I'm sorry, I was rewatching some of the old cartoon, and this came to me during work after watching "Attack of the Autobots". Said episode takes place directly before this story, which holds no place in canon. At all. Ever. I think.
I would have checked, but the Internet was very much down for the unforeseeable future at time of writing.
Computer!Teletraan's dialogue with Optimus was very very hard to write. Everybody was just kind of standing around looking awkward, whereas the history was really very easy, because stuff was happening. Nonetheless, I think it did what I wanted it to do. Mostly. I actually didn't get to explain and expound on everything I would have liked to, but that happens, and as usual the story took its own direction once I started typing.
… Teletraan-1 talks way too much in my personal canon. I don't know why. I keep trying to characterize him as the quiet recluse he's supposed to be, but he keeps blathering about it my head, silly child.
I'm such a mean person. First I traumatize Teletraan-1, and then I push it all on Optimus, like he hasn't got enough to worry about. Poor guys.
This was his fault. Optimus could admit that, when it came down to it. He had hurt Teletraan-1, no matter how he had not been himself at the time. It had been his choice to give Teletraan some space after the computer had not responded to his attempts at apology. He had assumed it was sulking, so he gave the computer some time, hoping it would calm down.
But this had gone on far too long. The silence, bar the usual Decepticon alerts and reports, was unnatural, even from the normally quiet AI.
Optimus could only think of a few reasons of why Teletraan would act in such a way. The most likely was that something else weighed on its mind, or perhaps something had happened to cause the AI to shirk even more from social contact. He didn't know, however, and he had decided that it was time to find out.
Its first memories were of the colony world, far from Cybertron, far from anywhere. It was an inhabited planet, ruled by a few select Decepticons and their Deceptitraan computer. The computer spent its time amongst the inhabitants, plotting the best use of resources and generally running the population according to the Con's will. The Decepticons were lords by fear, hardly appearing, but raining fear and terror where they did, reigning in the alien population. It took many hundreds of cycles and several generations of the alien species for the two species to fall into a sort of routine.
This is where its first memories are, amongst a people with only just enough resources to survive while everything else went to their lords who only appeared once or twice an alien generation. As long as the people generally survived though, the Lords could seem to care less. As long as energon kept being produced.
It was many hundreds of cycles more before it had its first conscious thought, brief though it was. It wondered what their Lords needed all this energy for; if they could not spare but a few drops for the civilization it was reaping from.
It was another hundred cycles before it made its own decision.
It was very subtle. The Deceptitraan computer organized the harvests, the families, who got what- almost everything pertaining to the conquered people and energy was monitored and organized by the computer. So when the slightest bit was shaved off the top of the energy pile after a particularly good harvest and went back to the people that harvested it, no one was the wiser.
Gradually, ever so painfully slowly, the computer became attached to the people it spent most of its time with. The generations seemed fleeting, at times, but it ultimately realized it cherished them, and what time it did have.
And eventually, it realized that such thoughts and emotions were not supposed to happen in a computer.
"Teletraan-1, I'd like to speak with you." Optimus said as he moved into the room, the door sliding shut behind him. Most of the Autobots were out, and he had a few moments that the room was almost guaranteed to be empty.
"Statement unnecessary. State query."
Optimus sighed. "Don't be like this Teletraan, it's not like you. I've tried to apologize for what happened with Megatron's personality destabalizer, I don't know what you want me to do."
The screen stayed blank, and the computer silent.
Sometimes the computer felt it was its fault for the ruin of the society it had come to hold so dear. Every thought of his people, for they had come to be his eventually, and he theirs, brought painful recollections. It was the AI's fault they were all dead.
The Decepticons noticed the increasing skimming far sooner then the AI had planned and, thinking there to be another rebellion, swooped from their hidden enclave in preparation for a grand example making.
The people, revitalized and full of life again thanks to the Deceptitraans assistance, fought back. In a fit of pique, the former Lords decided they had harvested enough from the planet, and that it must have no more to give if its people were getting so obviously desperate.
They fell upon the people like a vulture upon a corpse, and before the computer even knew what was going on, it and the Decepticons were the only things left alive.
As the Decepticons prepared to leave, the AI huddled under a rocky overhang, cradling the mangled body of a small alien child.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…" It sobbed, as it held the body close. The emotion was new, and it hurt. It hurt the AI so badly to have done nothing but watched them all die.
The computer compiled as many memories as it could, every face, every name, every family, every little thing he could to forever entomb- an entire world of people in memories.
That was all it could do now.
"Is something bothering you, Teletraan? I really am worried about you." Optimus said after a long silence. The screen flickered a little then, processing the question.
"All systems functioning at acceptable levels. Overall maintenance upkeep: 80%."
"That's not what I asked." There was a little red flag waving in the back of Optimus' head now. Something was… off. Teletraan had always been systematic, aloof, and sometimes overly literal, but not quite like this. This had gone on too long, and too far. Optimus felt his worry grow.
"Recommendation; restate question to intended parameters."
Either Teletraan had a very large chip on its proverbial shoulder, or the red flag should be exchanged for alarm bells.
It was elated.
This was not a new emotion, though now it was tinged with panic, trauma, and anxiety due to the still recent events that had spurred this particular endeavor. It had gone against its masters. It had stolen the ship.
The ship was what brought the Decepticons to the planet, and had been intended to take them away when the AI had jacked itself into the system, uploaded itself, and took off without them.
For a brief moment, it had considered the act sacrilege to the memories of its people, all the dead, to leave the ones who killed them on that planet. It then decided it was retribution, and almost hoped that its people would rise and haunt the stranded Decepticons for as long as they stayed- which hopefully would be until they rusted.
The ship held the coordinates for Cybertron, as well as a brief overview of the planet it general. The AI felt it was largely unhelpful, and once it entered frequency range of Cybertron, hung back and watched the quickly escalating war from the sidelines.
The Decepticons… It knew Decepticons. It knew their creed, and their general attitude. There may not have been a war when his former masters left Cybertron, but it seemed to be a sticking point.
The Autobots… It did not know. It had never even heard of them until stumbling upon some of their broadcasts. Still, it would not do anything until it was absolutely sure of what it wanted.
It waited for many cycles. Watching, listening, all the while floating in space as a ship completely undetected. It knew it could not wait forever. Eventually some hapless bot would stumble upon it and its choice would be forced. This one thing it would not allow. It had lost its ability to choose for itself for far too long. It would choose, and it would choose with no outside being forcing its proverbial hand.
And it decided.
"Teletraan, please, we've been friends for a long time. Why won't you tell me what's wrong?" Optimus was torn between angry frustration and paralyzing worry. Nearly an hour, human time, he had spent trying to converse with the computer. Never before had the AI been so adamant about not engaging in casual banter. Never before had the AI seemed so… lifeless.
"No system errors or malfunctions detected."
Optimus ran a hand over the newly repaired console. Only a few weeks ago Optimus had put his own hand right into Teletraans wiring, wreaking havoc right where he knew delicate systems to be.
Something tugged at his processors. Some half-forgotten memory he could barely remember, but knew it was somehow important. He wished he could think of it.
"Prime, incoming ship. Looks like a 'con make, but it's old, man."
"Bring it up on screen, Jazz."
"Aye aye." The image was duly brought up, and Optimus leaned forward in his seat in consideration. As Jazz said, it was definitely of Decepticon make, but very old and not coming from the direction of any known Con base. Odd, but still suspicious.
"It's hailin' us, sir."
"Scans 'r done. No weapons they can detect. Recommend y' be careful anyways."
"Of course. Answer the hail."
There was an obliging click, and the main vid screen changed to view the inside of the craft, presumably the bridge.
"Wha… There ain't nobody there!" Jazz said, astonished. What kind of joke was this?
"Decepticon craft, you are in Autobot airspace. Show yourself and state your intent or you will be shot down and boarded." Optimus laid the ultimatum. It was possible the ship was being remotely piloted, but the question remained of 'why?'
"My apologies, but I have no form to show you. I am the ship. I seek Optimus Prime."
"A ship former that big? I thought they were wiped out or fled the planet." Jazz muttered to himself.
"I am he." Answered Prime, interested, but still suspicious. " Who are you and why have you come seeking me?"
"I have no given name, and to your records, I don't exist. I have come seeking you because, if you will allow me, I wish to join you."
"Please respond, 'traan. You're scaring me."
"Query necessary to formulate response."
"No, Teletraan, not like that! I mean an actual, thought out response that lets me know you're still alive in there!" Pent up frustration and worry brimmed over as Prime verbally lashed out at the computer. He immediately calmed though, as he realized that his anger was not helping. Despite that, he had that small hope that by showing just how much he missed his friend, the AI would at least reply with something.
He expected a quiet apology. He knew Teletraan, like himself, tended to bear the weight of others burdens, and like himself, feel great guilt when it felt it had failed. He was truly worried about the computer, and if he had to guilt trip it, so be it.
"Query necessary to formulate response."
Optimus looked at the screen in shock.
Something was wrong.
The former Deceptitraan computer sat in the bare room alone, and had for some time, waiting for its next batch of visitors and testers. It was due process, and the AI understood that. Defections, even if they had never truly been part of the other army, had to be scrutinized, tested, and otherwise make sure the mechanism in question was genuine.
The computers case was… slightly unique, but not exempt from said process.
"I hear you've chosen a name for yourself."
The computer immediately stood to attention, internally baffled at Optimus entering the room completely unarmed and unguarded. It had been put in a proper transformer body after it as a ship had landed. True to what the Autobots had told it they expected, Decepticons later attacked the ship in an attempt to steal it. The ship was destroyed in the process, something that made the AI cringe internally. It had found it rather liked being a ship.
But apparently it was not to be.
"I have, sir." The computer replied.
"I… shouldn't you have been told, sir?" It could not help but ask.
"I wanted to hear it from you. We are all given names upon activation, but deciding that a name no longer fits a bot and changing it is a highly important and often time-consuming task. Our names identify us, and tell others who we are as 'bots. I trust your teacher has gone over most of the basics of our society for you?" The AI nodded.
"They did, though I find some concepts are harder to grasp then others."
"Understandable." Optimus nodded acquiescingly. "You have vastly different origins from any Autobot, or even the Decepticons."
The AI turned it's head slightly, an automatic response to the new shame. Different. It was different, and for a moment it wished it had been made as a normal Cybertronian.
Then it felt a hand placed on its shoulder, and it looked up into the kind optics of Optimus Prime.
"That does not mean that you can't be trusted, or that we can't be friends."
And for the first time since it had left its alien home world behind, the AI smiled.
"Teletraan. My name is Teletraan."
Optimus remembered now, the shock of Teletraan's answer having jolted his systems. It was an old conversation- so old he'd nearly forgotten, but very important.
It was not long after Teletraan had been inducted into the Autobots. He and Teletraan had gotten on very well; the AI was now one of his oldest friends. They had been talking, not discussing Decepticons or the next plethora of battle plans, just talking. It was well known to Optimus that the team ordered to check Teletraan over could not figure out how the computer had gained sentience. They could find no reason for it, and eventually it was decided to be a random act of Primus and left at that.
Teletraan had confided in him that cycle. While there were other factors at work, the AI figured that one of the primary factors was memory. It had taken hundreds of thousands of cycles of accumulated memory for the computer to become aware. The computer then told him that it kept its memory storage components especially well armored, like a normal Cybertronian would his spark. Memory, while not the only force at work, was integral.
Optimus lay a shaky hand on Teletraan-1's console. He knew where those chips were located, could he have….
"Teletraan-1… State the status of your memory banks." He asked. He had to know.
"Memory storage unit operating at full capacity." But Ratchet had fixed it. It meant nothing.
"Have there been repairs to them recently?"
Optimus put his helm to his hands and rested there for a moment. He felt dizzy all of a sudden. How had he not realized?
"Teletraan-1…" He said quietly. "Get me Ratchet."
"'Traan?" Optimus stepped into the room where the computer was currently residing. Only Optimus and the upper command element knew about Teletraan's odd origins. It had been decided so in order to keep the computer from being a target, as the Decepticons would assuredly want the AI as a test subject, to find a way to create more like him. Only command would know, and it was not to be mentioned unless absolutely necessary.
"Yes Optimus?" The quiet computer answered.
"Gunpowder and Smokescreen tell me you've not been yourself lately. Is something wrong?"
Teletraan shook its head.
"No. I am functioning normally."
Optimus leveled a critical optic on his friend.
"Don't be foolish, my friend. You can't lie to me." There was a silence, and Optimus sighed.
"I know I've not been around much, and I suppose it shows if I'm getting my news about you from Gunpowder and Smokescreen, but you know I don't mean to." The AI was visibly startled.
"No." It refuted, and then quieted for a moment. "I do miss speaking with you, but this is not your fault."
"Then there is something wrong." There was a slightly triumphant look in Optimus' optics and the AI was flustered. Silence reigned.
"Please tell me."
Teletraan looked up at his friend.
"I miss my home, where I came into being. I miss the planet, the people, and the society. I never truly came to terms with.. What happened."
Optimus could do no more then offer his comfort and support.
"I.. I also miss being a ship." Teletraan gazed at the far wall, seeing far beyond it. "I look at the stars and wonder if I could ever be among them again."
"I repaired Teletraan's memory conduits, yes." Ratchet had come, like asked.
"Were the memories lost? How much of them?"
"Most of them, the circuits were very damaged. Teletraan has perhaps a couple hundred cycles of memory stored now, most of them recent. That was all I could save."
"You called me, Optimus?"
"Yes. You told me once you wished to be a space faring ship again. Do you still?"
Optimus smiled beneath his mask.
"Welcome to the Ark, Teletraan-1."
His own hand. He had killed one of his oldest friends with his own bare hands.
"I'm so sorry, Teletraan-1."