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Sweet child o' mine

Chapter Text

He remembers her laugh.

He remembers her sharp eyes that could see through his spark with fondness.

He remembers her soft skin, her fragile body among titans’s.

He remembers her perseverance, her determination to fight despite being the smallest being of this planet.

He remembers seeing her taking down opponents not with brute force, but with her skills and her cleverness.

He remembers carrying her on his shoulder or his hand, her body pressed against the metal, caressing each other as he sang poetry to her.

He remembers her putting her hand on her round belly with a smile of wonder.

He remembers being the happiest mech ever when the first cry of the child echoed within the walls.

He remembers, but cannot see anymore. All of it is gone, erased, taken away from him. Nostalgia cannot bring back the dead and the disappeared.

He remembers, remembers, remembers, that he loved and was loved, but they had to ruin everything.

Hate burns within his veins, along with grief, as he fights and tears the world apart. For every wound on his spark, for every drop of blood that stains his vision, they will have to pay tenfold.

Everything hurts and everything’s an endless dark, but then a tiny light pierces the shadows.

What is left of his family is still alive, separated from him by Autobot scum, but still here, on a faraway world.

“I will come, I will come for you as soon as possible”, he thinks as he slays his enemies, but he cannot, he realises with great pain, the shackles of the war restrain him.

“Find the scout,” he commands to his soldiers as he points to the sky. “Find the scout, he shall tell us where is our greatest enemy and where is our brightest hope.”

And his followers do not hesitate roaming the endless space, for each and every one of them remembers the tiny warrior, the fierce creature of flesh that fought by their side for a world of their own, and to honour her memory they will find her legacy, they promise to their leader and to the stars.

“We will come, we will come for you,” they chant.

But the child is oblivious to such vow, for a life is given to her on her mother’s planet.

And this peaceful existence shan’t be shattered, for she has nothing to do with their war, Optimus, and Bumblebee, whose mind drifts and breaks as he lays on the sand, know it.

 

Chapter Text

Charlie feels her stifled sobs more than she hears them.

Her friend’s back is pressed against hers, both girls curled within a nest of blankets.

She is trembling.

The sixteen-years-old turns around to wrap her arms around the bulky silhouette — a moment of stillness, then strong arms firmly hold her, as if she was an anchor. 

Sounds slowly die as the two girls snuggle with each other. Charlie is comically tiny within her friend’s embrace. 

“What’s wrong, Ashley?” she asks softly. 

The grip of the other girl suddenly becomes too tight. 

That is not my name.  

“Easy there, Ashley,” Charlie manages to breath.

Sometimes she forgets that her friend is a force of nature. The other one immediately backs away when she realises she’s hurting her.

“I’m sorry,” her voice is hoarse, shame twisting her face.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay, don’t worry about it,” Charlie whispers in a soothing voice.

An uncomfortable silence.

Then Charlie’s voice asks again what is happening, why she is crying. Red eyes are dim in the darkness.

“What change will it bring?”

Her voice is barely audible. Then she sees Charlie’s furrowed brow, her questioning gaze.

“I’ll be leaving soon, Charlie.”

A saddened expression from the brunette. 

“I know.”

Ashley has got a scholarship to a German high school.

Europe is the place she is going to study now.

One month before leaving America.

Fleeing.

“They don’t care, Charlie.”

The other girl takes her hand. She knows what she is talking about.

“My aunt, my uncle, my cousins, they don’t care. I could go to Oxford and they wouldn’t care either. Are they glad that I won’t be there anymore? They didn’t say “congratulations”, nor “finally you’ll be gone”. Nothing. Just… nothing.”

Charlie gently squeezes her fingers as she keeps speaking, forlorn words flowing from her lips.

Words about her concerns and her hopes about the future, far away from the home to which her heart doesn’t belong.

Charlie knows that hate is a strong word, a strong sensation, as powerful as love.

It hurts to be hated.

It hurts even more to be ignored.

Ashley, the beaming girl who gives millions of bright smiles to the world, never receives such token from her family.

Only once Charlie went to her house. Only once has she seen what is going on behind the scene.

She has never thought someone could be so cold with a member of their family.

Her uncle has said a few words. Her aunt, nothing. Just a disdainful scowl.

It is easy to see the indifference in their eyes.

They give her food, a shelter, clothes.

Nothing else.

Her cousins never plays with her. They tell her to go away whenever Ashley comes close. Calling her ‘Ash’.

No one would miss her look of pain and rage every time she is around them.

If Charlie could, she would welcome Ashley in her house so she wouldn’t have to go back to this fortress of ice.

But such thought is useless, unrealisable. She cannot change what the law has decided for her friend.

But at least she can give her asylum in her house, where the girls can have a world of their own.

Then Ashley’s voice brings her back to the present.

“I’m sorry, Charlie.”

“What are you apologising for?”

Ashley shifts, the bed creaks under her weight as her eyes meet Charlie’s.

“Is it selfish that I want to stay here, with you? People either ignore me or leave me. And now I’m leaving too, like my mother…”

“You’re not her,” Charlie snaps back, remembering the confession about her parent, a misanthropic woman, according to Ashley’s aunt, who disappeared decades ago, only to have her baby left on the doorstep several years later.

“I don’t know anything about your mom, but you’re not her, because you care about people, and no, it’s not selfish to want to stay here, I too wish you won’t go. But you know what? A whole new life is given to you, yonder you have a future, new places where you won’t be invisible anymore, with new people that doesn’t care about your past, and I want you to enjoy it.”

A fire lights up Ashley’s eyes as her friend comforts her, and she slowly rises, even though doubts still plague her mind, but she pushes them away as Charlie pulls her into a soft hug.

How long they remain in each other’s embrace, they don’t know and don’t care. They are just glad to have each other.

Then Charlie takes her by the hand, and, tiptoeing to the garage, they get on Charlie’s motorcycle, leaving the sleeping house.

Soon saline air swirls around them, as the lights of the town disappear behind them.

Hearing the distant rumble of the sea.

Following the road hugging the edge of the cliff.

And then, the stars.

Charlie knows about Ashley’s passion for astronomy. It is adorable to see her expression of wonder as she gazes out the starry firmament.

She asks her to name the constellations above them, even though she did so numerous times before. But her voice can awaken the interest and the imagination of anyone listening to her as she points at the map of the sky that she knows by heart.

And maybe it is only an illusion, but for Ashley it seems like the little lights punctuating the black infinity are sending a message to her, coming from the outer space.

“You are not alone.” 

If only! If only she knew that it is no hallucination, but the distant echo of a father’s cry. A father loving her with all his spark, and yet she cannot hear him.

For the stars are only companions to her, chasing away her loneliness, and not a clue about her past.

Chapter Text

It takes one second for everything to go wrong.

They have left the mayhem of the house, only to be surrounded by military vehicles.

Concrete scratches her cheek as she is grounded.

Charlie’s shout, telling the kind robot to run.

Confusion, panic, then rage.

Familiar liquid fire rushes through her veins, as she sees her friend being chased after.

Who those men are, she doesn’t care. What their intentions are, she doesn’t care either. They will not harm her friend or her protege.

With an inhuman cry, she breaks herself free from the vicious grip of the soldier. His fellow comrades only see something blurred speeding through the trees.

The woman is gone.

She runs and runs and runs, her only thought is about Charlie and the sweet robot.

She does not pay attention to the fact that she is faster than the military cars, or that her jumps make her reach the treetops.

Earth is quaking under her feet but the only sound reaching her ears is her throaty breath.

And while she comes closer, so do the two Decepticons, who feel the presence of energon, living energon, as if there were a fourth Cybertronian on this planet. But they dismiss the thought as they attack, the yellow scout skidding and ejecting the human before the hits fall on his frame.

And then a tiny creature, full of fury, intervenes.

Leave them alone! ” she roars as she charges the metallic titans.

Her fist lands on the blue one’s foot, and he groans in pain when the metal breaks.

Despite being baffled by such a display of strength, Shatter is quick to react, snatching the human in her fist.

It would be easy to tighten her grip and reduces the fleshling into a bloody pulp. But something, a thought, makes her pause.

“Deal with the scout,” she orders to Dropkick as she watches the human struggling in her grip, almost managing to tear the fingers apart.

He scowls at the creature, but complies nonetheless.

Shatter cannot help but feel rather curious. It seems that the source of energy is coming from this human.

She scans her body, and to her great surprise she sees energon flowing through her veins, the lifeforce of the Cybertronians inside her.

Then she notices two scarlet orbs glaring at her, full of anger and determination, and an awfully familiar face baring its teeth at her.

She feels like her spark is no longer hidden behind her chassis, but uncovered by her harsh stare.

A long-forgotten sensation.

Could it be…?

“Human,” she says with a stern voice, and as the woman gives her a confused look Shatter knows only one question will allay her doubts, no matter how blunt it is, but there is no time, for the other humans will be here soon. “Was your mother called Esther, from the Zalos family?”

Her widening eyes is enough of an answer.

“H-How… How do you know?”

The world grinds to an halt as Shatter’s mouth hangs open.

“Nebula?”

And as she tries to make sense of the titan’s behaviour, she freezes when she realises that the name rings a bell.

 

Chapter Text

The robot hides her from the soldiers.

She hears Charlie’s pleading voice.

Then nothing.

How long she remains engulfed in the darkness, she doesn’t know. But then light comes back, and her body is gently picked by large fingers as if she was a piece of glass.

The room is unfamiliar, as the titan put her on a catwalk with all the softness a giant is able to display.

“A civilian?! You brought a civilian here?!” someone exclaims.

A squeak of fear, and then the unknown man is caged between ruthless metallic fingers.

“Silence, human Powell,” Shatter snaps back. “You have no saying in the matter.”

She should be terrified by the two giant robots standing in front of her.

Yet she only has eyes for Bumblebee behind them.

Her heart clenches when she sees him lying on the floor, his frame covered in dents.

Cold anger makes her able to speak with a steady voice,

“I demand to know what is going on.”

She feels uncomfortable under the two strangers’ stare, but she keeps her deadpan expression.

“Are you sure it’s her?” Dropkick asks.

He cannot help but feel intimidated.

The same piercing eyes…

“Her mother’s name is the same than our lady’s. And Energon fills her body — it cannot be a coincidence.”

Whatever she was going to add is interrupted by the woman’s voice.

“You haven’t answered my question.”

To kneel before mere humans is humiliating. To bow before their lady’s child is a privilege.

“We apologise for our behaviour, Lady Nebula,” Shatter begins.

Again with this name. Again with this sensation of familiarity.

But she puts the thought aside as she spats,

“You apologise? You apologise ? You burst out of nowhere, threaten my friends, kidnap me, hurt Bumblebee and you apologise?! Don’t think a simple excuse is going to make me forget that!”

She should be thinking twice before yelling at giant beings that can easily crush her with two fingers, but if they wanted to hurt her they would have done so before.

No, she is not aware of their intentions, but it is not about killing her.

A sigh escapes from Shatter’s lips, a hint of shame weighting in her spark.

“It is true that we did not meet under the best circumstances, but—”

“Who’s Bumblebee?” Dropkick’s voice rises, confused — why should he regret his actions? No mercy for the enemy is the Decepticon’s motto.

Besides, they are soldiers. They don’t do delicacy.

War is not a tea party.

They follow her gaze until they spot the scout on the floor.

“Wait — him? B-127? Why do you care about him?”

“Why shouldn’t I? You have no right to treat him like that!”

Because he makes Charlie happy, and she is deeply grateful to him for doing so.

But Shatter is unaware of such fact, and would she know she would not care.

However, while she entirely disagrees with the human’s words, she knows that they are walking on thin ice.

But her partner is blunter to express their shared thoughts, and she cannot stop him.

“This Autobot scum deserved what he got!”

“Dropkick—”

“How dare you—”

“HE DESERVED WHAT HE GOT FOR SEPARATING YOU FROM LORD MEGATRON!”

The atmosphere sparkles with rage as his words resonate within the walls.

Shatter should scold him for his outburst, however, she knows. They are mere soldiers, but any Decepticon can understand the pain when a loved one is taken away from you.

The child was a miracle, a light piercing through the dark, and the Autobots tried to extinguish it.

How could they? How is a good question indeed.

And then her perplexed voice,

“Who… is Megatron?”

It is as if she has punched them in the guts.

“So, you don’t remember… but after all, you were so young back then.”

“Stop with this charade at once! I don’t understand a thing of what you’re talking about!”

“Then we’ll talk. But not here. In a more private place.”

It almost sounds like an order, and Ashley — whatever her name is, doesn’t like it. But then the titan adds with deference, almost pleading,

“Please, Lady Nebula.”

Their eyes meet, same shade of red, and she cannot see any mischievous intention in it.

“That doesn’t mean I trust you,” she declares as she steps onto her extended hand, her stare steady and meaningful.

A smirk on the other’s face.

“It is nothing less I would expect from you.”

As she is about to leave, she glances at Dropkick, and her words resonate within his head.

“Dispose of the scout and the human. They are no longer of use.”

Now that is something he will enjoy to do.

When the robot flies away, the human stranded within her cockpit, the woman is oblivious to the unfortunate man gurgling a warning to his comrade before he is reduced to a puddle of water, oblivious to Charlie’s stifled screams as she watches her friend being shot.

No, her only thought is about the name said earlier, full of implications she cannot grasp yet.

And then Shatter speaks, her voice all around her like an echo from the past.

It’s a tale of a faraway world.

Where metal titans tear each other apart.

Where one of them leads and orders, speaks and ignites.

She pronounces his designation with awe and respect.

As she does with the woman’s name, the one by his side.

Two beings from two opposed places, and yet completing each other like jigsaw pieces.

How strange it is, to learn that her father is not from his planet, that he is a creature as powerful as these two individuals if not more, someone who has shared an unbreakable affection with the woman that has carried her.

“But did they love me,” she whispers as the truth shakes her mind.

“Of course they did, and he still does. You were the most precious thing they ever had.”

“Then why did they abandon me?”

The plane twirls in mid-air, as if it bumped against a great obstacle. Everything hisses around her.

“Who dared make you think that! How dared they!

“Why so angry?” she whimpers, willing to be anywhere but within a furious machine.

“Lady Esther was killed .”

There is so much venom dripping from her voice it could melt down the ones it is aimed at.

She snarls then calms down, talking about the love Esther will never be able show to her, because she is no more, because of the former government.

The Council.

Term spat hatefully.

A bunch of privileged, tyrannical individuals, disgusted by the miracle and hope that were Esther and Nebula.

They hated organics, and hated the fact that one of them would give an heir to a mere low-cast.

As soon as the two lovers lowered their defences, the Council acted — and signed many death warrants, including their own.

Their irreparable act ignited the war that had been ready to explode at any moment.

And through the fire all have howled and mourned their lost Lady and their lost light.

“Then we heard that you were alive — but taken away by the Autobots, scum embodying the legacy of the Council. We started to look everywhere for you — and shared our Lord Megatron’s hope to see you again. And now, you’re back.”

A heavy silence follows the last delighted words, as the woman impregnated herself with the truth about her origins.

Her whole world is upside down and she has to collect the new pieces together.

She is not from here. She is not human — not entirely. She is not normal, she is not an abandoned child…

She is wanted .

Oh, how sweet it is to realise such thing! How strange yet wonderful it is, to discover that someone cares about her!

Nebula — she has finally found her true name — Nebula wants to cry and squeal in joy at the same time.

And then she realises, and thinks aloud,

“What now?”

Chapter Text

The wind is whirling around her and tangling her curly hair, filled with salt.

Yet the sea spray is not enough to revive her wounds.

What does, however, is the sound of footsteps coming closer.

Her grip tightens on the shawl covering her shoulders, the fabric of her shirt brushing against her fresh scars.

She is too exhausted and too weak and too scared to turn around and face her friend.

She keeps staring at the water, as if the ocean could soothe her inner turmoil.

Because nothing will be the same from now on.

Everything has changed last night.

Earth is saved, Bumblebee and Charlie are alive, and she is lost.

Is she a monster like the two titans who were ready to destroy her home? Is she a freak for surviving things a normal being would not be able to?

Is she alone now that Charlie knows what she truly is?

But such a gloomy thought is thrown away when familiar arms pull her in a soft embrace from behind. A face is pressed against her shoulder with all the gentleness the other girl can display.

“Thank you.”

Two words lighter than the breeze flowing around the two young women, but more precious than any treasure existing on this planet.

“…For what?” she asks in a whisper, as if by speaking louder she would break whatever spell she is currently trapped in.

When Charlie takes a few steps forward to face her, cupping her jaw with bruised but friendly hands, she realises that this is no dream, but the real world.

“Thank you for saving me. Whatever your past, whatever your name, be it Ashley or Nebula, it’s still you. You still are the strong and adorable sweetheart that loves to look at the stars and to hold me anytime within a gentle embrace.”

She cannot help but lightly smirk.

“I thought the sweetheart was also freaking crazy when she went angry.”  

Charlie snorts and gives her a playful punch on the collarbone, the gesture slightly dissipating the tension within her body.

“That too. Remember the guy who was filming under my skirt at the library when we were fifteen? You punched him so hard you knocked him unconscious. Everyone at school called you ‘Jekyll and Hyde’.”

“Yeah, and I promised them that if they did not behave, my eviiiiiil part would come to haunt them.”

Both are giggling now.

“The bullies were so scared of you they would flee whenever you were around!”

“I never did that on purpose! Not the first time, that is.”

“Oh my god, do you remember Vince?”

“Aren’t you talking about the narrow-minded carrot-haired idiot who was completely insufferable?”

“Yeah, him! Do you remember the first time you met him? He was annoying a younger boy, then you arrived and collared him from behind. You carried him as if he weighed nothing then you plopped him down on the entrance like he was some fussy kitten! Oh my god I remember his face he was so dumbfounded he couldn’t say a word, that was hilarious !”

They are guffawing, their laughs carried away by the wind.

They slowly calm down, wiping their watery eyes, then her smile drops down.

“Now I know where my strength comes from.”

Charlie flicks her on the nose, and she yelps in indignation. But her protests die in her throat when the smaller girl hugs her a second time.

“I don’t care, sweetheart. As I told you, despite everything, it’s still you. Otherwise you wouldn’t have taken the bullets for me.”

Her back is aching, punctuating Charlie’s words.

Last night, the dark-skinned nineteen-year-old had a choice to make.

Either letting the two giants calling the army that would burn her world to ashes, led by a father whom she doesn’t know a thing about.

Or save the one who has always been there for her, and was about to be murdered by the red titan.

Choosing between Earth or Cybertron.

Between flesh or metal.

Her decision had been made, and she jumped, slamming onto the lower platform and shielding the other girl with her body.

Metallic fire rained, tearing her skin, coating the floor in a mixture of red and blue blood.

She heard two screams of horror.

Yet she stayed alive, wounds slowly closing up.

As Bumblebee shot Shatter down, the two of them fighting on the concrete, she helped Charlie to take the strange green device off the tower.

Then there was water, an endless flood, airless and soundless, only the three of them.

As soon as they got out, she disappeared into the night despite Charlie’s call.

Now the girl — her friend — is back, at the same place where they have looked at the stars three years ago.

The anxiety previously haunting the one from two planets is gone, as she returns the embrace.

A moment later, they are sitting on the edge of the cliff, bouncing their legs together, shoulder to shoulder.

Then she speaks, and it is not easy to do so.

“I can’t come back home, Charlie. My life is going to be a bit problematic now… I don’t know if the others are aware of my… ‘condition’, but I don’t want to take a risk and end up in a lab.”

A heavy sigh from the smaller one.

“I understand… I don’t know if that will help but… Bumblebee has regained his memories, you know. He can protect you, take care of you, if you want to.”

The other girl slightly frowns, confused.

“He should stay with you, not me. The two of you share a close bond.”

“He can’t stay,” Charlie’s lips are quivering, her voice on the verge of breaking, “because he remembers that he has friends… he has what we could call a family… and I have one too… one I should learn to cherish again. I… I need them now.”

The taller girl smiles, it is bittersweet but soft, as she strokes the brown hair with fondness.

“I’m glad you think so… you are lucky to be related to such people.”

“I’ll miss him…”

“I know.”

“And I’ll miss you too.”

That makes her stop moving.

Her heart is racing a hundred miles per hour.

“Charlie…”

“Sweetheart, whatever your choice, it’s only yours to make. I won’t judge, never. I… I’ll be honest I don’t want you to leave too, but I want you to be happy, even though your life must be very messy right now, but I want you to know that you’ll always be the best friend I ever had, and that — that I’m glad I’ve got to meet you, to live by your side for so long.”

She is crying, and the other realises that salty water is running along her cheeks too.

It is not fair. It is not fair that the greatest girl in this world must say goodbye to two of her closest friends during the same day.

The half-breed throws her hands around the little one’s neck and brings her closer, both sniffling and hiccuping until their eyes run dry.

They find solace within each other’s arms, despite the fact it is temporary, they rejoice in this last moment together.

They do not want to let go, yet it is what they do, reluctantly. Then the red-eyed one leans forward and lays a gentle, sweet kiss on her forehead.

Charlie closes her eyes, enjoying the soft contact, and once it is over words barely louder than the faraway rumbling waves reach her ears.

“Thank you so much… for giving me a life, full of your love and affection.”

When she opens her eyes, her friend is gone.

Charlie wipes away her tears, a saddened smile stretching her lips, and she stands up.

It is time to come home.

 

Chapter Text

The floor of the cell is cold.

And yet nothing can soothe the burning and hurting frame.

He is covered in liquid fire, blue energon steadily flowing from his broken body, drop by drop, in silent, the stream following the dents and the cracks in his armour.

It is a dull but aching pain, a never-ending reminder of what happened earlier, when the pain was sharper, more vicious, like the hits that had fallen on him.

He remembers being brought on his knees, he remembers the cuffs cutting his wrists and the wicked smile above him.

“Watch and learn,” he had heard, a spiteful and sadist voice speaking to someone else, and Megatron had known that his fellow comrades were nearly, forced to watch indeed, and helpless to do otherwise.

No one can hear you scream for help in this place.

The floor of the cell is cold, and doesn’t care about him, like everyone else.

Lying on his side, despite the fact that he cannot move, he wishes nothing more but roar and tear the lieutenant apart.

Know your place, soldier.

He is exhausted of being a mere pawn that the upper cast can play with.

He is not a toy, a ragdoll you can punch and kick whenever you want to, yet it is what his superior did, and he has nothing to say.

For Primus’ sake, that is because he has spoken, pronounced one of the many words in his head that he has been whipped.

And yet he cannot do anything but taste his own energon.

The mute rage within him makes him clench his fist, and the motion stabs him with another wave of pain.

His body is a broken one.

He is a tired man.

And no one hears his weak cries.

But then something cool and slimy is spread on the wounds by minuscule hands, soothing the pain and closing the bloody gaps.

He hears a voice, this one is kinder and gentler, and foreign words fall from a small mouth.

“Out of the night that covers me,  

 Black as the Pit from pole to pole,  

I thank whatever gods may be  

 For my unconquerable soul.”  

He knows who it is, yet cannot see the tiny creature that hides in the crevices of the place.

The one hiding among the shadows has stolen nanites gel from the medibay, he recognises the substance slowly healing his battered frame.

But why she is speaking in such a strange way, he doesn’t know.

“In the fell clutch of circumstance

 I have not winced nor cried aloud.  

Under the bludgeonings of chance  

 My head is bloody, but unbowed.”

When she is finished with his legs, she untangles the knotted wires in his hips and lower back, making him sigh in relief, before going upward.

Her steady voice never falters, and resonates within his spark.

“Beyond this place of wrath and tears  

 Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years  

 Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.”   

If he’s still hurting, he doesn’t know. For a moment everything around him is forgotten, because he is only focused on her and the beautiful words.

Now she is standing in front of his face, and her piercing eyes meet his.

There is no pity in them. It is as if she exactly knows what he is going through.

She steps forward and lays a hand on his bruised cheek, tending his torn skin with care but professionalism.

When she speaks, it sounds like a lullaby, despite the lack of music, and it is comforting to the point he almost falls asleep.

“It matters not how strait the gate,  

 How charged with punishments the scroll,  

I am the master of my fate:

 I am the captain of my soul.”

There is nothing more to attend to, and no more words flowing from her mouth. He feels a pang of sadness in his spark when he realises that she is finished.

She turns back, ready to go back to her hideout, but his voice stops her,

“Wait. Please.”

She looks over her shoulder with an arched brow. Surely he will ask her why she did that, and she isn’t in the mood to give an honest answer.

What he says is unexpected,

“What did you do, with the words?”

She frowns, telling him she doesn’t understand, and he sighs, looking for a clearer question.

“When you were speaking… that was not… something you hear everyday. It’s… how can I say that? It’s different, but magnificent.”

“It’s poetry,” and there is a small but apparent smile on her lips.

It is the brightest expression she has ever given to him.

She explains that it is a form of literature, used to express feelings or ideas, and she is pleased to discover that he enjoys it.

“Can you do it again, Esther?”

It is the first time he says her name, and it feels nice.

She answers, “of course, Megatron,” and sits next to his face.

It is the first time they are so close, and both don’t mind.

For now they just want to stay together in this peaceful bubble created by her voice.

 

Chapter Text

The first time he meets her, he cannot help but think how similar and yet how different she is compared to her creators.

Optimus Prime is standing in front of a wooden house — a cabin, according to Bumblebee — which blends in between the broad and twilight-like trunks of the forest, where the young girl is hiding from the world.

They are a few miles away from the place his fellow Autobots currently are, trying to settle down on this foreign planet after their arrival a week ago.

Optimus knew that there was a chance he might come across her, the little one, the miracle child, but he hadn't expected her to be aware of her origins. Her eyes pierce through the darkness of the door frame, questioning, wary, ready to fall back into the shadows should he reveal himself as a threat.

But Bumblebee hums a soothing tune, gesturing with patience, willing to prove her that his leader means no harm.

The truck takes a step back, giving her space, before getting down on one knee, making himself smaller.

Electric blue dives into dim red.

“Take your time, little one,” his deep voice is a foreign sound amongst the forest's. “I will not force you to come out if you don't want to.”

Her eyes lower, avoiding his gaze.

“I'm sorry… I don't know who I should trust anymore.”

Before he can question the eerie statement, a dark hand comes forward, pointing at the yellow scout.

“You comforted my best friend, you protected her, you threw away her loneliness and gave her a sense to her life. I’m deeply grateful that you did so. But… those two titans who were eager to destroy my planet, and yet who treated me like a precious gem, they told me who I really am, they told me you took me away from a loving father.”

“More complicated… than that,” a feminine voice whispers from his radio.

“I know. That's why you told me to wait. To wait for someone who could properly explain me what happened.”

Her stare goes back to Optimus.

“And you came.”

Then she takes a step forward, she comes into the light, and for a brief moment the faces of her creators hide her own.

But soon the illusion is gone, because even if she has the same ruby eyes of her father and the same dark skin and round shape of her mother, she is not like them.

The rage eating the warlord from the inside out is absent from her eyes.

Her gaze is not determined like her mother's.

Her shoulders are hunched and her head lowered — it is so different from her parents who always stood proudly.

She is just tired. Tired, and alone again.

He can see she has gone through a lot. Optimus doesn't know why, but his spark begs him to lean forward and welcome the child within his arms, to give her some comfort. He suppresses the urge, knowing that such a brusque and invading gesture would scare the little one off.

He nods instead, explaining that it would be a long story to tell, for he has to dig deep into the roots of the Cybertronian society to explain how her parents came to be.

“Go ahead,” she shrugs as she brutally flops onto the stairs of the porch. “I have plenty of time for storytelling.”

He cannot help but ask if she is alright.

“Fine,” she grumbles.

Her tone is a clear indicator that she is not fine, but should Optimus press the matter, he has no clue.

He still doesn’t know a single thing about her. For now, they are strangers.

Maybe later… When they will be more comfortable around each other, maybe he will try to make her speak about her.

So he pushes the thought away and he kneels, the grass brushing his plating, and Bumblebee imitates him in a cross-legged position. Then his — soothing, she discovers with surprise — his soothing voice begins the tale of an old world.

“Cybertron once was a vast empire, with dozens and dozens of colonies implanted on several planets across the galaxy. Our leaders believed that our kind was above organic species; thus they never hesitate to wipe entire populations out if their homeworld’s soil was rich in resources — and the newly free space would be used to host the ever-growing Cybertronian population. We live for millennia, sometimes millions of years; back then the deaths did not compensate the newborns, which didn’t allow a balanced population growth. It seemed like our ruthless appetite was endlessly unsatisfied, despite the empire’s immense wealth.

“Cybertron was powerful, rich and feared, but that did not mean that Cybertronians were happy. Our society was framed by a rigid system of castes: according to the body and the alt-mode you were born with, you were labelled with the corresponding caste: the politicians, the militarians, the intellectuals, the entertainers, the merchants, the manual workers, the priests, and the outcasts, called “the strays”. Your cast dictated your profession for the rest of your life, no matter how misfit you could feel within it. You couldn’t have a Conjunx — what you humans would call a spouse — outside of your own cast. Every cast had to face prejudices and wariness from the other parts of society — which divided us, making it almost impossible to live as a community. And by the time I was online, the upper casts, politic and military, were heavily corrupted: bribes, favours and blackmails were common things.

“Before the war, my name was not Optimus Prime, but Orion Pax. I was a historian, from the cast of the intellectuals. My work was to study the Cybertronian archives and vulgarize their content for the general public. But it was more propaganda than an actual job: many times my books were returned to me, because it did not glorify enough the system. I never liked it, but I was too young to know how to write something that would satisfy the specification of the Council, and, at the same time, would give a clear insight of our past. The Council pretended that Cybertron was better now, and that the previous ages were uncivilized and dark periods of time, but I easily knew it was a blatant lie. Easy for me, since I had all the resources available to prove the absurdity of Functionalism — but I could not speak out loud, nor could any of my fellow Transformers, because whoever disapproved the Council was sidelined, banned, and sometimes killed. The atmosphere was of ignorance and fear, making it heavy and unbearable.

“And then, one day, a book appeared. The Council tried to remove it from the book stores and forbade its distribution, but by doing so they only increased the value of the novel, and it spread out in a small amount of time. Everyone wanted to know what was so special about this particular book (some people even downloaded it directly into their brain!), and I was curious too, so I looked for it. When I found it, I immediately became fascinated.

“It was simply called Dialogues . The story, beautifully written, was about a Cybertronian, who had died in an accident, and, as he waited in the Afterspark to be judged by Primus, our god, he came across a character called “the Stranger”. Who or what they were, the reader didn’t know, only that “they were not from here” . The Stranger asked the Transformer why he was crying, and he told them that all his life he had been miserable. Again the Stranger asked why, and as they comforted him, he told them his life. Gradually it became an explanation of the Cybertronian society, fueled by the remarks of the Stranger. The more the characters spoke, the more flaws of our world were pointed out. The mech explained that freedom was a foreign concept for him, and the Stranger was outraged to hear such a thing. They told him he was free to be himself, he ought to, actually, because everyone else was taken. It was the most touching part of the book: when the Cybertronian realised that he could hope, that he could dream. But then he asked what was the point in dreaming about a better life, if he was dead. And the Stranger pronounced an iconic sentence: “Because dreams occur when one is sleeping. It is time to wake up.” And he woke up in a hospital bed.”

For a fleeting moment, he stays silent, before speaking again:

“No wonder the Council tried to get rid of this book: it was an evident criticism of the very system they promoted. Whoever had written it had signed its own death warrant — but despite the Council’s investigations, they were never found. And the politicians were too late: the seeds of hope were sown. “It is time to wake up” became a forbidden motto, thrilling those who said it, thanks to someone who had been brave enough to shout that something was wrong.

“I wanted to meet this someone. I wanted to help them, I wanted to be part of this bravery. Thus I started to look for clues, anything that would lead me to them. I went all over the planet, I asked publishers and librarians who might have been in contact with this mysterious author. But none of them gave me an answer, denying the fact they had an acquaintance with them. I was about to give up, when a book seller from Kaon accosted me, and simply told me I should go to Zagoran.

“Zagoran is a desertic planet on the borderline of the Cybertronian Empire. It had been left untouched because it was only made of sand and barren mountains, making it “unworthy” of our leaders’ attention and unfit for Cybertronians to settle down. Only a few natives peacefully lived there, undisturbed by our expansionism.

“There were only two options. Either the book seller had given me a clue about the author's location, so I could meet them away from prying eyes; or it was a ruse from the Council, who might have noticed my researches about them, and maybe I was becoming too annoying, so they were trying to lure me away from Cybertron to kill me without any witness. But that last hypothesis was illogical: why send me on a faraway planet and waste resources in following me there, whereas there were people who easily disappeared every week? No, it was very likely that the place would lead me to the unknown writer.

“So I decided to go.”

The more he speaks, the more enthralled she becomes. It is as if Nebula can see the past through Orion Pax's eyes, and she beholds a world she doesn't know a thing about, yet who unfolds before her like the stage of a theatre.

She follows Orion Pax through his journey to Zagoran, can feel his excitement and his apprehension as his ship gets closer and closer to the planet and finally lands not far from a mountain massif.

The hot sand tickles her toes as he puts his feet on the ground. The tip of her tongue tastes the dry wind whistling around him, and she bites back a whine when the sun heating up his armour almost scorches her skin. But the sensation is quickly forgotten when he catches a glimpse of a shining object, standing at the base of a canyon.

The sun is reflecting on the plating of another Cybertronian, and Nebula is as curious as Orion about this stranger. A cloak is thrown around their shoulders, hiding their body, but everything about them is massive , and both travellers suddenly feel wary. They are even more anxious when the other robot beckons them to come closer before retreating into the canyon, but does Orion Pax have a choice? There is no turning back now.

Nebula is a simple witness, and cannot comfort him as he follows the stranger — and like his spark, her heart clenches in dread when a black bag is shoved around his head as soon as he enters the shadow of the cliffs. She feels his panic while he struggles against whoever harshly grips his wrists together and forces him down to his knees. His body is shaking and she shares the frightening hypothesis that this is a trap, and she jerks with him when another pair of hands palpate his body, looking for who knows what.

How long lasts this agonising moment, she doesn't know, but then a rumbling voice speaks.

“No tracker, no camera, no weapons. The guy is clean. You can let him go.”

Orion breathes out a sigh he has been holding — robots are able to sigh apparently — when he is released. But a firm hand stops him when he tries to take the bag off.

“The bag stays on,” the rumbling, calm voice tells him. “Now, follow us.”

He genuinely asks how he is supposed to walk if he is blind. The voice sighs and another one snickers, then Orion gasps in surprise when two callous hands scoop him up and press him against a broad chest.

“Aww,” the second voice, gravelly and deep, exclaims, “the little guy is cute when he squeaks! You look like a creator with their sparkling, bwahaha!”

Orion coughs in embarrassment while the one holding him — a femme, according to her voice — lets out an exasperated huff, before beginning to walk.

“Does this situation look like a joke to you?” and there is a warning in her tone.

“Oh, don’t worry, if the little guy tries any funny business, I’ll happily crush him. Got it, little guy?”

The smallest of the three shakily wonders what kind of situation he has got himself into while he nods and gulps.

The mech then makes an odd noise, something between a laugh and a snarl, like a wolf chuckling at a frightened dog, demanding him to go away, to leave his territory, or to submit.

So Orion submits. It's not like he can run away anyway. Not when the femme carrying him can easily smash him with her hands. He cannot see her, but he can guess she is taller than he is, or should he said huge, considering the arms supporting his weight are larger than his thighs. Each of her steps slightly shake the ground. Her thick and square fingers speak of strength, yet the powerful joints pressed against his armour are nothing but gentle and steady. He can feel the dents in the metal, a sign that her hands are used to harsh work… or more violent business.

He really, really doesn't want to think about the implications of such thoughts.

Then he notices that the air is cooler, it’s refreshing after having to cope with the burning heat of the desert. The femme turns right, turns left, turns left again — and after a moment he is so confused he cannot grasp directions any longer.

An eternity that could have been a second elapses during their walk — until she stops walking, and suddenly it seems like he is being stared at.

Anxious, he instinctively clings to her — and in response she unceremoniously drops him on the ground.

Someone snorts as he yelps in indignation then pain when he lands on his buttocks. He tries to get up despite the bag blindfolding him and he wobbles, almost losing his balance. A clawed hand catches him just in time, and sight is given back to him.

The first thing he sees is red. In the darkness of what looks like a cave, several pairs of glowing rubies warily peer at him. They stand straight, ready to strike should he do anything wrong. Their plating is dented and their paint worn, but their armour is so thick not even the strongest bullets would be able to pierce it. Some of them have cannons mounted on their back, others have guns and blades sticking out of their wrists — but all of them are covered in scars.

Orion realises in horror that he is before a pack of soldiers, beasts hardened by war — war dogs that can tear him up before he can say anything.

Despite being part of the military, one of the highest casts, soldiers are not worth more than strays. They are the tools of the expansion and the defence of the empire: they invade planets chosen by their superiors, they kill the people the strategists have decided not to spare, they guard the outposts implanted by their masters after having watched the battle from afar.

Never mind that dozens of them die on the battlefield — they are just pawns on the chessboard. They are made for violence, decimating everything, until violence claims them back.

Soldiers are almost never seen on Cybertron, if not as bodyguards — a job they are really good at — and they are so feared no one approaches them.

Are these people bodyguards too? Are they here to protect the mysterious author? It would be the most feasible explanation, yet Orion cannot shakes the feeling that he is missing something. They look old, battered by life, and at the same time there is something very young about them.

“What is your name?” a blue bot with gold accent coolly asks, his hands resting on the hilt of a long sword that can cut him in half in one swift motion.

“My designation is Orion Pax,” the historian manages to say with a steady voice, something he is proud of.

“Typical body from the intellectual cast,” the femme that carried him adds, and Primus, she is not tall she is a giant! “He fits Kat's description. He’s got nothing he can use against us. He’s either a spy or someone who genuinely wants to help.”

“I want to!” Orion exclaims, and everyone immediately stiffens, until they notice he is not speaking vehemently, but enthusiastically. “This novel, Dialogues, it was… it was something that everybody needed to read. The author was very brave to speak out loud, and I want to support them, so they can keep speaking.”

“And how would you do that?” two large, scarlet optics ask, inquisitive, only visible feature of a body hidden in the dark — and at this moment Orion regrets he has not an infrared vision.

“I am an historian. I have studied the past of Cybertron for a long time, and I want to share this knowledge… even if the Council doesn’t allow me to. That is why I am here: the writer spread hope, and if there is anything I can do to make this hope grow, if there are arguments the author needs to strengthen his ideas and resist against the Council’s propaganda… then I will not hesitate to provide them.”

The embers are closed now, reflecting upon the historian’s words. But when they open again, it is another voice that speaks, sounding strange, almost alien.

“We cannot trust you. Not yet. But if your words are true, then we will gladly accept your help. For now, go back to Cybertron. Think about the implications of such a choice. When we will decide that you are trustworthy, we will contact you again. And you will see the one you seem so keen to meet.”

When the silence comes back, Orion understands that it is time to leave. As they put the bag back and escort him toward the exit, he cannot help but feel disappointed. However, he understands that they have to take precautions — it’s survival.

He wonders how they will be able to tell that he is not a traitor, and he doesn’t feel the minuscule camera they have installed on him when they frisked him a moment earlier.

And the mysterious author is still plaguing his mind.

“Back then I didn’t know. I didn’t know that there was not one but two authors. I didn’t know they were already there, in this cave where everything began. I had seen his eyes and I had heard her voice. One was a soldier, like his brothers in arms. The other was someone who came from far away.”

Nebula is back to the present, and watches this robot full of memories, closing his eyes for a moment, trying not to get lost into the maze of his past.

“These people, one of a kind, were your parents. Megatron and Esther.”