."
The Autobot leader sighed. "Fifteen. We almost lost Perceptor, but Sky Lynx arrived in the nick of time."
Magnus shook his head in disgust. "Fifteen… what are they thinking?"
"I don't know. I think there's more significance to Vos than meets the optic."
Optimus cocked his head slightly. "And you? How are the preparations in Polyhex going?" He paused. "Is Elita with you?"
"Is she all right?"
Magnus smiled. "Calm down, Prime. She's fine. But I'm not at Polyhex. I'm at Iacon."
"Iacon? What're you doing there?"
"The same reason the Council wants you here."
"I'm not…" Magnus jaw mechanism moved from side to side, showing his distaste for the situation. "…authorised to tell you that. You'll have to find out for yourself when you arrive."
"But… I can't leave now. We barely survived the battle at Vos."
"I know, Prime, but… there's not much we can do about it right now." He paused. "I'm sorry."
Optimus rubbed his forehead. "It's… it's all right. Tell them I'll be there as soon as I've recharged."
"They were very insistent it be now, Optimus."
"Then they'll have to wait, won't they?"
Ultra Magnus grinned and saluted. "Aye, sir."
"I'll see you when I get there."
Optimus terminated the connection and leant back in his chair.
They'd already sent him on a death mission. What on Cybertron did they want with him now?
As Shockwave passed the Decepticons in the corridor, he couldn't help but note the looks of smug satisfaction on their faces. Obviously they knew something about Megatron's mood that he didn't.
"Hey, Shockwave; if you don't come out, can I have your quarters?" Skywarp asked, prompting a low snicker from Thundercracker.
The purple Decepticon chose to ignore them. There would be little logic in responding to such jibes. Without hesitation, he walked into the command center.
And promptly ducked as a chair sailed through the air towards him. As Shockwave got to his feet, he heard Megatron's voice bellowing forth, obviously (and thankfully) directed at someone else.
"What do you mean, they were ready for us?"
"I mean they were ready for us!" Astrotrain exclaimed. Shockwave slowly entered the room, and noticed Soundwave stood behind Megatron. The communications officer offered him a nod of acknowledgement and nothing more.
"What are your orders, Megatron?"
Megatron folded his arms, his anger under control for the moment. "Stop your advance, but hold the line. We will not lose any more ground to the Autobots. Not when we're so close."
"As you command."
"And I will be joining you personally. Ultra Magnus has spat in my optic for the last time."
Astrotrain paused, and then simply nodded. "Astrotrain, out."
The Decepticon leader silently fumed for a moment, and seemed as though he were about to say something to Soundwave when he spotted Shockwave stood behind him.
"Ah, Shockwave. How went the battle at Vos?"
"Very well, Megatron," Shockwave replied, his voice in ever even tones as he spoke, handing over the datapad that contained his report. "By our count, sixteen Autobots down."
"Excellent," Megatron sneered, his mood improving. "Was one of these casualties Optimus Prime?"
"I am afraid not."
The Decepticon leader shrugged. "Ah, well. Perhaps next time, eh?" he said, smirking as he put a hand on Shockwave's shoulder.
The smile faded from Megatron's face. Shockwave often had that effect on him. He never seemed to enjoy anything. The only emotion he ever displayed openly was one of distaste if someone's actions weren't logical. If Megatron had been of a less controlled disposition, he would most likely have blasted Shockwave's head off eons ago.
"Very good, Shockwave. Begin the excavation project as soon as possible."
"…Megatron, if I may speak freely."
The Decepticon leader paused for a moment. "… Go on."
"There is little logic in excavating the ruins of Vos. It would be far more logical to repair our forces and move onto the next target."
Megatron smiled and shook his head. "I have my reasons, Shockwave. Now go."
The purple Decepticon seemed ready to say more, but seemingly decided against it. "Yes, Megatron."
And with that, the Decepticon turned and left the command center. The doors slid shut behind him, and Megatron turned to Soundwave.
"A good soldier, but I wish he would take some joy in his work."
A small smile crossed Soundwave's face beneath his faceplate.
"Any word from Laserbeak or Buzzsaw?"
Soundwave nodded. "Optimus Prime has been called to Iacon for a meeting with the Autobot Council of Elders."
Megatron grinned. "The old fools… do we know why?"
He waved a dismissive hand. "No matter. The important thing is that his departure leaves Uraya most vulnerable to attack. While I am at Polyhex, begin drawing up plans for an attack."
Soundwave nodded. "As you command, Megatron."
"Tell Starscream he is in command until I return. This should be quite the experience for him; so far he's only used to commanding the Seekers."
"He may not be up to the task."
Megatron smirked. "We shall see, won't we? Now," he said, clapping a heavy hand on Soundwave's shoulder, "let us enjoy some Energon before I leave for battle!"
Optimus transformed into robot mode and stretched uncomfortably as he reached the entrance to the Council chambers. He must have recharged in an awkward position; his gears were aching something fierce.
He nodded to various Autobots he barely knew as he entered the foyer area, and to some he didn't know at all. But then, finally, a familiar red, white and blue Autobot appeared from the chamber doors.
"Prime!" he said, smiling as he spotted Optimus. It had been a while since the two had seen each other in the metal, and it was a pleasant experience for both concerned.
"Magnus," Prime said, gratefully shaking hands with the City Commander. "They seem to have changed things since I was here last."
Magnus smirked. "More than you know."
Optimus cocked an optic ridge. "Do I find out what this is all about now?"
He nodded. "Of course, but first, you need to meet an old friend who'll be helping you in this endeavour," he said, smiling as he gestured behind him.
"Old friend…?" Optimus asked, incredulity creasing his features. His optics widened as a stocky red Autobot stepped through the doorway, a wry smirk on his face.
"Ironhide!" the Autobot leader exclaimed, surprised at the volume of his own voice in the huge chamber.
"How ya doin', Prime?"
"How am I doing? How are you doing? Things at the Dead End not working out for you?"
The old 'Bot waved a dismissive hand. "Aw, hell no. They were too nice to me. You know ah need to get the circuit boards knocked out of me every now and again!"
"All too well, old friend," Prime replied, grinning widely beneath his faceplate. "So, do you know what this is all about?"
"Yup. But the old fellas'll probably get mad at me if ah tell ya, so… after you," he said, grandly gesturing to the open doors leading into the Autobot Council chambers.
Optimus paused for a moment before cautiously going inside. He had never liked going into the Autobot Council chambers, ever since he had accidentally wandered in there as Orion Pax. Of course, the second time he had gone in there had been even worse. Alpha Trion, who was considered something of a loose cannon by the Council, had presented him to them as Optimus Prime, the saviour of the Autobots.
Needless to say, Optimus hadn't been too fond of the title. And neither had the Council. Not wanting 'war-mongerers' (as they had put it) in command of all Autobots, the Council had denied Trion's request to give all control of the Autobot forces to Prime. Although it wasn't his place to think in such a way, Optimus often wondered if things would have ended up worse of better if he had been given command.
The chamber was huge, even by Transformer standards. The roof was domed and transparent (one way, of course, to protect against prying optics), allowing a view out to the stars. There was a large podium where the seven Autobot Elders sat in a semi circle, which was naturally raised above the subject of their attention.
Optimus hated it. But it was a 'necessary evil', or so Elita had said. Optimus wasn't so sure.
He and Ironhide made their way to the center where a spotlight was focused on them. Ultra Magnus stood just off to the side, obviously not involved in this request as much as Ironhide was to be.
"Optimus Prime," a voice boomed, and the Autobot leader nearly jumped.
He hadn't even seen or heard the elders come in.
"What's this about?" Prime asked, not particularly impressed or intimidated by theatrics. "I have wounded Autobots back at Uraya-"
"Silence! You have been brought here at the Autobot Council's request. You do not have the authority to speak to us in such a manner."
Optimus bit back his response.
"Now, the matter at hand. You may or may not be aware of the dire straits our Energon supply has been placed under by the war."
"I am aware."
"Unfortunately, the situation is far worse than even you know."
Prime frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Within the next five astro cycles, all of our Energon will be gone. Both ours, and the Decepticons."
Optimus was silent, waiting for them to continue.
"We initially discussed negotiating with the Decepticons, but we were… dissuaded from that option."
Prime smiled. Ultra Magnus probably threatened to blow up the building when he found out.
"And so… we are left with no other option but to send a team of Autobots into space to find another source of Energon."
The Autobot leader remained silent.
"We want you to lead the mission."
Optimus had to fight to stop his jaw component dropping. "Me? Why?"
"Because you are the best suited for such a mission."
"No, I'm not. I was rebuilt by Alpha Trion to fight. That's what I was designed for, and that's what I'm best at. I'm not an explorer."
"I would think, Optimus Prime," an old, raspy voice said from the darkness, "that the one who created you would have some say in what you are best at."
Optimus looked over to his left and made out the figure of Alpha Trion.
"While you may have the body and capabilities of a warrior, you have the spark of an explorer, a scholar… that is why you were chosen by the Matrix, and that is why you were chosen for this mission."
One of the Council members made a displeased noise. "While we cannot speak for… the Matrix… we do concur with Alpha Trion's reasoning. You are best suited for this mission."
Optimus gestured to Magnus. "But surely someone like Ultra Magnus, or-"
"Enough! You have both been chosen for this mission," one member said, referring to both Prime and Ironhide. "Choose whoever you wish to accompany you, but do not refute that you are going to lead this mission."
The leader of the Autobots sighed. "You do realise that the amount of Energon needed to power such a ship would leave Cybertron with little to no power."
"It appears, Optimus Prime," Alpha Trion interrupted gently, now beside him, "that we have little choice."
Prime shook his head, his hands on his hips.
They were right.
As much as he hated them for it, they were right.
"It's ridiculous. I should be out fighting at Polyhex, not sitting around at some bar discussing options for a spaceship crew."
Ironhide smiled, saying nothing.
Prime took a sip of Energon through his faceplate, a miracle of physics that had always fascinated Ironhide, but he had never enquired about. But now definitely wasn't the time.
"'Best suited for the mission…'" Prime snorted derisively. "That's not even the real reason they're sending me away. It's because of Alpha Trion's 'saviour of Cybertron' nonsense. If he had been quiet, the Council probably wouldn't have taken such an instant dislike to me, and we wouldn't even be in this predicament."
Ironhide shook his head. "Well, no use complainin' about stuff you can't change."
The Autobot leader smiled and shook his head. "You're right. You're right, I'm sorry."
"Ah, no problem. If you can't vent to your oldest buddy, who can you vent to?"
"True enough." Optimus took an absent minded look around the bar. A small yellow Minibot was frantically running around delivering drinks, and doing a pretty efficient job of it, too, considering his size. Prime turned back to Ironhide, who was scrolling through a datapad in front of him. "What's that?" he enquired, nodding at the 'pad.
"List a' names. Ah figured since we're lookin' for crew members, we'll be needin' a list a' some kind. Speakin' o' which… you got anybody in mind?"
"Trailbreaker, definitely. And Perceptor's already volunteered as engineer."
Optimus nodded. "Yes. Apparently, an old friend of his from the Cybertronian Science Institute was lost on an exploration mission."
"Hopin' for a reunion, huh?"
"Well, here's hoping," the leader replied, toasting with his Energon container.
"Right. That's three spots filled. Anyone else?"
Prime smiled and shook his head at the not so subtle hint. "We'll need a security officer… I wonder," he said, tapping his chin exaggeratedly. "Elita?"
"Oh, haw, haw. All right, four spaces filled. What else?"
"That's all. The rest are blanks."
"Okay. Well, first up is the second in command."
Optimus thought for a moment. "I can't think of anyone."
"No. I want him where he is."
After a pause, Optimus shook his head. "We'll have to come back to it."
Ironhide nodded, and scrolled down the list. He looked back up at Optimus. "Medical Officer?"
"Hmm… we could take First Aid, but he hasn't had much experience… an exploration mission might be too much, too soon." He looked up at Ironhide. "Do you have any ideas?"
He grinned instantaneously. "Ah know just the mech."
(A/N: Guess who he's talking about. Go on, guess.
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