Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers.
Chapter Eight: More than Meets the Eye
Optimus looked straight at Ironhide with half closed optics across his desk. "And you thought it would be a good idea to bring them along?"
"After one of them – and these are your words – threw you across the room?"
"They're good Prime, y'can't deny that."
The Autobot leader sighed and shook his head. "I suppose not. They did dispose themselves well at Uraya."
Ironhide's smile faded. "How did the evac go?"
"As well as can be expected while we're under fire." He was silent for a moment. The battle at Uraya had gone better than usual for the Autobots. They had managed to hold their own against the Decepticons, but at the price of the city. In the end, neither side left that battle the victor. "Smokescreen tells me morale couldn't be lower."
His companion shrugged. "Yeah, well… maybe once we find some Energon and bring it home."
"Perhaps." He sighed again. "And I've still yet to find a first officer for this mission."
"Who's in charge for the moment?"
"Jazz has all the security clearance for the Ark for now. If I don't find anyone else… he's it."
Ironhide nodded. "Not a bad choice."
"But not an ideal one, least of all for Jazz. Perhaps I should ask Ultra Magnus. See if he has any suggestions."
"You think he's got anyone he's willin' to give up?"
"'Give up' is a bit harsh, isn't it?"
"Ah guess. Sorry."
The door to Optimus' office chimed.
It opened, and Ultra Magnus stepped through.
"Here's the report from the evac," he said, handing over a datapad to Prime.
"Thank you." Optimus was about to put it aside for later, and smiled. He handed it back to Magnus. "Time to break old habits, my friend."
Somewhat reluctantly, the City Commander took back the datapad and tucked it into subspace.
Ironhide swivelled in his chair to face Ultra Magnus. "Say, Magnus. You wouldn't happen to know of anyone who could serve as first officer on a search mission, would you?"
After barely a moment's thought, Ultra Magnus smiled. "I have just the Autobot."
Prowl was somewhat overwhelmed by the truckload of information he was receiving from all directions.
And he was having the time of his life organising it all. This was just what the doctor ordered. A dozen Autobots all needing direction and purpose in their tasks, and Prowl being the perfect mech to do it.
He was walking alongside Optimus and Trailbreaker down a walkway as they discussed the whereabouts of Jazz, Wheeljack and Bumblebee. The latter two had returned from their Energon scouting mission after a brief run in with the Decepticons. Bumblebee was a little scorched, but none the worse for wear.
Jazz was on his way now.
Prowl was quite confused when it came to the black and white mech. Jazz seemed to almost take joy in pointless endeavours where there were far more logical and efficient methods at his disposal.
Why would one want to waste time and energy in such a way?
A section of the walkway was missing in front of them, but it was quickly replaced as Jazz arrived on a rising platform in his vehicle mode. He transformed and made his way over.
"Any luck, Jazz?" Optimus asked tiredly.
He already knew the answer.
"Negative. No sign, and Cybertron's blacker than the inside of a drive shaft."
Prowl frowned. A drive what?
Optimus sighed. "Unless a new supply of energy is found, no-one is going to win this war."
"When do we start the search mission?" Prowl asked, putting aside his analysis of Jazz's gibberish for later.
"As soon as you're ready to launch."
Optimus and his entire entourage turned to see Bluestreak, escorted by Springer.
"I, uh… would like to come with you."
With a warm smile, Optimus came forward and put a hand on the black and grey Autobot's shoulder.
"I'm glad, Bluestreak." He turned to Trailbreaker. "Trailbreaker, if you wouldn't mind briefing Bluestreak?"
"It'd be my pleasure, Prime. C'mon, Bluestreak, let me show you the recreation center in the Ark."
Nobody noticed Soundwave's newest 'child', Laserbeak, watching and listening to the entire exchange.
"If there's a new source of energy to be found, the Decepticons must find it first."
Megatron had only just heard of this Autobot mission after returning from the battle. Apparently, this information had been available to Starscream as well. He simply ignored it.
However, Megatron had calmed down since the battle. At least, as calm as Megatron could be when someone had betrayed him. His somewhat more docile mood may have had something to do with what Shockwave's excavation team had found at Vos.
The Heart of Cybertron, an ancient relic of incredible power that would, legend had it, allow it's user to destroy anyone or anything that opposed him or her.
And Megatron wanted to take it with him to pursue the Autobots on a search mission. Foolishness. Shockwave removed the thought from his mind and focused on the job at hand. There was no logic in dwelling on such emotional matters when he was examining the remains of Uraya for any Autobots.
The door to the command room opened, and Soundwave stepped through.
"Autobots are set to launch, Megatron."
Megatron smirked. "As are we. Shockwave!"
The ever-logical Decepticon transformed and looked down at Megatron from where he was perched above him. "What is your command, Megatron?"
"You are to stay behind. I entrust Cybertron to you, Shockwave."
Without hesitation, Shockwave saluted. "Fear not, Megatron. Cybertron shall remain as you leave it."
"Excellent." Megatron turned back around, seemingly talking to himself. "Now it is only a matter of time before Optimus Prime admits defeat."
Shockwave and Soundwave exchanged an almost imperceptible glance. Megatron never used to talk to himself.
Starscream didn't seem to notice. "The Decepticons would've won eons ago if I'd been calling the shots."
Shockwave prepared himself for the inevitable explosion. Only, it didn't come.
"Starscream," Megatron replied calmly, "only a select few ever lead."
"My time will come, Megatron," the air commander practically spat, staring Megatron in the optic.
"Never…" Megatron clenched his fist and shook his head. "Never!" Starscream turned away, seemingly disgusted by the display.
Megatron turned to Soundwave.
"Prepare to blast off!"
Optimus put his thumb on the last datapad, and handed it over to Ultra Magnus.
"That's the last of the command codes."
The pad hung between them.
As soon as Magnus took it, it would mean that Optimus would turn around, get on that ship, and disappear for what could be forever.
As soon as Magnus took it, he would be put in charge of the Autobots. He would be responsible for all of them.
"You'll do fine."
His head snapped up to look at Optimus, though he wasn't particularly surprised. Prime could read practically anyone like a datapad.
"I hope so."
Jazz smiled. "Just not too good, eh? Prime wants to feel needed when he gets back."
"No worries there." His small smile faded. "Does Prowl have all the command codes for the Ark?"
Optimus shook his head. "We simply haven't had the time. When we get underway, we'll get to it. But for now…"
"I'm in charge," Jazz said, smirking. "Uh, present company excepted, of course."
A heavy silence hung between them.
"I'm sure you'll all do great," Magnus said.
Optimus looked his comrade in the optic. "Goodbye, old friend."
Ultra Magnus smiled and nodded. He took the datapad.
And Optimus Prime turned and left for the Ark, the last, best hope for Autobots and Decepticons alike.
He scowled. Where in the name of Cybertron was Elita?
Optimus walked through the corridors of the Ark, Ironhide and Trailbreaker flanking him.
Wheeljack was busy at work in the engine room, all offers of assistance refused rather adamantly (and sometimes violently, in the case of the twins) until he had been left alone to his own devices.
The Minibots were at their stations on the bridge, Gears and Huffer bickering about the hopelessness of the situation while the others could only sit beside them and hope they would shut up.
Ratchet was shooting glares at both Sunstreaker and Sideswipe across the command center. The twins had ended up being his first two patients on board the Ark. Three times in a row in so many astroseconds.
Optimus wondered how that was even physically possible.
Prowl came up to him with every query and worry imaginable, and every time Prime had the same answer:
"Wait until we're off the ground."
The master tactician hadn't been happy with that response. Optimus could tell this was going to be a trying mission.
Ironhide looked over at Prime.
"Been quite a ride, hasn't it?"
Optimus nodded. "Somehow, I think the greater ride is to come." He smiled and looked over at Ironhide. "Stations."
His two companions took their seats and logged in.
Optimus sat next to Jazz and logged on to the computer Wheeljack had built from scratch.
It was named Teletran.
Optimus hoped he wouldn't have to get used to the name.
Something beeped on Jazz's console, and he looked over at Optimus, excitement lighting his optics.
"All systems go!"
Optimus reached up and pushed the button in front of him. The button that would decide the fate of not only the Autobots, but Cybertron itself.
He only wished he could have said goodbye to Elita before he left.
(A/N: That's all, folks! I can't begin to tell you how much I've enjoyed writing this story and seeing your reaction to it.
Before I start thanking everyone, I'd just like to say that I know about the flashback in 'The Search for Alpha Trion', and I didn't particularly care for how Elita was portrayed in it. It certainly didn't gel with the character as I've written her in this story, so I left it out. And it adds a certain tragedy to the story (on top of the whole 'leaving their planet perhaps forever' thing).
That said, on to the thank you's!
Rose – Thanks for the ever important first review!
Fire Lady a.k.a. Ruby Autobot – Glad to see you enjoyed the guessing game I was playing (although I admit, it wasn't exactly hard to figure out).
Syntia13 – It's thanks to you that I even thought of the twins' bar brawl, so thanks for that (one of my favourite scenes to write, it was!).
Hhgbh – Many, many, many, many, many, MANY cookies for you for beta-ing. There's not much higher praise than a whole bunch of cookies, now is there? Thanks for your help.
Morncreek – "grin I love this story." This review made my day. Thanks!
Thatredcar – I hope you enjoyed the rest of the story, and thanks for reviewing!
MariaShadow – Thanks for letting my use you Jazz character traits – I honestly don't know what direction I would have gone with him without them. Also, thanks to you I learnt such valuable terms as 'optic ridge'.
Ultra Rodimus – I've still yet to take you up on your offer of a veritable encyclopaedia of Transformers facts, but I will someday, I swear! Also, your character's habit of butting into your reviews is… disturbing. Better have that checked. ;)
Blazer-6 – Thanks for your reviews; always nice to have a regular.
Mabel-Zen – I'm glad to have given you an 'education' (as it were) in the wider G1 universe. It was a lot of fun to mash together the various characters, I have to admit (Kup has always been one of my favourites).
Fk306animelover – Thanks for your reviews!
Crystal Shekeira – Considering your fondness for the character, I'm glad you enjoyed my take on Mirage, although I have to admit I found it rather difficult. Maybe it's because he's so cagey on the show, but I just find it hard to get a bead on his motivations. Thanks for your reviews. Coming from as great a writer as yourself, it's very much appreciated.
Lady Razorsharp – I'm glad to see you enjoyed my various takes on the characters (even the more difficult ones like Optimus). Thanks for the reviews!
Soundwave's idol – Hope you enjoyed the rest of the story.
AngelMouse5 – All that CFS stuff was certainly a lifesaver. Thanks for reviewing.
Lnzy1 – Glad you enjoyed it!
PuraJazzBot - I really appreciate how you went through each chapter and reviewed them individually. It was a nice gesture.
Mithwen – It's always cool to have a nostalgic fan come back to the fold (wow, I'm really making Transformer fandom sound like a cult. It isn't, seriously. Nope. Not at all. Not a single bit ;)). Thanks for your reviews!
Well, the fat lady's a-singin', folks. Hope you enjoyed the story. And Happy New Year!)