A/N: One of three Skyfire flashfics.
If you compare the aerial teams to the grounder teams, you notice that the dynamic is pretty different, and what makes a good aerial leader isn't the same as what makes a good ground frame leader. However, with Optimus being a ground frame, I don't think this is something that he'd realize. I also wanted to challenge the usual portrayal of Optimus as the father figure of the Autobots, and more like the commander of an army.
As this is a one-shot I'd like to thank in advance everyone who reads, reviews, and favorites!
Supposedly the Prime's office was intimidating to the average Autobot, with its high ceiling and large desk that only seemed to emphasize the power and strength coming from the Autobot leader. To Skyfire, the room was almost tall enough for him to stand in comfortably, and the Prime was just as intimidating as any regular authority figure. Being helm and shoulder taller than him probably helped.
"You wanted to speak with me?"
Skyfire didn't bother sitting down; the only chair available was far too small for his bulk. And if that meant that he was looming over the Prime in a way that could be considered threatening, well, that suited him just fine. He was in a looming sort of mood.
"Yes, sir. I heard that you made Silverbolt the leader of the Aerialbots?" One of his wings twitched as the Prime didn't bother looking up from the datapad in his hand, only nodded in a distracted sort of way.
"That's right," Optimus replied, pressing a few buttons on the pad and making a notation.
"Then you've condemned them, sir."
Long vorns of practice kept the corner of Skyfire's mouth from twitching in a self-satisfied smirk as the Prime finally looked up from the report, a confused and slightly irritated look in his optics. Good. Now they were on even ground.
"I see you disagree with my decision," he said evenly, putting down the datapad and giving his full attention to the shuttle. "Would you please explain why?"
Obviously, otherwise Skyfire had no reason to be in the office in the first place.
"Silverbolt is unfit to be the leader of a wing of aerials," he said, flatly and in the tone of voice once used to head off long-winded tantrums over scientific topics. Unfortunately, it seemed as though Optimus, though he had doubtless had similar debates over his military career, wasn't willing to take that kind of opinion from one he saw as a subordinate.
"I'm afraid I don't understand," the Prime replied, steepling his fingers in contemplative gesture while also squaring his shoulders in what may have been a subtle threat. I am the Prime, so you must listen to me. "While Silverbolt is young, he has the potential to become a good leader if given time and support. He is calm, rationally minded, and willing to follow orders. I just don't see the problem."
"He is afraid of heights."
The Prime's posture changed, leaning back in his seat and resting his palms flat on the desk, one hand on the neglected datapad. The air of one who was repeating an argument that had already been won.
"With time and hard work, he can learn to overcome his phobia. And being the Aerialbot leader will give him something to focus on other than that fear." The Prime's voice was gentle, almost bordering on condescending, and held the note of a conversation closed.
Skyfire had to fight to keep the snarl out of his voice and off of his faceplates, though he couldn't help the flaring of his wings as he subconsciously tried to make himself seem bigger, more intimidating. Not that it'd work on the Prime, someone who by station was bigger than anyone else on Cybertron.
"With all due respect, sir, you know nothing of how aerials function," he eventually bit out. The slight head tilt and further slouch the comment was greeted with was enough to try his reasonably deep well of patience. The Prime was obviously disinterested with where the conversation was going, but was humoring him anyway.
"Is that so? Then please, enlighten me."
"An aerial leader does not show fear. They do not waver in their decisions, they are confident in their plans, and above all they are at home in the sky," Skyfire said, hands behind his back as if giving a lecture at the science academy. "Silverbolt is afraid of heights, and that cripples his self confidence. He can never fulfill the role of leader if he is afraid of the sky. Aerials choose their own leader, and they never would have chosen Silverbolt."
"Who would they have chosen, then? Slingshot?" Oh goody, some participation, even if the Prime sounded like he wanted to be anywhere but right there.
This got the Prime's attention, and he sat back upright. "And how did you arrive at that conclusion?"
"Simple. Skydive is the best Aerialbot flier. He's a brilliant strategist, and has already settled himself into the role of second without prompting. Given enough time, he would have taken command on his own." Skyfire could see the Autobot leader musing over this, his chin propped on his fist.
"Whether that's true or not, the decision has already been made. Silverbolt is the leader of the Aerialbots," he said finally. The shuttle's wings flicked hard in irritation, and a small part of him was glad that the Praxian tactician wasn't in the room. Wing language wasn't universal, but some comments were easier to understand than others.
"Then, sir, you should be prepared to deal with the fact that your aerial forces will always be sympathetic towards the Decepticon Seekers," Skyfire replied, voice clipped and flat. The Prime stiffened at the comment, his body language shifting slightly into something a little more threatening, and the shuttle knew he was drifting into dangerous territory here. The Prime never took suggestions of questionable loyalties among his men lightly.
"I hope you're not suggesting that the Aerialbots may be traitors to the Autobots," he nearly growled, and Skyfire's wings flared again.
"No. I am stating that the Aerialbots will always be drawn to a superior leader." He really wanted to sigh at the still slightly murderous look in those blue optics. This was always the problem when dealing with ground frames. They just didn't understand how the aerial mindset worked. "They already admire the Decepticon Air Commander and the Command trine. Eventually that admiration will get them killed. If they were a trine, they would already be dead."
"I am confident that they can rise above this fascination to do what is right," the Prime replied, steel in his voice and in his posture. "Thank you for your opinion. You are dismissed."
Skyfire struggled with himself, too many comments fighting to be said and all of them likely to land him in the brig for a fortnight. Eventually he settled on a violent flick of his wings, something that the SIC would have thrown him under the Ark for, before stiffly saluting and storming out.