Well, it's been a fun run writing "Rising Sun" and this epilogue. This is the last installment. Thank you to all my readers!
And big thank yous to Pheonix13, Prime Revolver, Refracted Imagination and Jesus Luvs Everyone for reviewing this epilogue so far!
In this final part, there's a little bit of interesting history between Optimus Prime and Sideswipe. Yes, there was a reason Sideswipe popped up at the end of the last part! What personal regret does the leader of the Autobots hold in regards to him? It's something to do with the loss of brothers...
Amidst all the tragedies of his long and arduous existence, what comfort remains for the last Prime?
Rising Sun – Epilogue: Of Brothers – Part 3
Cybertron, during the Autobot-Decepticon civil war.
Optimus Prime wandered through a devastated and rubble-filled site, a place that had once been an Autobot stronghold. Ironhide followed close to him.
"Autobot survivors will likely have retreated to the emergency bunker in the west side of the city," Ironhide was informing.
Optimus was only half-listening to Ironhide's words.
"I gave the order…sentenced Polyhex to destruction and some of our Autobots to death…all are gone," he murmured to himself.
Ironhide turned sympathetically to his leader.
"Optimus, most of the Autobots that were stationed here will have survived. You told those who could to evacuate. We could not allow the Decepticons to take this place. It had too much valuable Autobot data and resources. You did the only thing you could in giving the order to bring this place down," Ironhide reasoned.
Their audio sensors then detected a faint voice. An Autobot survivor? Optimus and Ironhide quickly began searching for the voice's source amongst the rubble.
Optimus located the source of the voice. He froze. His spark sank in his chest. He had found the yellow Autobot warrior Sunstreaker crushed under rubble. He looked barely online. Ironhide joined his leader at his side and looked down miserably at his gut-wrenching discovery too.
Optimus knelt down and began urgently removing the metalwork under which Sunstreaker was trapped. As he removed more and more of the rubble, Optimus saw the terrible extent of damage that Sunstreaker had suffered. Both of the yellow Autobot's legs and one arm had been blown off, his body armour was riddled with shrapnel perforations and had been severely weakened by several large cracks, and his head was nearly crushed, bent horribly out of its original mould shape. Sunstreaker was undoubtedly beyond repair and suffering excruciating pain.
"Optimuuz…pleaszz…kill me…" Sunstreaker barely managed to utter.
Optimus's optic ridges fell into an expression of terrible pain. The piercing blue light of his optics dimmed into their darkest possible shade. He fought to steady his body that was threatening to tremble with uncontrollable anguish.
"Ironhide, please step back and turn away," Optimus quietly requested.
"Optimus, it's okay. I can…" Ironhide began.
"Now, Ironhide." Optimus's low voice took on a more desperate force.
The black Autobot weapons specialist fell silent and did as he was commanded. He moved back a good distance and turned around to look away from Optimus and the damaged body of Sunstreaker.
With secure and supportive arms, Optimus reached down and picked up a broken Sunstreaker. He brought the yellow Autobot's fragile body to his chest in a surprisingly gentle hug. With one hand, Optimus steadied Sunstreaker's crushed head onto his own broad shoulder. He brought his other arm back and allowed a vibrant orange energon blade to slide out silently from his wrist.
"Rest now, Sunstreaker. You've earned it," Optimus whispered reassuringly.
The energon blade plunged swiftly into Sunstreaker's chest and through his fading spark. A weak smile spread across his metal lips. The yellow Autobot's flickering cracked optics turned black. His body finally fell limp in Optimus's embracing arms. The energon blade was pulled out. Liquid energon dripped from its tip. The Autobot Commander slowly laid an offline Sunstreaker down on the ground.
He looked at his dripping energon blade. He looked back at the still form of Sunstreaker. Then, finally, he allowed the terrible wave of anguish he had held back to consume his body. He broke down into grief. He kneeled there, his arms limp at his sides, his hands lying open, his face turned up to the dark heavens, as if awaiting divine judgement.
Optimus turned his sad gaze away from Sideswipe.
"I carry more regrets than most realise," he said quietly.
Ironhide moved between his leader and Sideswipe.
"We are at war. Optimus does what is necessary," Ironhide stated defensively.
"As do we all," Sideswipe said simply. "I am not judging him."
"Every Autobot spark that we have lost…senseless, unforgivable, tormenting, …unavoidable," Optimus was mumbling. "How many more sacrifices must I allow? How many more Autobots must I send to their deaths before we achieve victory and peace? I have the energon of countless comrades as well as enemies on my hands. What has this war has done to us? To me?"
Optimus's head fell. It was as if looking into anyone's gaze was too painful for him at that moment.
Sideswipe's hardened gaze fell downwards too.
"He judges himself."
N.E.S.T. base on Diego Garcia, Earth, two days after Sideswipe's arrival on the planet.
Sideswipe stood in the N.E.S.T. hanger reserved for the Autobots. He looked at the, by his opinion, confined space disapprovingly. The whole N.E.S.T. base was far from comfortable for him. So much for Earth being a wonderful new home for exiled Autobots as Optimus Prime had suggested. But then he hadn't expected anything great from the Autobot leader. It wasn't the first time that Optimus Prime had disappointed him.
"Sideswipe, could I speak with you a moment?"
Sideswipe turned to see Optimus Prime standing behind him.
"Can't imagine what you'd have to say to a 'disposable' soldier such as myself, Prime," Sideswipe said with hostility.
Optimus paused. His optics mournfully studied Sideswipe.
"Sunstreaker…" he began.
"An acceptable loss to you," Sideswipe interjected vehemently, "as all Autobots under your command ultimately are! What would you know about losing a brother?!"
"I lost my brother-in-arms a long time ago," Optimus continued quietly, "I lost him to corruption and war. I live with something worse than his death. I live with his undying hate. Please, Sideswipe, don't subject me to live with yours also."
Sideswipe's features remained unmoved.
"But it is 'your' brother that I came to talk to you about."
"I don't understand why you're even bothering to come to me about this," Sideswipe growled, "not like the 'great' Optimus Prime is answerable to anyone."
"The loss of Sunstreaker is not yours alone," Optimus pressed on in a remarkably controlled voice. "I and many others suffer the impact of his loss also. As his brother though, I understand that your grief must be the worst of all. You were closer to him in a way that the no-one else was. But Sideswipe, remember that we have all lost brothers during this war."
To Sideswipe's surprise, Optimus dropped down to one knee in front of him.
"I take responsibility for Sunstreaker's death…and I ask for your forgiveness, Sideswipe."
Optimus's head bowed and he waited in patient silence. Sideswipe was speechless at the sight of the great Autobot leader kneeling submissively in front of him. Optimus Prime himself was asking for his forgiveness! His optics darkened momentarily, a mixture of resentment, grief and pity flowed through him. Finally, Sideswipe looked down at the kneeled Autobot leader with a rare expression of pity.
"There's nothing to forgive, Optimus. War takes away those that are precious to us. The decisions you make are guided by the unpredictable course of war. I heard that you ended Sunstreaker's life when you found him damaged beyond repair, but you only did so to end his suffering. I'm sorry. I directed my anger at you because there was no-one else at whom I could."
Optimus had not moved from his kneeled position. A pained expression had taken over his features. His optics had darkened in remorse. Sideswipe shook his head sadly.
"I see it's not only me you need forgiveness from, Optimus. You need it from yourself too. For whatever good it may do you, from one brother that has lost to another, I forgive you."
Sideswipe looked up sympathetically at the Autobot leader, as did Ironhide. Skids and Mudflap looked to one another in mild confusion. They could not guess what was transpiring between the three powerful Autobot warriors.
As if pulling himself out of a trance, Optimus inhaled deeply and returned his majestic royal blue gaze to his surrounding Autobots.
"The past is gone. And we must move on into the future," he spoke wisely.
He then lifted his head to one side in the direction of the hanger's exit.
"Perhaps we have all been lingering in the dark too long. We should go out into the light."
With that both literal and metaphoric suggestion, Optimus turned and began heading out of the hanger. Ironhide, Sideswipe and the Autobot twins followed him.
Optimus thought of all that he had personally lost. The Fallen had brought about the deaths of his Prime forefathers and slaughtered his Prime brothers. He had lost his father and his first family, The Dynasty of Primes, before he even knew them.
Then he had lost his replacement father. The Fallen had also murdered his mentor and guardian that had raised him from a hatchling, Alpha Trion.
To avenge his deceased ancestry and save his new home-world, Earth, from destruction, Optimus had slain The Fallen. But in doing so, he had also killed the only other remaining member of his original Prime family, leaving him as the last remaining Prime, leaving him alone without any surviving family.
And finally, his one-time brother-in-arms, Megatron, betrayed him long ago and now was his sworn enemy. Megatron and his Decepticon army had decimated thousands of his brave Autobot soldiers, his comrades. Each of their losses burdened his spark so heavily.
Optimus had lost his ancestral family, his father, his mentor, his brother-in-arms and too many courageous and loyal friends. He had lost everyone who was family to him.
He felt like his spark had been swallowed up into a dark and lonely pit of tragedy. And there was no-one left who could pull him out.
Prima's words drifted into his mind.
You burn brightest of us all…
But Optimus could see little that was 'bright' in any of his war-torn existence. All he saw was dark despair and loneliness.
The Autobot leader stopped to scan the outdoor view from the hanger's entranceway. The sight of beautiful white sunshine outside on the N.E.S.T. military vicinity greeted him. Ironhide stopped beside his leader also. Sideswipe and the twins proceeded ahead of them and exited the hanger into the outdoor sunshine. The other Autobots, Ratchet, the Arcee trio, Jolt, Bumblebee, and the tiny ex-Decepticon, Wheelie, were occupied outside amongst human N.E.S.T. soldiers and personnel.
Optimus's gaze fell earthward.
"I don't see the light…," he murmured to himself.
Optimus turned to face Ironhide who had just spoken.
"It's right in front of me. The guiding sun that has always been lighting our darkest hours," Ironhide said with a sincere smile.
The black weapons specialist then went to join the other Autobots in the sunny outdoors. Once he was standing amongst the others, he turned round and watched Optimus patiently. Optimus then noticed that all the Autobots had now stopped their activities and were looking up at him expectantly, waiting for him to emerge from the hanger and join them.
The Autobot leader surveyed his Autobot warriors. They were strong, proud and full of hope as they looked up to him. His brilliant blue optics glowed with their deepest warmth. He realised then that he never stood alone.
He felt his spark ascend from its dark and lonely pit of tragedy, a rising white sun burning brightly in the darkness of despair…
Optimus Prime stepped out from the shadows and into the white sunlight to go to his waiting Autobot family. The last son of The Primes shone radiantly in the sun.
His words resonated, god-like, in the audio sensors of the gathered Autobots.
"My Autobots, my brothers and sisters…"