Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers or any of its characters.

This is part of the "More Than A Leader" series, which will be about Optimus Prime and his relationships with the Autobots. It will mostly on the view of the said Autobot and how they perceive Optimus, whether he is a hero, friend, fatherly figure, brother, leader or something else to them.

This one-shot can stand alone, without support or continuance from the other soon-to-come stories. You can read the stories in whatever order you wish.

Blaster first started to grow on me after I watched "Blaster Blues" and after Optimus Prime told him to shut up. ^^

All Is Silent

Shadows followed inquisitively after us, as we crept down the darkened hallways of the Decepticon base. Every squeal of metal and soft thumps of footsteps made me cringe. Prowl turned around from where he was leading our group, glaring at Bluestreak, who accidentally kicked a stray rock, causing it to bounce and clatter into the walls. The mech bobbled an apology and ducked a swipe from Ironhide, who scowled. The other mechs released a strained sigh. I feared that any notification of movement will give our intentions away and the plan would be a waste.

Why, one might ask, were we Autobots lurking in these murky places in secrecy and fear? And where was our exalted leader, Optimus Prime, who would be in the lead instead of Prowl?

The truth is, over a dozen humans were held captive by the Decepticons, a usual ploy by Megatron. And knowing Prime will be as docile as a lamb with the human prisoners in his clutches, the Decepticon leader unleashed his latest scheme. He agreed, under the terms that the Autobots do not return fire or attempt any rescue endeavors, he will release the prisoners unscathed.

After he got Optimus Prime as hostage.

Prowl, Ratchet, Red Alert, Bluestreak, Smokescreen, Wheeljack, Ironhide, Bumblebee, Jazz, Perceptor … just all of us implored Prime not to do it. There must be another way to rescue the humans without forfeiting our leader to the enemies. But damn Prime's honour and nobility, for he would not have any humans - or any of us - harmed in an attempt to save the captives.

Megatron cruelly laughed as Optimus approached him in the arranged place of the exchange, calm and unarmed, seeing it as crushing defeat rather than submissive gallantry. He waved a careless hand at Soundwave, who released the prisoners regretfully. Then, he turned around and shot Prime in the leg, just to sneer at us, while we gasped in shock and seethed on the sidelines, unable to do anything. Optimus took the shot without batting an optic. No hate or pain flashed across his face when Megatron rammed his gun into his wounded leg and mocked that what a pathetic leader he has become.

Fists clenching at my sides, I wanted to scream out that Optimus was more than the leader Megatron will ever be. All of us wanted to charge right then and there into battle and pummel the Decepticons for what they were doing to Prime. But we could not enter the fray under Prime's direct orders that we followed Megatron's conditions and without fear of hurting Optimus more than he already is. Or pull him into a hostage position, which this situation has already become. We simply stood there, watching the torture happen before our optics, torn between fury and helplessness. Each punch and kick that Megatron dealt to Prime, we agonized. Each bullet that entered Optimus, we screamed, uttering what he could not. It ended when the Decepticon leader grabbed a semi-conscious Prime by the throat, gave us one final smirk and left.

The released humans thanked us many times and praised our heroic deeds. But it wasn't us that deserved that praise. It was the one who surrendered and subjected himself to Megatron's cruel ordeal in hopes that only he, and no other, would get hurt.

Distraught and restless, we returned to the Ark, waiting for Prowl to finish his strategy to get Prime back without "violating" Megatron's standards. It was then I realized how much we depended on Optimus. Without him, the Autobots would fall apart as we are now.

Prowl figured out that the only reason Megatron had held the humans captive in the first place was because of the oil factory they worked at, carried immense energy, which in turn, had potential to become energon, which Megatron would use to defeat us and which could possibly endanger Earth, which would also be used to harm humans, including the ones who were held hostage, thus breaking Megatron's own decree that the hostages will be "unharmed". Thank Primus for loopholes.

So that's why we're here right now. A team of Ratchet, Wheeljack, Bumblebee, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Bluestreak, I and Ironhide, led by Prowl, would infiltrate the Decepticon base to rescue Optimus while another team, led by Jazz, would distract the Decepticons and direct their forces away from the base.

We were met with five Decepticons on watch. But the twins had already pounced on them before they knew it. Prowl casually plucked one of them from the pile of unconscious, trodden Decepticons and coolly asked him where Optimus was. The Decepticon, cornered by nine impatient, I-am-going-blow-your-head-to-pieces-if-you-don't-tell-me-what-I-want mechs, stuttered out an answer and personally led the way. How kind of him.

Down in the deepest dungeons, we were disgusted to be greeted by a foul stench and to see many dried patches of energon staining the filthy floors. I shuddered involuntarily when I walked passed one of the torture rooms, seeing energon-stained cuffs dangling from the wall and many undesirable tools for interrogation. I could only pray that Optimus was spared from them. When we reached the darkest and most forbidding prison cell at the very end of the dungeons, our tour guide pointed at it, squeaking out that was where Prime was. Sunstreaker properly thanked him by knocking him out cold. Before Prowl could say anything, we all looked into that unnerving cell and I could swear my spark stilled to a stop.

Optimus was half-sitting, half-sprawled against a wall, so lifelessly that I thought we were too late. There were deep gashes mangling his mighty chassis. His chest had been relentlessly wrenched open and rearranged to his captor's fitting. Only the flickering of his diminishing spark assured us he was still alive. His limbs were horribly mutilated and lacerated. One of his legs was missing.

Bumblebee quivered. The twins adopted a murderous look in their faces. Ironhide looked like he could to terminate something right then and there and would have done so if it wasn't for Prowl's firm grip on his shoulder. The others could only stare at their leader with horror. " Oh Primus, what have they done to you?" Bluestreak whispered, voicing all our thoughts.

His body shuddering at the sudden movement, Optimus looked up, his optics worn and gaunt. At the sight of us, he smiled.

Time resumed moving again. We were able to breathe once more. There was no surprise in Optimus' face. It was as if he was expecting us to come and rescue him that very microsecond. We reverted back to our normal selves, bustling and clamoring about as we tried to free Optimus from his prison.

But it was still too quiet. Everything seemed vaguely muffled and distant in that place, as if someone had placed a coating over my audio sensors. Despite Sideswipe arguing with Wheeljack that it was easier to blow up the energon controls than trying to disconnect the wires and Ratchet tetchily telling the both of them to shut up or Prowl checking in with Jazz to see how the battle is going. That's when I noticed Optimus remained where he was, merely watching us with a hesitant semblance, as if debating whether he should tell us something or not. For once, he wasn't giving us any orders, any words of comfort or any assurances that he was fine in spite of what we saw.

In fact, he didn't say anything at all.

" Is something wrong with your voice, Prime?" I asked hesitatingly.

Everyone stopped, their optics switching from me and Optimus. So caught up were they in finding that their commander and making sure he was all right, that they neglected to see the bluntly obvious fact. He simply looked at us, his optics solemn, as we realized the painful truth.

Optimus had lost his voice processor.

I think that was the first time I saw the Autobots snap. Prowl's optics flashed a deadly rage. His tools fell from his limp fingers and Wheeljack made no attempt to pick them up. It was the closest I saw Bumblebee to tears. Ironhide made for the door and this time, no one tried to stop him. Ratchet's jaw was slack and it would have looked comical if the circumstances weren't so serious. Bluestreak tried to deny it, but he was left as speechless as his leader. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker both began swearing violently. I myself was stunned. I couldn't even begin contemplating a life without Optimus' voice.

Almost ashamed, Optimus averted his gaze from us. His face spoke of a self-loathing in his apparent weakness. It couldn't be more defeating than to see our leader like this. A terrible hatred rose in me, unlike anything I ever felt before. I wanted to fight, to destroy … to kill. Thoughts of retribution and of strangling a nearby Decepticon were so satisfying and tempting, I almost headed to the door impulsively, like old Ironhide. And like many of our comrades in that appalling room.

Shaking his head towards the door, Optimus insistently pointed to the energon wires and to Wheeljack. Its meaning was simple and straightforward. Forget about the Decepticons. Just focus on those wires. Wheeljack, please hurry.

Without another word, Wheeljack picked up his tools and worked on those wires more hurriedly. Prowl began directing Bumblebee and Bluestreak to find Ironhide before he recklessly got himself into trouble. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker still continued to swear under their breaths. When the energon bars finally disappeared, Ratchet shoved past us to get to Optimus. We all watched with tension as the medic checked Optimus over, muttering to himself, before snapping at us to help get our commander out of that "slaggin' hole".

Ironhide, who had returned with Bumblebee and Bluestreak, was the first to grab an unsteady Optimus as he tried to stand. Joints and metal squeaked awkwardly, as Prime's face contorted in agony. He clumsily hobbled out of his prison with the help of Ironhide and Ratchet combined. I don't think I ever saw our leader this frail. It frightened me. Optimus was always strong and invincible. It only made me want to kick the offline Decepticon lying on the ground in the head more, like what Sideswipe did without anyone noticing. Then, a wave of humiliation hit me when Prime "asked" Ratchet to make sure that the Decepticon was all right from our beating.

Our procession marched out of the dungeons. Was it just me or did I see a flicker of relief pass by Optimus' face? Not that I could blame him. I would have gone insane from that horrible place within seconds. So it didn't surprise any of us that not even the shouts and bangs coming from outside made Optimus look up. His magnificent head nodded drowsily and by the time we were a good distance away from the Decepticon base, Ironhide and Ratchet were carrying Optimus, who was half-unconscious already.

"Wheeljack, Bumblebee, Ratchet and Blaster, get Prime out of here," Prowl curtly commanded, with a sideways glance at our now unconscious commander. " The rest of us will stay behind and help Jazz before returning to base."

I wondered if I was the only one realizing that Prowl sent the more pacifistic mechs back to base with Prime and the more bloodthirsty mechs behind, when normally, the tactician would have kept the peaceful ones in battle and send the aggressive ones back. Then again, Prowl's optics still hadn't lost that ruthless revulsion since he saw Prime in that prison cell. Our little pacifist group left with Ironhide cracking his knuckles joyously and the twins wearing identical looks of pure evil. I actually felt a little pity for Megatron and his Decepticons.

Ratchet and Wheeljack had kicked me and Bumblebee out of the med bay as soon as we arrived back to the Ark. I sat anxiously in the waiting room, wringing my hands nervously, while Bumblebee walked round and round the room, glancing at the med bay doors with apprehension every so often. He continued his stroll even as Prowl, Jazz and the others returned. And judging from their grave expressions, even from the ones who weren't present in the rescue group, knew of Prime's condition.

It would be another few hours before Ratchet would emerge from the med bay, sending several mechs leaping to their feet in attention. We all crowded around him, badgering the medic with questions and a full report about Optimus' situation.

" Prime will be fine," he repeated irritably for the millionth time. Most of us sighed in relief and some even cheered.

Maybe it was just me being paranoid (now that was a job for Red Alert) but I didn't like the sound of the "will" part in that sentence. And there was Optimus' voice processor to deal with too. But for now, I relaxed. Optimus was back and safe with us and Megatron, like always, was defeated for the day.

For the next few days, it was rather strange to adjust to a period where I didn't hear Optimus speak. Neither Ratchet nor Wheeljack could confirm exactly when Prime's voice processor would be fixed. We managed to salvage it from the dungeons but it was heavily damaged. This would mean who knows how long we would have to endure without hearing a sound stir from our commander. It was almost unbearable to think about it.

Of course, everyone tried to make up for the lack of one voice and it was needless to say that the Ark became much more rowdy than usual. There were many explosions and an endless supply of pranks pulled by the infamous twins, keeping everyone on their toes. Jazz played his music in his room loud enough to hear from across one end of the Ark to the other. Several bangs could be heard from Wheeljack's lab, accompanied by several mechs cursing. Bluestreak's talks seem to go on more endlessly than before and by the third day of Prime's return, whenever Bluestreak entered a room, the rest of us run out. Perceptor's rants on science were second to Bluestreak's chatter. Many well-wishers tried to visit Optimus in the med bay, only to be chased out by Ratchet and his precious wrench.

Prime did fairly well for his part, regardless of his injuries. He continued to rest and by the end of the week, he was strong enough to walk around on his own and begin checking up on some reports, though Prowl and Ratchet strongly went against it. Which then, he had to do it secretly, enlisting the help of every Autobot who wasn't Prowl or Ratchet.

And since he couldn't speak, Optimus had to use other ways of communication. Such as using to some rather exaggerating hand movements (Ironhide was still convinced that Prime had shown him the middle finger that one time) to nodding his head or shaking it to yes-or-no questions. There were times when Prime got frustrated that his point doesn't get across or if no one understands what he's trying to say and all resort to guessing games. I can sympathize. It must be hard trying to communicate to a bunch of idiots like us.

Oddly enough, I felt peculiarly restless. How can I explain my situation? It felt like I'm in a highly disruptive place and yet, I couldn't hear a single sound. What's the phase for it? That I'm in a room, crowded and storming full with people and I still felt all alone? Yeah, something like that. It was a weird feeling. I didn't like it, but I supposed the only treatment for it was Optimus to get his voice back. Which should be any day now.

I'm not used to silence. In fact, I hated silence. A stretch of time where no sound, no intonation, no music sang, zipped and dashed through the air, was like unimaginable torture for me. Sound was meant to dance, vibrating like waves, affecting all those who heard it. It was conceived for that purpose and its soul will be lost if it doesn't have that purpose. And it was my purpose to listen to those sounds, whether it be loud, soft, wild, soothing or explosive.

Out of all the voices I had studied and examined for centuries, Optimus is one of my personal favourites. His voice knew the right note to touch when he's pondering about something fascinating or when he's irritated about something vexing. Words flowed so easily, calming and authoritative all at once. His was able to sway to a rhythm I had not heard of, too complex and impenetrable for even me to comprehend. No tune or concord on Earth or Cybertron could hope to rival against it.

It was one evening after my shift. With nothing to do, I headed outside, to a place where I could hear the birds sing, the bees humming, the rustling of the wind and leaves, the soft lull of water in a nearby river and if I was lucky, maybe the resonance of the wings of a butterfly. I could stay here forever, placidly waiting for the sky to turn a magnificent collection of colours and the stars to shine as the crickets chirp their melody in the night and an owl on a hunt hoots from the distance. The very thought of it brought shivers of exhilaration to my circuits.

To my surprise, I wasn't the only one enjoying nature. Optimus was lazily stretched out on the grassy field, his optics closed and his face of complete contentment. I blinked owlishly. I knew I shouldn't be taken aback. But I was.

Even as I walked towards him, Prime doesn't make any indication that he knew that I was here. Until he opened his optics. He gazed at me with a smile and waved a careless hand at the scenery before us. Isn't it beautiful? he said.

I sat beside him, nodding. It indeed was beautiful. The sun was beginning to set now. Fifteen minutes of absolute tranquility and awe awaited us. " What are you doing here, sir?" I asked him.

He shrugged. It seemed strange to see my commander this relaxed and informal. He pointed to a bee landing gently on a flower and then to the sinking sun. Bumblebee recommended that I soak up some sun.

Chuckling at the rather accurate representation of the yellow mini-bot, I tickled some blades of grass. They giggled, skipping lightly over my fingertips, their laughter as cool as a breeze. I wondered if Prime can hear their mirth. I must have said my thoughts out loud for Optimus then tilted his head towards the grass, pausing, as if listening. After some time, he looked at me and his mouth curled at the corners.

I can hear them.

Optimus wasn't built with sensitive audio sensors like me or Jazz. How could he hear them? As if sensing my doubt and amazement, Prime's optics twinkled in amusement.

One does not need audio sensors to hear. Nor do they need a voice processor to speak.

Puzzled, I stared. " Sir?"

I am not actually "speaking" to you and yet, you can "hear" me.

Absently, I agreed with him. Over the last week or so, there were things that Prime tried to tell us that I caught on, faster than the other mechs. Jazz as well. Much better than Ironhide or Ratchet at times. To my amazement.

I still didn't quite understand it. I mean, both me and Jazz were more in-tuned to sounds and music, but that wouldn't mean that we could "hear" Optimus any better than the others.

Optimus clapped a giant hand to my shoulder. You're thinking too much, he commented lightly. A change that many would appreciate from your usual chatter and racket.

Trying hard to cover my embarrassment, I ducked my head and playfully punched Optimus' arm. " Aww, sir. I'm not that bad, am I?"

The smile that then blossomed over Optimus' face was just as good as any melody that his voice was able to sing and murmur to.

Shut up, Blaster, he good-naturally "said".

Grinning, I turned my head back to watch the sunset.

A few days after, Ratchet and Wheeljack at last fixed Prime's voice processor. Nothing could be more reassuring than to finally hear our leader speak. It was a strange feeling I felt when I finally heard Optimus' voice again. It was a mix of both joy and a little depression. After spending all that time with a voiceless Prime, it seemed weird to hear a talking one.

But of course, I was acting silly. Prime was still Prime, whether he had his voice or not. And those few weeks taught me that. Optimus may not have been able to speak during that time, but he had shown me another way to listen to something that cannot be heard with audio sensors alone.

It needed to be heard from the soul.