Author's Note: I don't have the time or the internet available to answer reviews at the moment, but believe me, every last one of them has been read and thoroughly enjoyed. I want to thank every single one of you who has reviewed for not getting demanding about another chapter getting posted. Your consideration is greatly appreciated. I wish that there were more readers out there like you for the other authors out there who have had readers demand a new chapter, whining about the lack of updates. Everyone one of you who have read this story are the best. I had just enough time to check the hits, and I'm honored. You guys rock!
Important Note! Please, please, please listen to E.S. Posthumus' tracks "Indra" and "Arise" while reading this chapter if you possibly can. Additional listening material is their album Cartographer, disk 2. This chapter could not have been written without that music driving me on, and the atmosphere of this chapter really takes on another depth while having the music running.
"Don't you wish you were still innocent like them?"
Faust looked down at Wheelie, who stood beside his hip. The mechling, with his tagalong friend Brains, had his optics trained upon the Sparklings who were tumbling around without a care in the world. Wordlessly, the Adult-framed young mech held his hand down for the smaller mechlings to climb onto. He deposited them upon one drawn-up knee. "Every day."
"They don't know how scary the world is yet."
"An-n-and need th' protection," Brains added in, his voice growling over the last word. He rested his hands on his hips, wishing he had a bigger frame and a better vocal processor to get rid of his speech glitch.
"They do," Faust replied. "I suppose that's why the AllSpark decided upon me to add into this world. I have to protect them. It feels like core coding."
"So . . . if you're going to be a Protectorate . . . who is your Prime?" Wheelie asked slowly, his gaze going up to the younger-older AllSpark-child.
A solemn golden gaze met the new optics of the little mech. "I wish I knew."
Sam watched the three mechlings continue to talk before he turned away to his brother Prime. "His coding is leaps and bounds ahead of where Ratchet hypothesized him to be. Skyfire really wanted him to be able to function as an Adult long before we assumed he would be ready."
"He knows that he must have a Prime to protect," Optimus murmured. "Protecting is clearly part of who he is becoming."
"Huh. And do you think that Prime will be me?"
Optimus rolled a spare component between his hands thoughtfully. "Unsure, but it's a possibility, if you are open to it and it's within Primus' will. Faust's connection to Earth, however, is indicative that his Prime will be here for a span of time, regardless of who the Prime in question actually is. It will have to be seen if that is a lifetime or merely a season of training."
A nut flew across the yard to sound off against Optimus' shoulder. He turned his head leisurely to look at the mech who requested his attention. "Ratch?"
"Give it me."
Chuckling at the distracted phrasing, Optimus tossed the component to his CMO, who was working on re-repairing one of Arcee's components. This was the final stage of the Egypt repairs, and he couldn't be more glad to have finally finished pulling everyone back together with First Aid's help. Sam, who caught the grammar as being shorthand Cybertronian orders, allowed himself to grin. "So with the kiddo feeling his Protectorate programming starting to evolve and reveal itself . . ."
"He would have been a rather violent Prime, and I am glad for the months he spent with . . . him." Turning to look at the human who had walked up to them, Optimus was glad that he had been aware of his surroundings. "Mikaela."
"Optimus. Sam." She fidgeted for a moment, before shoving her hands into her pockets. Hot Rod came up behind her, watching Sam curiously, almost warily.
The human Prime didn't take this as an offensive trait, since Bumblebee would be doing the same thing if their positions were switched. "What can we do for you?"
Mikaela was taken aback at the professional, almost-detached-but-compassionate way that Sam regarded her. She saw him use this manner towards everyone on the ranch, as if he, alongside Optimus, were the ones in charge instead of Dana. Then again, seeing how Dana and Tom deferred to Sam and Optimus was almost unnerving. The married couple gave Lennox, who held the same rank as Optimus in the military, a run for his money and had seemed to let him know who was really holding the authority while on this property. "I have a few questions."
"Do they require privacy?" Optimus asked, his voice lowering.
Sharing a glance, Optimus and Sam indicated that the twain follow. It wasn't three steps before Bumblebee was beside them, his hands going down to swing Sam up onto his shoulder effortlessly. The young man smiled, feeling the nanites in his system settle contentedly with the presence of his "brother." Optimus settled his nanites in a way that was borderline fatherly and brotherly; since the mech was his mentor, he filled both roles indiscriminately.
Hot Rod soon had Mikaela settled upon his shoulder as well, and within three minutes, the five were out in a field, a rose-colored form moving swiftly to join them. Elita settled herself beside Optimus, who activated the jamming device and entreated the young woman to begin. "Mikaela."
Swallowing, the baritone wave of vocalized emotion seeming to break her heart, she asked, "I need to know things that I couldn't know before."
"Such as . . . ?" Sam asked, his voice neutral, but gently prodding her along.
"Such as why there are Sparklings, such as why there are more Autobots around than I know of, then there's why Banachek is around and accepted, and why Barricade is a mole—"
"Woah, woah, ease up, Mik. A lot of those things can take days to explain, and while Op and I know the facts, not all the details are with us."
"Nobody else will tell me." She rubbed at a renegade tear rushing down her nose. "Nobody trusts me."
Sam bit his lip to keep from snarling at her. In looking away from the girl, his gaze locked with Elita. The femme took the metaphorical baton. "The first, and last, time that most of these mechs met you, you had verbally eviscerated both a Prime and a Youngling. That behavior is bordering on blasphemous in Autobot culture."
"I didn't say 'boo' to Optimus . . ."
"Egypt," Optimus murmured as a shorthanded explanation. "The events in Egypt showed us that Primus did not just design mechs to be Primes; He designed humans to partner with us and fulfill that role as well."
Mikaela's eyes widened and a hand flew up to her mouth. Now she understood. "The Matrix responded to Sam . . ."
"It is his Matrix. My own remains with me. He is a Prime; the Youngling Wheelie is now legally his son, in human vernacular."
"I'm so dumb . . ."
"From what you said, you couldn't trust us. There was a mech monitoring all your thoughts and movements," Sam said, trying to cut off the emotional storm that he knew Mik was capable of. "As much as you have questions, we need to know more about this mech to see if we can protect ourselves and NEST from him. We can't allow him to know of the Sparklings."
"There's more locations, aren't there."
Her guess was met with silence. Hot Rod shifted uncomfortably. He felt so out of place with his former lover, the Primes, and a Prime Consort all around him. Granted, he had tried to get used to the presence of Optimus and Elita while attempting to court Bumblebee, but . . . well . . . there were so many things that ended up going pear-shaped with that whole mess that he lost all that he had gained.
"That cannot be either confirmed or denied," Bumblebee replied thoughtfully. "Until we are sure that your minds cannot be hacked again, which I think should be possible with nanite assistance, that is only speculation. Back to this mech. We need to know what he looked like, how he spoke, what his behaviors were, anything that could help us learn about who he is and why he targeted you."
She looked down. "I have questions . . ."
"And we have answers, but we need to know who we need to protect ourselves against before we can give anything to you," Elita replied firmly, walking closer to Hot Rod, whose hands still curled protectively around the young woman. "Please understand that while the individual is very important to us, we need to protect our tribe first."
"And that doesn't include me."
Sam finally had heard enough. "Hey! Itty Bitty Pity Party! Do you have nanites or are you feeding the worms? Get your head out of your ass and listen to what Elita said! You're part of the tribe, and you're afforded the same amount of protection that the rest of us have, but you need to contribute to the safety of the whole! You have the knowledge that we need to protect not just everyone else, but you too. Now do we need to spell this out for you in even smaller words, or are you going to help us?"
"Stop it, Sam! You're being mean!"
"I'm pissed off and I want to relax, but I can't when I'm worrying for the safety of everyone on this ranch! Everyone here is my responsibility, too! So if you would be so kind to cooperate, it would be greatly appreciated, Mikaela." He winced, a pang shooting between his temples. Wincing and looking away from the young woman, he pressed a hand against his eyes with a low groan, the rising tide of . . .
"Op. Need my Matrix. Please. Something . . . something new."
The waves of pain and images marched over his mind.
"You sure it's not PTSD?"
"Mik. Please. Enough." His mind couldn't take much more of this.
Cool metal filled his hand, and a presence as familiar as his own whispered softly. Samuel Prime.
Groaning, he pressed the Matrix against his forehead. "Hi. Here. Ow. Tell it to back the frag off. Nanites might not cover an aneurysm."
The AllSpark is rather insistent today, is it not? Hmm. Ah. Here we go. The torrent was choked back to a stream, the message starting to become more and more coherent. It appears that the Creator has decided that enough time has passed, Samuel.
Sam started talking as fast as he could, detailing what he could see-hear-feel-experience. "We need the Egypt Matrixes. Something's going to happen. Something beyond needing two Primes. We need more Primes, more power in the leadership. More teams, specialized. The Brat Twins need to be recalled from Egypt, brought back to learn . . . learn what the Guard was. Will be. Is. Can't tell what the tense is. Something. List . . . got list of Primes from caves. Need . . . dammit, no time. Have to bring bodies back now. Primes reunited . . . soon? A Prime from somewhere far away. Glyphs for Protectorate, Prime, Humans, Cybertron, Earth . . . combined somewhere. Soon. There's something big coming. Something that will cause death, bring life, end an age, birth a new one. There's need. Need to get this done. Augh! Dammit!"
"Sam!" Optimus lurched over Bumblebee and his precious cargo, hands outstretched as if to protect the younger Prime from the pain he felt. "Boy!"
Groaning, Sam reached his free hand up to brush Optimus' closest finger. "All right . . . I'm all right. Feel like Megatron sat on my head, though. Oh my God, that was a trip. Ow, dammit."
"We have marching orders, it seems," Optimus confirmed.
"Yeah. Elita, please tell me that you're about to go all Mama Bear on my sorry aft?"
"And hand you serious medication?" she asked directly, her tone sharp. "You bet. Here. Last thing I want to see are my mechlings in pain. Anything else you remember?"
Taking the bottle of water, seeing the sealed bag with painkillers taped to the side, Sam sighed in relief. Ratchet really looked out for him. "Yeah. We need the entire Egypt team, not just the Twins pulled back. Them, the bodies of the old Primes, everything. We need to rebuild the power base in a localized setting and there's no real reason that I was given. I'm guessing that Primus is protecting us from something." He rubbed at his face.
"You said that you had a list of names," Optimus murmured.
"Yeah. I have that list. We need to have another gathering like what we did for Jazz and Prowl. Protectorates were chosen, too. Some of them. Some might not be on Earth yet and will need to be retrieved. Nanites. We have the answer to those. Selective amnesia, memories stored by nanites to protect the humans and Autobots on missions, or in situations where the programming will be activated. Permission for that programming would have to be in written and verbal form, but memories of giving permission would also be part of that 'amnesia' programming if it needs to be activated."
"Brilliant," Hot Rod whispered. "That would actually work."
Nodding his agreement, Sam continued, "Thank the Creator for it, because I couldn't have come up on that on my own. We're going to need Jazz, Perceptor, Ratchet, First Aid, and Smokescreen on this project." He sighed as the pain began to recede, finishing off the water and relaxing against Bumblebee's shoulder armor, one arm hooking around the back of an armor plate. "I got the impression that it wouldn't take more than three weeks for the programming to be created and implemented. We need to have that meeting within a week, though. Need everyone here."
"Everyone?" Elita confirmed. "Even the . . ."
"The Massachusetts group. Yes." Sam looked directly at Mikaela. "There's a second location, by the way." He grinned at the shock on her face, then looked up at his Brother Prime. "You okay, big guy?"
"Better, now that you're no longer in pain."
"Yeah, same here. Let's start pulling everyone together."
It was no simple fireside chat that met the gaze of the mechs and humans who gathered in a rough semi-circle around three moderately-sized fires. In the center of the three fires sat six rough metal spheres, with what looked to be acid-etched marks roughly inscribed upon their surfaces. Each sphere was settled into a stone ring to keep it from rolling anywhere.
Mikaela sat in the shadows on Hot Rod's shoulder, watching the interactions around her with knees drawn up to her chest. She watched Carly kiss Sam's cheek, saw his smile as he nuzzled the blonde's cheek in return. They were just a cute couple for the moment, but a motion out of the corner of her eye drew her gaze to another few couples. Optimus and Elita were snuggling, making Bumblebee gag and scurry around the fire to where Sam and Carly stood. He was joined by Barricade, who promptly leaned in between yellow doorwings, tickling the Guardian's sides.
Jazz and Prowl were curled close to each other, their smiles directed at a playful Hudson that was using their frames as his personal jungle gym. Ratchet and Wheeljack were settled close to each other, smiling at Prowl's family as if they had some say in that matter or some reason to be happy about the trio's happiness. Mikaela wondered what the connections were that Sam obviously knew about and knew how to master. Because there was so much that she didn't know. She looked down at the youngest Twins, femmes, who were playing with their human Caretaker, a young woman named Rivka that wasn't much older than the rest of the college students. There were two more Younglings that had arrived with that family, but those two stuck close to Riv's husband.
So many mechs and femmes and humans all moving around each other with ease and here she was . . . with the only other young Adult that didn't fit in. "Roddy . . ."
"I know. It's hard being the outsider. But we . . . we did this to ourselves. And we can't fool ourselves otherwise."
"Yeah." She rubbed at the back of her neck, seeing Optimus and Sam move towards the center of the clearing, between the triangle of fires and behind the line of sphere. It was eerie, seeing Sam move as an adult man, someone secure in his authority. She ached at what she had lost as she saw Wheelie and Brains shyly climb onto Carly's lap and rest against her torso.
"Family and friends, Sparklings and Adults, tonight is a night that we've been hoping for. Tonight is a night we were unable to predict, but are glad to have finally reached." Samuel Prime stood with his back straight, turning around to read every face in the circle. Mechs that Mikaela didn't know had been on Earth were smiling at the young Prime taking his place among the leadership. Sam smiled back at them. "Optimus."
"Many of you know the history between myself and Megatron. I and my contemporaries spent many nights around fires similar to these three, reliving our pasts to tell you what a Prime and their Lord Protectorate are. My Brother, fractured though he may be, still retains his position of Lord Protector, even if he and I are estranged." The brightly-colored leader drew in a fortifying breath. "One day, if the war does not kill us both, he and I will rule Cybertron again. That is our duty and our creed: 'Till all are one. I will share leadership with him again if he will compromise. However, his part in the story tonight is only to feature as an example. Primes rule in conjunction with a Protectorate. The two are responsible for the well-being of their tribe."
Samuel took the cue to continue. "Long ago, long before humans walked upon the earth as tribes, the Cybertronians followed the Thirteen Primes. They were mechs and femmes who walked the stars, each with their own culture and tribe. One of those Thirteen fell, and we put an end to him three years ago in Egypt. I carry his Matrix, which repudiated him at his point of betrayal on Earth. Since that time, the descendents of the Thirteen decided to have a series of checks and balances to do everything mortally possible to ensure that another Fallen would not rise." He nodded towards Optimus. "This is where the Lord Protector became key to a ruling dyad on Cybertron."
The Primes shared a look, and Sam smiled, indicating something to Optimus. Mikaela leaned her forward, curious.
Optimus looked at the semi-circle around them. Many mechs had already descended from the stars; the only ones who could not be pulled away were the Wreckers at the Xantium and the Maximals at the Axalon. His voice, low and gravelly with emotion, whispered, "The time has come where Primes in a brotherhood rule again, in congress with their Lord Protectors, doing away with the Iaconian Senate ideal entirely to prevent corruption of a larger governing body; that was one of the many causes of the war we now fight."
A cacophony of incredulous voices rose, some mechs driven to their feet in shock.
Optimus and Sam raised their hands for silence.
The only sound was the popping of wood in the fires. That is, until Sam stepped forward to the series of unassuming metal spheres, glyphs of the Primes etched around seams. His brother interrupted his movements. "Before we begin. The Lord Protector for Samuel Prime has been chosen. They will train with and among their Brother Protectorates."
Lennox moved forward a step, then caught himself and shoved his hands into his pockets. Sarah stood beside him, resting her hand upon his lower back. She knew that Will didn't want to see Sam injured. After several battles together, her husband had it ingrained within himself to protect the kid. He felt the draw to be that person to protect the young man who quickly had become his little brother.
Optimus turned away from Lennox, hating that he had to break the co-leader of NEST's heart. "Faust."
"Faust, I call upon you to take the mantle of Lord Protectorate for Samuel Prime during his tenure upon Earth. Do you accept?"
Stumbling upon suddenly-clumsy legs, the young Seeker found his way to kneel before Samuel and Optimus. "How . . . how could I not?"
Sam reached out, his hand gentle but firm. "Then rise and stand with me, Faustus."
Somehow, the young Adult was able to do so, dimly hearing the cheering and congratulations of his family, his friends, his peers and his mentors. All that he could comprehend was a sudden wave of kinship between himself and the young human Prime; the acceptance and love radiating from the young man gave him strength to stand, crest held high and shoulders squared.
Sam's voice cut through his reverie. "I have the honor to name the next Prime and their Protectorate. I have had my suspicions for a very long time, and was relieved that they were on the mark." He stood behind one of the age-pitted boxes, hand outstretched and calling.
The sand of a Matrix seeped out through the seams, forming in the air between the box and Samuel Prime's hand. He smiled as a soft light shone rosily from within the depths. "Elita-One, Bonded of the Prime Optimus."
"Prime's Consort?" Kup whispered, his face lighting up in delight. "A Femme Prime!" Crowing, his joy catching on like wildfire among the Autobots, the mech cheered as Elita slowly walked forward, optics wide in shock as she held her hands out for the precious artifact.
Sam rested it within her palms, the small sun flaring brightly before settling once more into a gentle glow. "Welcome, Elita-One." He turned. "As I have been told, her Protectorate has been her friend since the moment they met. Their friendship, their sisterhood, should be an inspiration for our Sparklings, both of the Cybertronian and Organic origins." He raised his voice authoritatively. "Chromia, Bonded of Ironhide, will you accept the title of Lady Protectorate?"
"Pit, that's a slaggin' hot title. Do it, Mia!"
Snickers broke out at Ironhide's casual disregard for decorum. Sarah and Will had to sidestep the mech being knocked on his aft by the femme in question before she huffed and turned to walk in a stately manner to Samuel. "I accept. Do I get to keep my name?"
"Yes. Unless you like the name Chromius or Chromatron."
"Yuck! Too mechly. I'll keep Lady Chromia. Has a nice ring to it." She took up her place behind Elita, whose hand was now firmly in her mate's grasp, her other hand locked around her Matrix.
Ironhide gave her two thumbs up in his own goofy manner, drunk with happiness at this turn of events. He always loved it when she succeeded! And to become superior to him in rank? She deserved it after the long, hard years they had spent as Guards and warriors.
Sam turned to the next box, paused, then turned in the other direction to the complete other end of the line. Optimus chuckled. "Matrix being decisive?"
"Matrix will be stealing your thunder, more like, Op." Sam grinned, then stood behind the sand-formed Matrix in question. "I have no introduction prepared, and the mech needs no introduction; everyone who knows him knows what it is to enjoy life simply for the sake of living." He drew in a breath, his hand calling forth the Matrix that cried out for its Bearer. "Bumblebee—" Gasps interrupted him, smiles erupted around the fires. "Bumblebee, Sparkling of Optimus Prime and Elita-One, will you join me in my calling to lead, becoming my Brother in truth?"
"Primus, yes!" Launching himself forward, but catching himself before he knocked his once-charge, now-brother over, the scout reached his hand out hesitantly. The slight weight of the Matrix whispered over his sensor-net, dancing over his frame, and the human hand resting upon his palm beside the Matrix warmed his Spark. He turned, seeing the dark form of his lover duck his head, turning to walk away.
This movement did not go unnoticed. Sam's voice rang out strong and clear, stopping the mech in his tracks. "Barricade, Sparkling of Jazz and Prowl, stand to your post! I call you to duty as Lord Protector to your lover, to the Explorer Prime!"
"I cannot!" the anguished voice replied. "I cannot . . . I will not put him or you in jeopardy, Samuel Prime. I . . ."
Bumblebee, Matrix in hand, moved back to where Barricade stood, steps light but deliberately placed. "You can protect us."
"I'll fail you."
"You've never failed me."
"I'll have to fight you and hurt you in battles!"
"You'll be protecting me and my station regardless of banner or insignia."
"I can't do this, Bee!"
"Then I will return the Matrix until you can. It is within my right."
Barricade's tortured cry of "You can't do that!" caused many heads to twist away as if slapped. The pain that the young mech bore was too much to gaze upon, and out of respect, many Adults turned their gaze away.
But the Primes and Barricade's Creators watched on.
"Barricade, not every Protectorate must protect their Prime using the same mold. I am neither of my Creator-Caretakers; how they lead is not how I will lead. You don't have to be like Terratron or Megatron."
"I will not cause you grief!"
"You cause me grief by refusal; I will not have any other at my side but you."
The mech broke into keens, falling to his knees before his Prime, hands gripping Bumblebee's hips and his helm pressing against the younger mech's side. Curling over the half-Praxian, Bumblebee crooned wordlessly, reassuring his mech that all would be well until the croons had words. "Please . . . please come with me. Please don't make me walk this path alone."
Somehow, those were the words that Barricade needed to hear the most. He was needed. And he found himself standing before Samuel Prime, his voice breaking as he vowed to protect Bumblebee. The young man reached up, his hand open and welcoming. Barricade rested a finger in the breakable palm, nodding acknowledgement before standing behind Bumblebee, one hand resting between golden doorwings. He needed this contact to keep him from darting away, abandoning his post, and flying out into darkness. He needed to know that this was real.
Chromia's hand found his free one, and he shamelessly pulled it up to rest against his cheek, his need for comfort in this new stage of his life bringing him back to Youngling habits. He relaxed as her hand stroked along one spar reassuringly. This femme who could break him in a Sparkpulse accepted him as her brother, as her equal, but also as himself, giving him strength to stay where he was.
Sam smiled over his shoulder to Optimus, who reached over and stroked one hand along the black helm in acceptance and understanding. Stepping forward, he watched as Sam and the newly-renamed Faustus moved back to stand beside Bumblebee and Barricade. Optimus felt his Matrix push him towards the third box in line. Smiling, he reached his hand down and drew the sand-formed Matrix forth. "Many Sparks have been considered for this position, but I feel that Primus chose the most deserving of them all. I have deeply enjoyed the guidance of this mech since my first days in office as Prime; his long years of guidance continue to remain invaluable to me and all who love him." Looking up, he murmured, "Ratchet, come forth."
"Wheeljack!" Ratchet replied, scandalized. He looked up at his friend of many years. "Prime?"
"No. Just Optimus. Will you accept, Ratchet?"
"So long as I know that I won't kill the poor schmuck assigned to me as Protectorate."
"I doubt that will be a problem." He smiled and looked to Ratchet's left. "Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, as you are of one Spark, you are also sharing in one political position. Will you accept the office of Lord Protectorates to the Healer Prime?"
"Woah," they breathed in unison. Looking to the mech who adopted them, they came to stand on either side, looking to him for one final act of leadership over them.
He bowed his head, curling his arms around the red and gold twins, pulling them close to his sides. "Yes. I accept this role of Prime."
"We accept the office of Lord Protector," the twins replied in perfect harmony, their voices sounding as one.
"Then welcome, my brothers."
By this point, Sam started looking around at the face again, making a mental checklist of who was here and who wasn't. A second mindburst earlier in the day had forced their hands to get the Matrixes to their Bearers, even though mechs were missing. The Maximals knew that none of their number were called to be Bearers, and that was fine by them. They preferred to be shadow-Autobots, settled in the wilderness and coming to aid when necessary. Sam and Optimus had spoken with them about the chance of relocation, and they were slowly planning towards the inevitability. They would be needed, this much was known, in the coming battles. Megatron would have to deal with the Sparklings on his own. This time, however, they would reprogram the babysitter drone to have some semblance of competence when it came to watching the Hatchlings.
A commotion began in the back of the crowd, as if Sam's gaze had willed it. He chuckled silently to himself, feeling Faust . . . no, Faustus . . . lean closer. "Prime?"
Optimus' head snapped up from where he was murmuring private congratulations to Ratchet and the Twins. He took two steps forward, almost as if in a daze, before roaring "Dion!" in Cybertronix, leaping over the fires and smaller mechs and humans between him and his first brother. The crunch of two frames hitting each other, Ultra Magnus falling backwards at the tackle, echoed across the gathering, shocking many back into silence. Humans began drawing weapons until the sound of laughter erupted from the twain. Elita's voice rang out over the almost-manly giggles. "If you two are through being Sparklings at what could have been a formal ceremony . . ."
"Yes, dear!" they chorused. Optimus stood, helping Magnus up, keeping an arm around him. "Autobots, NEST, please welcome Ultra Magnus. He and I were raised by the same Caretakers."
"Oh, if that's all," Lennox grumbled, holstering his pistol and picking Annabelle up. He kissed her cheek in reassurance before settling down again. "And who are the mechs with him?"
Magnus chuckled, his voice similar to Optimus' in cadence. "My frontliners, Grimlock and Blurr; my Medics Firestar and Swoop; my scientist, the spawn of Wheeljack, Que—"
"Good Primus, now I have to patch two of you up? Slag me." Ratchet sighed gustily.
Shaking his head as his eccentric scientist joined his Creator-Caretaker, Magnus continued, "And my scouts: Dino, Beachcomber, and Cliffjumper."
"Frag me," Sunstreaker grumbled just barely audibly behind Ratchet. "My finish will never be the same again."
"You could always bribe him with high grade . . ."
"Waste good Energon on him? Psh, Sides."
"Kids. Cork it."
"Yes, sir, Healer Prime, sir."
Optimus chuckled and shook his head. "Shall we return to business?" He strode up to the next box, the Matrix forming as soon as he stepped beside it. It was a heady feeling, bouncy, joyous, and filled with something . . . ah, yes. "The contrast between the Order that Primus gave us to battle the Chaos of Unicron is never easily balanced within our Sparks. Each of us has the ability to either become agents of Order or Chaos, Good or Evil. Very rarely has a Spark shown the ability to balance both and still remain sane.
"The Matrix that I hold belonged to the Prime who showed the most perfect of balances. And it has called out the next Bearer: Jazz."
The silver mech stayed rooted to the ground. "Prime . . . I'm not . . . I can't be . . . I've done things, Optimus . . ."
"So have I, and my Matrix has not yet repudiated me. The necessity of the actions of war is balanced by the regrets we hold, the love we feel. Your Bond to Prowl has only cemented this Matrix's call on your Spark. Will you join me, will you help me lead our people, Jazz?"
Turning, looking into this Bondmate's optics, a thousand questions rocketing over to the Praxian, Jazz whispered only one aloud: "Will you support me, help me?"
Breaking optic-contact reluctantly, Jazz walked forward slowly. The slow, steady pounding of reverent, approving applause thrumming through the ground with the stomps of his friends' feet sending shower of sparks upwards in waves.
The moment was broken by Optimus' joyous voice. "Why do you walk without your Lord Protector, Jazz?"
"Terratron saw his potential since he was but a Youngling; the old Lord Protector taught him personally through many seasons of their lives. Why do you walk without your Lord Protector?"
"Prowl," Jazz whispered, shocked.
The black and white, holding Hudson, strode forward slowly until he stood beside his Bondmate. Optimus smiled at the mates. "My friend, Terratron and Ratchet revealed to me much of your insecurities, your fears of becoming a tactician such as the late Detrious, your initial Caretaker. While I will continue to consult with you in matters, you are now beholden to your own Prime first and foremost. I wish to be the first to welcome you into the role you were Created to fill. Welcome, Jazz, Chaos Prime; welcome, Lord Protector Prowl."
Cheers broke out, the applause of stomped feet nearly putting the fires out while Jazz and Prowl joined the other newly-named Primes in shocked reverence. Optimus turned to Sam, his smile bright. "I yield the final two Matrixes to you, Brother."
Samuel Prime smiled, feeling his new Lord Protector move with him. Already, the constellations of Primes and Lord Protectors were starting to form around his heart, his mind. The nanites must have had something to do with his swift assimilation, and yet he couldn't help but smile as he felt Faustus' incredulity at feeling his first real Bonds start to meld and form, the strongest of which to the small Human Prime before him. Continuing to smile reassuringly, Sam pushed an image to Faustus, who caught it, grinned, and nodded once. "I have not had the time to get to know this next Candidate. However, I have heard much of his exploits, of his bravery. I have seen his dedication to those under his protection in recent days, and it is my honor to be the one to bestow the responsibility onto him." He looked around the gathered mechs and humans, then turned to the mech in question.
"Will you join us as Rodimus Prime, and grow into the mech you have been Sparked to be?"
The young mech walked forward quickly, his hand going up to protect the woman upon his shoulder. "Yes. I-I will."
Samuel placed the formed Matrix within the young mech's hands as he knelt. "Rise, Emissary Prime." He looked to Faustus, who looked out directly at the mech called to be Rodimus' Lord Protector.
"Ultra Magnus, will you guide Rodimus into becoming your equal? Will you be his Lord Protector?"
The older mech chuckled and walked forward. "Straightforward, kid. I like that." He clapped Faustus on the shoulder with a grin. "Yes. Looks like you're my adopted bratling again, eh?"
"O-oh. Um." Hot Rod looked intimidated for a half a second before grinning at the tease. "Guess so."
"Should I . . . um," Mikaela looked as if she wanted to go, but Hot Rod rested his fingers over her lap.
"Only if you don't want to stay."
"I want to stay," she whispered.
His smile was the only reassurance she needed.
Sam and Faustus walked up to the one remaining Matrix. Before they had even reached it, the sands were swirling outside of the box, eager and ready. Holding his hands out entreatingly, Sam gathered the Matrix to form, feeling it eagerly reaching out. He addressed those gathered, but his gaze rested firmly upon the Matrix in his hands, his own Matrix now a swirling cloud of dust and sand hovering around his shoulders and back. The newness of this half-solidified form distracted him, and he took a moment to compose himself, wondering what his Matrix was up to. All that he got in answer was a mischievous hum. Right, then.
"I asked Optimus to have the honor of naming this final Prime, because of my relationship with the Bearer. Their guidance through many of the hardest times of my life and through my college years has been invaluable. Optimus and I both saw his heartbreak when he was not named my Lord Protector." Looking up, his murmur was heard through the crackling of the fire. "William Lennox, will you join us as Warrior Prime and second representative of the human citizens of the unified Cybertronian nation?"
Putting Annabelle down next to his Sarah, Will walked forward, military training showing in his almost-ceremonial stride to the younger man. As he held his hands out, Sam placed the Matrix within them, watching as it shone brightly for one long moment, signifying the unity between itself and its Bearer, before it misted out and ran up along Will's arms.
Sam felt the chill-heat of living metal slip against his back. Only willpower kept him from moving as he saw upon Will what happened to himself.
The Matrixes had changed, transformed, to adapt to their non-Cybertronian Bearers.
He felt the glyphs of living metal representing the AllSpark and the fractals representing the Matrix settle along his back and arms, hidden under his shirt. Will looked just about as freaked out as he felt, one hand resting upon his chest. "Um."
"Yeah, that was new to me, too."
"You want your Lord Protector?"
"Sure. Because nothing can be weirder than hearing a voice in my head welcoming me into the family and then telling me to hold still because 'it won't hurt.' Are all the Old Primes like this?"
"Yeap. Faustus? You want to do this?"
"Nope. I'm still freaked out by the Matrix doing its new thing."
"Figured." He grinned and looked over the crowd, starting to lighten up. He could see that so many of the Cybertronians looked just as surprised as he and Will were. "Ironhide, you want to protect his aft?"
"Then get up here so we can finish this out and cut the line to Africa."
Laughing, the big black mech did as he was told, standing behind his Prime, whose family ran up to join him. Sam smiled to Carly, who walked up beside him and kissed his cheek. He wrapped one arm around her and rested his chin upon her shoulder before looking up at the rest of the Primes. Families joined them, Sparklings clambering up on frames.
Optimus turned to Samuel, his smile bright. "We are the only ones without a title, Brother."
"Hm. Pretty sure we know your title, Optimus?"
"Leader Prime," they chorused, half in playful exasperation. Someone from the crowd muttered, "Duh."
He threw his head back and laughed before looking down at Samuel again. "Very, well, AllSpark Prime!" He looked out over his People, hearing Sam's mutter of "Dude, lame title," knowing that the night was recorded and transmitted to Africa, where his Lord Protector was watching with his Maximals. "Would you prefer Life-Giver Prime?"
"Nope. AllSpark Prime is perfectly all right."
He smiled, feeling the hand of his Bonded rest within his own in the human manner, fingers carefully intertwined. Waves of peace, contentment, and love radiated from her and from the Matrixes they carried. ~My love, did the previous Bearer have a connection with the one whose Matrix I carry? Those memories aren't readily available to me right now.~
~Oh, my Spark, they were very, very much in love and had many Sparklings together in the way that Skyfire insisted is possible.~
~Primus, that's intoxicating. Right. Let's finish this out before I embarrass us both in public.~
~Pff. Wouldn't be the first time.~
Barely holding his snicker back, Optimus drew upon all he could to finish out the most unique of ceremonies. "We are your Primes, your Protectorates, your servants who will do our best to lead you. In the times of old, each Prime lead a tribe; we ask that you look within yourselves to find which of us to follow. For some, it may be easy, others not so much. For this is what it was meant to be: many Primes, with many cultures, united together. As your leaders, we ask you to hold us responsible, to hold us accountable, to be our voices of reason. We are not perfect; we are not omniscient. The Matrixes we hold are simply repositories of the wisdom of the Primes who came before us. We are but mortal, prone to accident and mistake, and ask you to think kindly of us in those times where we don't know the way." He fell silent, unsure of what next to say, but was saved by a cry from an old, haggard voice thick with emotion.
"Mechs! Humans! Hail your Primes and Protectorates!"
"Hail, Prime!" the voices cried out in one accord. "Hail, Lord Protector!"
Kup stood before the astounded mechs and humans, crying out with the rest as they repeated the ecstatic hails.
The welcome into the new age of Cybertron's culture was something he didn't know his old optics would ever see. He would be glad when Megatron took up his old office of Lord Protector to Optimus again. The balance needed to be restored.
Wouldn't that be a fine sight again.
"Hail, Cybertron! Long live Cybertron, his Primes and Protectorates! Long live Primes and Protectorates!"
Author's Note: This chapter was thoroughly unexpected. Sam decided to do away with the plan I had been going with in favor of naming the next Primes. Did this feel longer than ususal for you? Because it is. This is the first 17-page chapter that I've written since July of 2011, literally two years ago. It truly hasn't felt this long since I've started writing this fic, and I'm shocked at how much left I have to write.
Oddly enough, it feels like since I've moved into the new apartment, there's been an abundance of creativity available to me. I can't wait to continue this story, and hopefully finish it! Thank you, all of you, for bearing with me through the slow updates and short chapters. I suppose I could have split this into two chapters, but it wouldn't have the same flow. But, here's some exciting news!
ANNOUNCEMENT! I'm going to be making this fic available in PDF format from a personal website for those of you who don't have steady internet or want to read it away from the internet. I will also be making sure that it will be available in book formats as well, in case your datapads don't recognize or read PDF formats (such as older Kindles or e-readers). It will be filled with edits, and at least one treat at the end of each file. The website is located at becktoria-dot-weebly-dot-com and will have my full name listed instead of my pen name as I have it here on FFnet. Each Arc will be available for download shortly, but for now, bookmark that page and keep an eye on it!
Songs are: "Indra" and "Arise" by E.S. Posthumus, from their album "Makara." Additional listening is the entire album "Cartographer (disk 2: Piri Reis Remixes)." Trust me, worth the listen.