The call came through just as Orion was cycling into shallow-charging. He woke fully to see Paraselene, blue in the strip light, propping on his auxiliary weapons. The blades of his body gleamed sharp. Orion felt a wash of anxious desire, damped it down for its inappropriateness.
Outside the room was a riotous clatter and bang. The Decepticons were mustering for battle.
"Battle call. Iacon's challenging Vos. They're attacking the main Redoubt."
"Vos? That's on the other side of Cybertron."
Paraselene nodded. "They need our help. The Autobots are retaliating offensively, If we lose Vos, we lose our main energon supply." Paraselene ratcheted in his cannons, tight, with the fluid air of someone who had done this action many, many times. "It's also Skyfire's home. He knows that city better than anyone."
"I'll come with you," said Orion impulsively.
Paraselene touched Orion's shoulder, shook his head. "You'd be recognized instantly. Stay here. Look after Ariel."
He wanted to argue more, but there was little more he could say that he didn't already know the answer to. He had never fought a day in his remembered life, and the Autobots still hunted him.
An awful upwell of fear, then. "Be careful."
"You know I will be."
Orion left the shelter to the chaos of formations. Individuals that had previously hunched like broken automatons now unfolded themselves into the brilliant mechanica of war. Laser sights dashed through the swirling dust. Skyfire's great hand took Paraselene's shoulder in a gesture of fealty, and more. They nodded to each other, two comrades in arms. Apprehensively, Orion watched as the gathered militia blazed through a hole in the chemical plant roof, a hundred rockets squalling crimson fire, leaving the walls to resonate for minutes after they left.
Orion stood in the dust, just as alone as he had been in the garret.
"Left you behind? Hey? Hmm?"
The voice came from the lantern. Not all of the mechs had gone. A dark, damaged little thing with blue 'plates hunched in gargoyle watchfulness over the light. He spread his ragged wings to scrounge photons, scavenge energy.
"I'm still being hunted by the Autobots," said Orion with as much pride as he could muster. "I'd be identified."
"You're useless then. Useless mech eatin' our energon and cannot fight."
"I don't see you going off to fight."
The ragged mech cackled. His Decepticon accent was strong. Born member of their race, maybe, and judging by his size, a gestalt separated from his clan. "They don't feed me."
He didn't want to stay around the hateful, knowing eyes of the little Decepticon, and escaped onto the roof to see if he could track the battle-groups progress. Once he looked out over the bleak city, he knew he would see nothing. Vos lay over Cybertron's horizon. Any munitions evidence would be smothered by the Penumbra dawn.
Restless, Orion moped about on the factory floor for a time after that. He fed Ariel twice, more than he needed to, felt twinges of guilt for the mech that starved at the lantern. He counted all the doors in and out. His hands gripped each other. He had never held a weapon, but his body itched to fight. He knew instinctively that he was a fighter, somehow, somewhere in his design. There was no reason that he should have such universality in him, when workermechs were built to do one thing well, and one only.
Was that why they needed him, the Autobots? Needed him as part of their war?
But, he pondered again, he was not a trained fighter. Many years of training made even an ordinary mech something special. Only the God Soldiers had been born knowing.
"Do you know," he asked Ariel. "You can manipulate subspace in your body, birth protoforms. You'd have some Oracle gifts. Do you know why they wanted me?"
Ariel only tilted her head and warbled for more food.
He'd fallen into recharge before they came back. He'd never heard such sounds. Wild shouts and hollers and ululations of victory. Songs he'd never heard before, in frequencies that made him tremble with uneasy breathlessness, He smelt massblood, raw energon. The Decepticons stunk of battle and death.
Carefully, he emerged to exultant chaos. A stream of molten metal poured from one of the vats like a triumph fountain. Mechbodies melted in the stinking river.
A pile of spark cases were festooned around a pole in a gruesome totem to a terrible god. They were power-fed, and glowed with ersatz life. The Decepticons roared and swayed around their depraved idol, drank white energon until they stumbled sideways with drunkenness. A riotous chant made the walls vibrate - a ghastly Decepticon song of victory and war.
In the amputated sparks' pulsing, strobing light, two Decepticons executed a curious dance, of hands and lips and torsos close together. A pale crimson illumination. Protomass unfolding in fractal whorls from one's open armor. The other lifted himself up, legs about his partner's hip-spurs, took the weight inside his body in an abomination of fundamental physical laws. Others were doing the same, driven on by mass-lust and energon.
Gasping with shock Orion retreated to the shelter, made the sign of Primus over his spark, offered a quick prayer that the sparks should be returned to the All Spark and the Creation Matrix.
Are you crazy Orion? Prime is dead. You pray to nothing.
He was dead, and the Matrix was dead, and the pathway to the All Spark had been cut, like a tether-cord on a life-raft. His orienting faith was destroyed. He had to find Paraselene. Had to find the one thing that mattered in this morass of unknown.
He crawled from the shelter, and kept to a messenger-run away from the festivities. He didn't want to walk through the plant, not while his optics glowed so Autobot blue.
As he approached the main processing vats, he heard a Decepticon voce shouting curses. The ragged 'con of the lantern, energon drunk, slapped and punched a wire-bound prisoner. A reflected strobe illuminated an Autobot logo for a second before sliding away to find other atrocities.
"Not so strong now are you, mighty Autobot," screeched the ragged mech in the grunted threat of Beast-tongue. "Try and kill me now, great general!"
Another Decepticon appeared. A handsome full-caste member of the Insect Tribe, his superconducting horns in full display, crackling voltage. Energon gels were piled in his arms.
"Come away from there, Ratbat," the horned Decepticon scolded. "Paraselene said we don't touch the hostage."
"Enough, you know these pure mechs will find any reason to scorn us."
Orion hid until they had gone. He meant only to pass the prisoner, but could not help but pause, concern sparkling though him. An elegant, black-and-white individual with the red chevron of a high-level Overseer. The color nanites on his exoskeleton were graying with hunger.
Orion saw a gel on the ground, dropped from Shrapnel's hoarde. He picked it up, pushed it between the dying 'bot's lips. Meant to say a few words in prayer maybe, although Primus would be deaf to them without the Matrix.
The prisoner gasped.
Orion jumped back, startled. "You're alive!"
A curse in high Autobot, then recognition. "Primus, it's you!"
"You know me?"
The prisoner's optics flared. Mad from deprivation and knife-edge pain, he looked like a Dead-End prophet in the middle of his oration. "You're Orion Pax," he announced. "The last Optimech alive."
"Yes." He sat back on his haunches. "I hear you've been looking for me."
Angry optics, but calculating too. Orion knew better than to try and play games with an Overseer. Deceit and wordplay was not in Orion's nature. He could only be honest.
"I know you have. Tell me your name. I want to know who hunts me."
"The prisoner exhaled, weary from saying his name, but still with strength to face upcoming torture. "My name is Prowl of Iacon," he snarled. "I am Logistical Support to the Prime."
"The Prime is dead."
"Oh, and who told you this? The traitor Paraselene?" A defiant look. "Oh no, Sentinel Prime is alive and well, and you will never find him."
There is a Prime? A living Prime?"
Prowl's optics narrowed.
"Strange emotion from a Decepticon. Your kind don't believe in the Prime, traitor."
"I'm no traitor," said Orion. "I go where I have to, to stay alive."
"You know why we search for you? Did Paraselene even tell you that?"
"He said you want to kill me."
"Did he now?"
Orion glared at Prowl. But he'd always had such an expressive face. And the Autobot general read him like a data chip.
"Saw fit to bring you here did he? Promise safety? Or are you just hostage material like me, held until you can be exchanged for weapons or energon?"
Prowl had touched a nerve and it hurt. "You don't know anything."
"I know Paraselene. I've known him all my life. You think you rub sparks with him for a couple of nights you know him? He'll feed you just enough images to keep you placid and in control. The holy God Soldiers of Primon don't love anything. They're loyal to only themselves. Since the last of them went into making Megatron, where does that leave him? Where does it leave you?"
Orion jerked back. Did it, unless he do something truly reprehensible, like hit Prowl.
"You don't know anything," he said, again, and it came out like the high rev of an engine before stalling.
They were interrupted by a small bang on the plant floor. One of the amputated sparks cracking, or some leftover ammunition getting too close to the molten fountain. Orion took it as his turn to leave. He wouldn't listen to what this Prowl of Iacon had to say. His psychological manipulations wouldn't touch him. He had seen Paraselene's face on overload, the gratitude and love there. Prowl didn't know what he was talking about.
In his wandering of the plant, he'd found what substituted for a small base of operations. An irregular space wallpapered in maps and schematics, a private office. If Paraselene was not out on the work floor, indulging in the Decepticon madness, then he was certain to be there, doing what a real leader should.
Orion's instincts were correct. The office was occupied. He heard voices, this time in the pure Decepticon dialect that he could not translate. The fountain's orange light played across the rusted wall, the exposed ribs of the factory. Paraselene's slender, bladed body, and Skyfire, quadruple winged and hulking.
Orion saw what the shadows were doing even before he saw the mechs themselves. Thrown up against the wall, two mechs rocking in a rhythm as old as Cybertron itself.
Paraselene straddled Skyfire, neck straining, his exoskeleton catching all the colors of the molten fountain. Skyfire's huge hands on the dark mech's hips, back arching up into his pelvis, the silver-flash of exposed massflesh. Orion clung to a support girder as if he'd been caught in a gravity storm. His audios whined in shrill panic.
Skyfire laid Paraselene down upon the floor with an infinite tenderness, then drove his massive body in between Paraselene's legs with sharp gasps. Paraselene did not fight him, only stroked the contorted face and murmured encouraging words in Decepticon.
Some important and fundamental part of Orion broke away. His own mass ached at the base of him. His lower abdomen hurt. His thighs ached. His amour loosened up like rattling chains. Skyfire overloaded with a shout, and the pair of them lay together in the silver spill, breathing hard.
Orion turned around, and walked away.
He walked through the Decepticon celebration without caring that his blue eyes shone like a awful badge of difference. Even when the most energon-smeared of them glared and cursed, not one would approach this big mech who radiated such a twisted hurt.
Prowl was still tied up where Orion had left him. No Decepticon had come to interfere with him, or send him to the molten fountain. The Autobot winced when he saw Orion, seeing the terrible emotion there. Thought perhaps, that Orion was going to kill something, and it was going to be him.
Orion took the binding wires in his hands and shredded them apart. Released, Prowl stared at him, frightened by such a display of strength.
"That's construction cable..."
"Get out," grated Orion. "Get out of here."
Prowl gave him an odd look. "You know, when they suggested an Optimech for...well, when they suggested it, I thought I'd never heard such a broken idea. But I won't forget this, Pax."
"I'm not your friend."
Orion left Prowl standing in the serpentine mess of cable, and he returned to Paraselene's room, waited for him to come.
"Orion, it was glorious, we won such a victory." Paraselene stumbled in, energon-drunk, carrying gels. "We took their main energon cache, we broke the Vos stranglehold and the munitions factory is ours."
He opened his chest, stroked his spark. "Quick, lie down Orion, I want to share this!"
Orion did not lie down. He did not respond to Paraselene's touches. Paraselene stilled.
"What's wrong, Orion?"
"I saw you with Skyfire."
A frown, and then, "I had to debrief my soldiers. I couldn't go to you straight away. I wanted to."
Orion turned on him, hurt boiling through him. "I saw you mass sharing! With him!" Orion could not gasp any more words. They wouldn't come.
Paraselene frowned, not understanding. "But it's what Decepticons do. It's not sparksharing. It's just a...thing they do."
"You've been with him before?"
"Of course I have! Skyfire wanted to mass share, and I let him. It's just one of their social interactions. Not like I feel with you." He took Orion's limp hand, pressed it to his spark.
Orion snatched his hand away, was on his feet, didn't want Paraselene touching him, but did, yearned for it, and it was horrible, horrible. His spark ached. His pelvis ached. He swung between murderous rage and a crushing, helpless despair.
And slowly, Paraselene verbalized what Orion could not. "You're jealous? You want that? You want me to do that to you?"
Orion covered his optics with despair. "You did that with Prime," he whispered. "You shared mass with him, you said it was sacred, and yet you come here and do it like it's nothing."
"You don't want it," Paraselene's voice dropped, static with warning. "You're an Autobot. Your race isn't designed to deal with mass sharing." He pointed at Ariel. "You think that she could deal with it? Having her life sucked out of her each time she produced a protoform, again and again until she was a shell with nothing original inside?"
"You're an Autobot, Paraselene."
"I am a Cybertronian!"
"Oh, I forget. A God Soldier."
Paraselene shut his plates, angry. "I don't understand why you're like this about mass sharing, of all the stupid things. It's such a minor interaction. I've had to endure it as a mark of my shame, every day."
Paraselene wasn't finished. "Now I'm here where mass sharing is as natural as breathing, and you're making me feel rotten again. You're bringing that shame to me again! I was respected once, a soldier, a warrior, and the Autobots took that from me!"
Paraselene swept out, kicked a dent in the wall as he passed. Orion sat on the berth, devastated, as if his spark had been kicked out of him.
"Ariel, I've fed you enough!"
Ariel murmured again.
Orion stuffed some gels into her mouth and lay back on the berth.
In time he heard shouts and yells, this time accusing. They'd found Prowl's bonds broken, were certain he couldn't have done it himself. Heard the name Megatron and a scrap of insect Dialect, he won't like it if he finds out.
The arguing went on for a while. Like any tired, hung-over mechs having a disagreement, there wasn't a lot of sense or patience among them.
In the close dark, someone entered the room. Softly, so as not to disturb the berth, they lay next to him. It was Paraselene, weaponless, polished to gleaming black chrome. Orion didn't move. They lay together like two corpses laid out on a funeral slab.
"Our prisoner escaped."
Orion said nothing.
"Or should I say, their prisoner. I didn't want him here. Better if he was killed, I said, but Megatron wanted to interrogate him personally."
"It was me." Orion said stubbornly, the betrayal still like acid in him.
"Yes. I know."
"You told me the Prime was dead."
"What about Sentinel Prime?"
Expected Paraselene to look at him with the same shock he felt. But Paraselene was not shocked. He only let out a "Ha."
"You going to tell them what I did?"
"There's no need to protect me. You belong here. I don't belong anywhere."
Paraselene heaved a sigh, began to speak. "When the Oracle said I was going to produce the next Prime, I refused. I tried to run, but they found me. They knew it was going to be difficult. I'm no Arielmech. It would take more than one incidence of mass sharing to ignite the new spark."
Orion looked up into the darkness, jaw clenched stubbornly, as Paraselene continued.
"I fought, at first. I fought. Longer and more brutally than I ever have in a gladiator pit, or in battle. They tried reason, and I refused. They beat me, and I still said no. In the end...I was a fool of course, I didn't know the importance of my duty, how the Creation Matrix is worth more than any one individual. The priests were brave. They did what had to be done, to overcome my initial objection."
Paraselene spoke entirely without sarcasm. "They tied me to the sapphire berth, had my pelvic amour removed so that I was permanently open, so that the Prime's holy mass could enter me without resistance. Perhaps he loved me best, then. In time I learnt that submission has its positives."
Orion turned to Paraselene, not wanting to process what he told him, the horror of it. "Like you submitted to Skyfire?"
"He has been a good friend to me. I don't mind it so with him."
Orion steamed. Paraselene brushed his hand against Orion's own.
"I don't want to feel with you what I felt with Nova, with all the others."
"And what is it you felt?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all."
Despair in those words, an ancient longing. Orion reached out in the darkness. Paraselene, tormented beyond repair. Paraselene clutching him close. "I could not bear losing you."
Orion could barely respond in kind. Such emotions were too much for him. "I will open my armor for you," he said quietly. "I want to do that."
"I love you. More than this whole stinking wreck of a planet."
They were disturbed then, a rustle of old iron filings beneath a heavy foot. A large mech knelt in the shadows, a roll of cellulose map in his hands. He had watched Orion and Paraselene for a minute maybe, because fretful hands had twisted the clear plastic in apprehension.
"Sky..." started Paraselene.
Skyfire looked at them both. His great head hung, as in defeat. "I brought the schematics you wanted," he said in a small, vulnerable voice. He lay down the ruined maps at the doorway, tried to pat the creases out. "I'll...I'll have your guns cleaned in a cycle."
He was gone then, and his hurt echoed in Orion. How was it that he had such sensitivity to others? He was wounded by everything.
"He'll get over it," said Paraselene, perhaps cruelly.
This was the mech that had killed his race after all, thought Orion. He was just a Decepticon. Just another big 'bot with nowhere to go.
If there was anything else to say it was not said, as the plant began to rattle and shake. A voice shrilled out, Megatron, Megatron is coming
A shadow of fear crossed Paraselene's face. "I have to greet him."
On Paraselene's leaving Ariel chirped, a sing-song of consonants. Her smoked out eyes rolled in her head.
"I said, no, Ariel!" snapped Orion, before he gathered her in her arms and said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Just stay quiet."
He lifted her up, pressed her to his chest. If there had been any mass to her, it had gone. She was as light as if nothing existed under her corroded exoskeleton.
Beyond the uneven portcullis of the back room, a warning, electric tension radiated through the complex. A leader was coming. For all that the Decepticons preached equality, that no difference existed from lowest to high, for all that they scorned the castes and hierarchies imposed by the Autobot prerogative, they too trembled and thirsted for a figurehead to equal their own passions.
Megatron was not like he had been on the night of the meeting, when his presence had been royal, exciting. Tonight the shadows did not so much slide off him, they fled. He walked around the plant like a general inspecting his troops, but there was something possessive about his cold, crimson glance. If there was anything of the God Soldier in him, it did not show. Perhaps the successive layering of the five broken soldiers had created this bleached edifice of a mech. The armor had a brutal functionality about it, but was just not quite enough to cover all of him. Transmuted mass still oozed from the joints.
Finally Paraselene stood in front of him, and gave a quick kneel, but Orion could tell that such a supplication was grudging. "We welcome Lord Megatron," he said in Insect tongue.
Paraselene might have been nearly as big as Orion, but Megatron was bigger. Among the Decepticons only Skyfire could have reasonably matched him in hand to hand combat, Orion estimated, and only if the sciencebot had martial training under all his precise movements. The two leaders looked at each other, wary.
"Where is this Autobot prisoner?"
"He has escaped, Lord."
A quick snarl of lips over jaw-plates, then, "How did this miraculous feat happen? A hundred of you and one of him?"
The ragged little mech of the lantern fluttered forward, "We have a traitor among us!"
"Ratbat!" barked Paraselene, but it was too late. The creature had Megatron's attention now
"He has another one," screeched Ratbat. "A big mech, red plates, in Primus' colors."
"You DARE say that name in front of me?" shouted Megatron, kicking Ratbat away with a clawed, black foot. "Primus is nothing! Primus is dead!" He whirled on Paraselene. "Is this true? You have an Autobot?"
"I have a recruit," said Paraselene, frost-calm. "If you look at us, dominion of the air we have, but big ground troops we do not. I have been recruiting."
"Oh, indeed you have," snarled Megatron, and in that susurrating language it was like a lover's promise. "Finding those who would overthrow me, who would advance your standing."
"No," said Paraselene.
But it was yes. Yes, because Megatron was plugged into the Decepticons like a LED into a wire, and read their moods as if scrawled upon one of Skyfire's cellulose maps.
"Has the Prime's spill made you addled, Paraselene? Did you think I would not know what you have planned?"
Paraselene was not cowed. "Then you would know what your war has done to us, this planet."
What happened next happened as if time had gone into stasis, though it was no more than a breath from beginning to end. Slowly, slowly Megatron lifted his arm upon which a weapon had been fitted, a monstrosity of a weapon, clearly part of Megatron's body, as if nothing could conceivably made for that purpose alone.
Orion heard the cannon firing up, the protons and neutrons shaking free into a plasma hotter than the sun's core...
And all of a sudden Megatron is thrown aside, and Skyfire was there, and he was saying something, but this Primus-awful slowness stretched his words out to unrelated sounds, and the rag-tag militia whirled like giant-dust motes in an open space, time filtered panic like a scream...
The dust settled. Skyfire's feet hooked on either side of Megatron, holding his arms out in cruciform.
"You will not harm him."
Everything became still. It seemed that even the electrons stopped spinning in their orbits. Paraselene stalked forward, blades out now, God Soldier form. "We are not in a gladiator pit. There is more to this that just us and our disagreement. If you are so concerned with leadership Megatron, then be a leader."
A hundred pairs of crimson optics watched them, uneasy.
Ariel was restless, and squirming. Orion pushed the last of the gels into her mouth, and she foamed up.
"Ariel, when do you ever not just eat me out of energon?" Orion scolded under his breath, trying to scoop the mess back in with a finger. "Eat, and stay quiet for Primus' sake!"
Orion stopped. Had that slack mouth moved in the energon foam?
Slow words falling from dead lips.
"Don't. Go. With. Them."
She was talking nonsense. But talking all the same, and he took the attention he would have taken with an Oracle. "Them who? Ariel? Decepticons?"
The optics whorled on rusted stalks. "Auto. Bots."
And before he could ask any more the roof shattered, raining blades and fire down upon them, and a thousand figures swarmed through in a melee. Gunfire blazed. A vat exploded with a roar that sounded as if Cybertron itself were being torn apart, filling the void with a silvery fog so dense that no sense could be made of anything.
A shoulder plate flashed into Orion's field of vision. Glyph of a red face, louring face of Alpha Prime, who had established the Autobot race after the Age Of Warlords. He heard yells, the chatter of internal comms in foreign dialects, "find him, find him."
He had to get out of here, find a way out.
More screams now, a jet-engine squeal of "Paraselene, watch out!" followed by a whiteness of noise and color so loud and bright it was dark and silence. Orion was knocked over as if he had been assaulted by sound.
The sheer heat of Megatron's cannon burnt clarity through the smoke. Had Paraselene been any less a creature of war he would have caught the blast full square in the back, instead he lurched to one side and the blast spun him around. Megatron lashed out with his flail and caught his legs, Paraselene fell on his back, weaponless...
"Paraselene!" screamed Skyfire, but he was too far away, struggling with four Autobots who had clambered onto his wings and fired claw-bolts into him. Only Orion was close, close enough to reach him if only he came out of his hiding place.
If only he came out of his hiding place.
Make your decision.
Images fluttering through him, of Ariel saying don't even though she never spoke, and she might have well been a dead thing for all the life she showed now.
He made his decision. He left the shadow.
He never had a chance. He knew it, even before he came out. Almost as soon as he left cover, they were on him, a dozen small mechs clambering over him with cable and wire, and no sooner did he break a link another one was on him and another. Someone was shouting, "Don't harm the exoskeleton, we need it intact!" an he remembered the 'boot left in the middle of the boulevard with all his 'plates torn from him, a mass of pain, and yet he still stared up at the witnesses with such challenge and cathode hate.
Out of the corner of his vision Megatron batted off a pair off Autobots who had chanced to battle him, then walked up to the fallen God Soldier. It was not him the Autobots cared about, it was Orion, and he knew with startling clarity that Megatron would not be interrupted.
With an almost bored motion Megatron tore off one of Paraselene's chest-folds and reached inside.
If Paraselene had made any noise, if he had cried out, Orion did not hear him above his own cry. Megatron plucked Paraselene's spark, case and all, out of Paraselene's chest, dropped it, and crushed it under his foot.
A wail of horror, a mad, unfettered scream. Skyfire pulled his captors off him as if they were mere vermin and staggered out onto the factory floor.
As immediately as a switch being flipped, Orion felt his strength leave him. More cables on him now, but he submitted to their imprisonment, numb and shattered. He expected the Autobots would swarm over Skyfire as they did him, but a voice was trumpeting, "Pull back, we have acquired our target, I repeat, we have acquired our target!"
The last thing he saw, thee very last glimpse he had of his lover was one of desecration, with Skyfire on his knees by his side, tenderly picking up all the broken shards of Paraselene's spark.
They didn't bother to talk to him much. He was already dead. The fact that his body was animated by spark-life was only a minor detail that would be corrected in time.
He was taken to a cold, deep place lined with stone, a rare material in Cybertron's metal-based environment. It would have been purposefully imported from the igneous rocks of distant and foreign planets. Orion thought of Paraselene, tied onto the star sapphire and thought of himself, tied the same.
A tall, frail-looking Alpha bot approached him and touched Orion's body with his hands, touched every part of him, scraped dry, sharp fingers over his exoskeleton. It was worse than if he had been raped, this desultory exploration of him as he were no more an object as the stone he lay on.
Another Autobot made notes. "Will he do, Alpha Trion?
"His body integrity is good. He'll make a good container. Restrict the energon, and the flesh will be easier to remove."
Orion did not hear Trion leave over his own, desperate wail.
He had guards always, a different one every megacycle. They stood at the end of the room, but did not speak to him. He grew hungry. He pleaded for food. He pleaded for information on Ariel's whereabouts. He was ignored each time.
Eventually he recognized new-yellow exoskeleton, antennae-nubs.
"Bumblebee," he gasped.
The young mech averted his eyes, pressed his back against the blast-door as if willing himself to fall through..
"Please speak to me."
Fearful expression on his pale, half-caste face. The antennae shivered. "I can't. Alpha Trion said...I can't."
"What is going to happen to me? Why am I being tied down? Is this part of my torture?
"You think we are torturing you?"
Orion nodded, wretchedly.
"We're rebirthing you," cried Bumblebee as if the thought hurt him. "We need a container for the Matrix, otherwise it will die!"
"But...what about Sentinel Prime?" Orion wailed. "What about him?"
Bumblebee wrung his hands. "Sentinel Prime is a automaton keeping the Matrix in stasis. It's just propaganda! Sentinel Prime? There is no Prime!"
Orion could feel himself falling into the stone.
Paraselene had been telling the truth all along.
When his exoskeleton started to lose cooler information, they brought another mech to him. No plain, faceless guard. It was the Overseer medic, Ratchet.
"Oh rust them all, what have they done to you?"
Ratchet patted Orion's head, his loosening plates. Distress pulled his face into a rictus. Orion's voice was little more than a mewl. "Please tell them I didn't do anything wrong. Please tell them to let me go."
"I will, I will," cried Ratchet.
He turned to the Autobot guard who had brought him in, and they argued, Ratchet shouting, "You can't kill an innocent. You want a Prime without atrocities, than breed him yourself!"
Alpha Trion arrived, settled the argument by having the guard beat Ratchet until the dark-planet overseer surrendered.
"You will keep him alive. You will keep him alive and you will make sure the new Prime is alive."
"Be aware, I know who your spark loves, Ratchet. Shall we dream of a golden day when this bestial war will rule no more? We shall, and you will help us achieve that."
He was stripped of his memories. Sometimes he screamed. Alpha Trion, torturer, vivisectionist, was going to rebirth him. The Matrix curled and undulated in the sentinel automaton they called Prime. Life support for the Matrix, just as he was going to be.
Songs were sung. Orion barely heard them. His body stunk like a stranger's might. The Matrix was placed inside him. It invaded and burned him. It whispered things in the ancient language of the Primes. He remembered thing no normal mech should remember, The rape of Unicron. The birthing of stars. All the Primes from Primon to Nova, and even Sentinel, that darkness.
Then one day the singing paused for a time, and he lay breathing hard upon the stone.
One of the Autobots entered the stone room - Orion knew him by his footsteps. Prowl of Iacon, leader in stead while they waited for the Prime to return. He often came, to see the progress of his change.
-- Why does he scream so? Does he feel pain?
-- It is only a shell, barely sentient. But what news do you bring from the world?
-- Only tales from traitors and thieves. Nothing of any credibility.
-- Tell me then.
-- They say two Warriormechs were cloned from the God Soldier's broken spark. They intended to raise a leader who would challenge Megatron."
-- Only two? His spark broke into many pieces.
-- Megatron discovered the treachery. He had Skyfire exiled and took the protoforms for himself. They will be Decepticons, and no doubt he will take one as a consort, try and replicate the Oracle's prophecy.
-- The prophecy cannot be replicated without the Matrix of Leadership!
-- Which, Prowl, is why it must never fall into Decepticon hands.
The singing began again. A joyous song. He remembered Paraselene's touch, his indigo optics, remembered them past those few seconds where his bodymind converged and they called him by a stranger's name, plaintive.
"I'm not a Prime," he thought.
But he was a Prime, and Orion Pax was subsumed under a personality greater than himself, something large and awful and wonderful and too big to call his own and within him a flame extinguished, and then it was gone.