It was an odd crew that stood together in the ship’s bridge. The crew of the Orion stood together in stony silence, waiting for their new captain. Prowl discreetly checked his internal chronometer, while Bumblebee groaned out loud and slumped against a wall. Bulkhead gave him a sympathetic look, while Ratchet outright glared.
"We wouldn't have to wait for a new captain if you two didn't scare off the last one," grunted the old medic.
"Hey, we didn't do anything, he was promoted," replied Bumblebee, shrugging.
"Actually, he said he quit the last time we saw him. There’s a hint in there,” corrected Bulkhead, staring in the direction of the bridge.
"Bulk, you're supposed to support me..." whined Bumblebee. He dropped into a crouch and rocked back and forth on his pedes.
Before their conversation went anywhere else, the short alarm that signified the ship’s hatch opening. "Here comes the new boss bot..." groaned Bumblebee. He flipped onto the deck and spun around in his seat. He spun to face the empty captain’s chair, staring up at it. “That last guy was super strict. I’m glad he left, aren’t you, Bulk?” He was met with silence. Bumblebee rolled his optics and spun to face the bridge, just in time to see the new captain come to a stop at the entrance of the Orion.
A strangled noise escaped Bumblebee’s mouth. They all stared at the new captain, who returned their gaze with an empty look. A thousand thoughts ran through each of their minds as they gaped at him. He was tall and lean, a clear frame built for fighting. His height easily cleared that of Bulkhead’s, who had always been the tallest out of all of them. But his face caught their attention the most; instead of a normal look, his entire face had been replaced with a black glass screen and a single blue optic shone out from the desolate darkness. Bumblebee’s optics trailed down to the bot’s hands, which were a cruel mimicry of claws. They extended, almost eerily, from his wrists. The only bot Bumblebee had ever seen with an appearance like that was Shockwave, and only in datapad pictures.
Ratchet had a look of pure horror as he pulled up the information packet on his HUD. The mysterious newcomer’s name was Optimus, and he had the rank of Prime. He stared from the picture on his screen to the person in front of him. His processor whirled as he remembered pictures of Decepticons and Autobots alike, their faces and hands removed. But that was in the old days, right after the war, where it had been hard to keep the fragile peace.
Why the frag did they submit him to empurata? A Prime, no less!
He had no words. Empurata was painful, no doubt, but it was only given to the worst of criminals right after the war. It was peacetime now; what had this young bot done to warrant such a punishment?
Prowl was just as stunned as Ratchet. This was the first time he had seen an empurata in real life, and he did not expect to see one as a Prime.
Let alone the new captain! He thought, narrowing his optics at the newcomer. It was common Autobot knowledge that empurata was given to serious criminals. But his Autobot beliefs clashed with those of his cyberninja training, which told him to forgive. He remembered Yoketron telling him that every single bot had redeemable qualities. He simply stared on, the conflicting views waging a mental battle inside his processor.
It was Bulkhead who roused them out of their trance. He commed Bumblebee.
::Come on, Bee! We can’t just stare at him like that! Maybe you should say something, like something nice!::
"Ca...Can they do that?” stuttered Bumblebee aloud. Everyone, including Optimus, jumped and turned to look at the smallest member. “Are they allowed to make him a captain?" He pointed to their new Prime, who had silently moved to his command chair and was currently working. He looked up at Bumblebee, and for a second, their optics met. If Bumblebee had not known better, he would have thought that the gaze was tired-looking. He shrugged off the feeling. Empuratas were known for not having any emotion whatsoever.
Ratchet seemed to know what he was thinking because he walked up behind Bumblebee and slapped him on the helm. "Watch yourself, kid. That’s our new captain, and he outranks you. Be polite."
Bulkhead fell in step with the two as they walked to their respective stations on the control center’s deck. He looked up nervously at Optimus, who returned the look with a curious-looking head tilt. Bulkhead shuffled nervously and looked down at his pedes.
"But...wh-why is he a.."
"He's just an empurata, and that makes no difference." Ratchet snapped. After the war ended, he had done empurata on many. He remembered the High Council saying that empurata was for terrible murderers, but he recalled bots getting their faces removed just for theft. After all, less than forty percent of empuratas had been murderers.
"But, he's a criminal!" shouted Bumblebee. Optimus’ helm jolted up at the sudden sound and he slumped over at the remark. There was a burst of static and the newest member of the crew spoke for the first time since boarding the ship.
It was remarkably clear for someone who had just been insulted and it was evident how much distress he was in. He quickly rose from his seat and hurried towards Orion's quarters, Prowl silently trailing behind. Prowl frowned as he quietly walked. There was always a chance for using stealth, and he would take this chance to learn more about their new Prime.
Optimus Prime sat down on the edge of his berth and stared at the blank wall. It was dramatically different from the room he had back at the Academy; that one was decorated with gifts from friends. His old room was much more welcoming than this one too. There was a desk and a pile of datapads in one corner; there was always the occasional pile of energon cubes sitting on his desk, ready for a usual visit from Sentinel and Elita One, who were down the hall. A sigh escaped his vocalizer as he fell backwards onto the berth and lay there, staring at the grey ceiling. He closed his optic and pulled up a happier memory file, one of the few good moments that happened after the empurata had been done on him.
Optimus Prime, disgraced Academy washout and current message-carrier walked down the Autobot halls of Metroplex to turn in a late report. The entire way there, from his small office to the delivery location, he was given harsh glares, rude whispers, and the general disdain that was forwarded towards empuratas. He inwardly sighed in relief; it was one of the last reports he would be delivering. After a few more, he would be moving to a spacebridge repair team. He was looking forward to it, because four other bots were easier to deal with than an entire base full.
Even though Optimus was used to the scorn, he was not prepared when a bot grabbed him by his exposed neck cabling and pulled him down. His HUD fritzed and several warnings appeared in front of his optics, detailing where he had been damaged when he hit the ground. Beyond all the errors, he could faintly make out a short, stocky figure in his vision, reprimanding a taller one. When his sight began to clear, the one who pulled him down huffed off on anger at what the short one said. He turned to thank the shorter one, only to realize it was Longarm Prime.
Optimus quickly saluted him.
"I am sorry for causing disruption in your hall, Longarm Prime, sir," he said automatically. It was easier to apologize, especially when it was obvious that you were the one that caused a scene. Admitting mistakes was good; it always helped the Autobot cause and lessened the work that higher-ranking officers had to do.
Surprisingly, Longarm Prime just laughed and offered a servo, helping Optimus up.
"No, I’m sorry for my soldiers. I thought they knew better, but evidently, I was wrong. I will give them a talk. And you don’t have to address me as ‘sir,’ we’re the same rank.”
“No, there is no need." Optimus shook his head in refusal. He certainly did not want to cause trouble with them more than he already has by existing.
"No no, everyone needs to learn that you too, are a living mech." Longarm said while looking at Optimus. He offered him a smile, and Optimus Prime felt just a little bit happier inside.
If Optimus could smile, he would have. Instead, his one optic curved upwards, signifying his happiness. The warm feeling soon disappeared inside him, leaving nothing but the cold emptiness empuratas were cursed with. He looked at the ceiling and thought of his new crew. Ratchet seemed nice, as if he genuinely cared about each of the bots. He was confused about Prowl’s personality, but he was no doubt more secluded than the others. Bumblebee certainly had a loud mouth and voiced his opinions quite freely; whether it was be dangerous or comforting, Optimus was not sure. But Bulkhead seemed nicer. He had a large frame and a shy voice, but seemed to give off the aura of quiet comfort. All of them seemed nicer than the bots inside Metroplex. He gave a semi-happy hum and shut his optic. Perhaps this would be bearable.
Meanwhile, Prowl stepped back from pressing his audio receptor against the door of the berthroom. The ship’s quarters were not known for being particularly soundproof; in fact, it was almost the opposite.
So the Prime does have emotions, even through the controversy. He slunk off, a thousand thoughts clouding his processor. He is more mysterious than I thought.
As soon as the two were out of audio range, Ratchet slapped Bumblebee again, "Empurata doesn’t mean they're a criminal, and it especially does not mean they murdered someone."
"Then what did he do to deserve that?" asked Bulkhead worriedly. Nobot had to ask what “that” meant.
"Again, most who’ve had empurata done on them,” Ratchet paused for a klik. “They don't deserve it." He sighed and they all stared at the seat where their old captain had once sat, now replaced with an empurata-turned-Prime. Ratchet waved a servo around.
“Time to get Orion ready. We don’t need to be lagging around, and we’ll be getting a repair mission soon.”
Hello everybody! Thank you so much for your kudos and kind words on last chapter. This chapter is made of two drabbles on Nekonokami23's Tumblr (you might recognize them!) and halituos pieced them together with some edits and additions. As always, please give any pieces of feedback in the comments section! We'd love to hear from you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
::Slag, he’s coming your way!::
Bulkhead had just received the message from Bumblebee when he too noticed the Prime’s unmistakable shadow walking his way. He quickly got up from his station, knocking over a half-drank cube in the process.
“Sorry, Optimus, sir, ha-have to go refuel-bye.” He jumped out of his seat and hurried away, leaving the Prime to stare at the spilled cube. Optimus watched Bulkhead hustle in the opposite direction of the refuelling station and inwardly sighed. One of his claws went up to his face to pinch his olfactory sensor when he remembered that his face was gone and his hands were claws. He shook his helm and walked off towards the refuelling station.
Once he had poured himself a cube, he walked up to a window and stared outside. There was nothing but desolate space in this sector, and Orionhad been docked on an asteroid for some time now. He opened his refuelling port and poured energon in, clumsily balancing the cube in his overly large claws. They were terribly inconvenient to work with, and when he looked at the others, maneuvering tools naturally with their servos, he felt a pang of jealousy in his spark.
But you deserved it, his mind whispered, along with the echoes of a long-lost friend, falling to her death. A death he could have prevented, if he had gone back down to the bottom floor. He itched at his one optic with the other claw and moved to rubbing at the exposed, slightly corroded wires on his neck. Optimus knew that he had to visit Ratchet sooner or later, but as long as he could still function properly, he decided not to. It was one of the places where he was set aside from the rest of the crew; whereas Bumblebee or Bulkhead or Prowl only had to go get a checkup once a stellar cycle, he had to go every lunar cycle, sometimes more. And knowing the medic, it was only a bit before he was going to get cornered and herded into the medbay.
"I'm tired of you avoiding me,” said the medic. He crossed his arms and glared up at Optimus, whom he had managed to herd into a room. Optimus inched towards the door, but Ratchet moved faster. He blocked the door with his body and scowled. "You haven't gone to a single checkup since you’ve come onto this ship, and I know for a fact that empuratas have constant discomfort and need maintenance to prevent paralysis."
Ratchet knew that Optimus has been avoiding him, but it was nothing against him. He knew that most empuratas loathed medics. Every empurata was assigned a “caregiver”; in Optimus’ case, it was Ratchet. Every empurata had a shock stasis chip installed, no matter the crime. Besides the Magnus and the Council, the caregiver could activate the chip at any time, effectively disabling the bot. Optimus hated it. Three mechs had his controller. Three mechs could, at any moment, decide to use it. If at any moment Ratchet decided he was acting unlawfully, he could press the button and shock Optimus into stasis. Ratchet mentally cursed the Autobot High Council and those who had decided empurata was a good strategy in the first place.
Ratchet quickly shrugged off the idea and took Optimus by the claw and led him to the med bay. He gestured for Optimus to lay on the berth and began his scan. "You know, kid, I understand why you don't trust me." He sighed. "But please try, because I can help. I promise to."
There was a long list of issues, but the repairs went rather smoothly. There was wire corrosion from exposed neck wires, a partially clogged fuel port due to the small size and lack of movement that the denta would solve. His optic was also slightly chipped from constantly scratching it, which was a common habit for new empuratas. There were a few other cosmetic scratches on the outside, but it was nothing that couldn't be solved with simple maintenance. Ratchet told him to visit every week for maintenance since he's refused to come for the past few lunar cycles. As he finished Optimus’ repairs, he frowned.
“Everybot on this team has a weapon. I know you might be against this,” he looked at Optimus. “But do you want a weapons system? I remember the war, and it was always good to have something on your servos, even if you were travelling through supposedly friendly territory.”
Optimus blinked in surprise, and then gave an almost imperceptible nod. Then, to Ratchet’s surprise, he slowly pulled out an axe out of his subspace. It was a high caliber Academy axe; given Optimus’ history and his ranking of Prime, it was likely that the weapon had been designed specially for him. Ratchet raised an optical ridge at him, but Optimus avoided his gaze.
“This one. I’d like to use it.”
Ratchet chose not to argue and nodded, moving to get a sedative.
“I’ll have to put a sensory block on you for this. It won’t be a major surgery, but it’s definitely not going to be easy.”
Optimus simply nodded and let the darkness take him.
It was some time before light seeped into Optimus’ visual field again. For a second, he panicked, because there was something on his face and it was near his optic and he needed to get it off but he couldn’t use his-
“Calm down kid, you’re fine!” Ratchet’s voice pierced through his momentary panic and then he felt a reassuring servo on his shoulder. Optimus brought a claw up and probed at the foreign item on his face.
“It’s a battle mask,” explained Ratchet. “Both Prowl and Bumblebee have one, and I did read in your records that you used to have one. It was a bit hard to modify it so that you could see through it,” he gestured towards the object, “but I managed to do it. It seems that my skills aren’t too out of shape.”
Optimus’ optic brightened in surprise. Kind gestures towards him were not common aboard the Orion. The mask covered his optic screen with a layer of hard, retractable glass. Perhaps, now, his optic would get less chipped from the debris that was floating around the old spacebridges. After testing out the pleasant addition to his face, he looked down towards his right claw. It was already designed to be retractable for his grapplers, but as it folded into his wrist, the gleaming Academy axe met him. Optimus looked up at Ratchet and was suddenly filled with a warm feeling of home.
Because he does care, he thought. Because he cares not only for Bumblebee, Bulkhead, and Prowl, but also for me. It was a nice thought.
For a final touch before sending him off, Ratchet polished Optimus’ claws to a pristine shine. As Optimus left the med bay, Ratchet called out to him.
"Remember, if you have any problems, you can always come to me. You didn't deserve what you happened to you."
Prowl tended to follow their new captain everywhere. It was partially to ensure Optimus didn’t fly into a sudden fit and kill somebot, but it was also to get a grasp of his most mysterious personality. Everyday he would watch and stare at Optimus as he made his daily rounds. Prowl knew that it was impolite to do so, but he was curious. All the lessons he heard from other Autobots had told him that empuratas were dangerous and not to be trusted.
And yet, he thought, watching the Prime stop to converse with Ratchet. His mannerisms make him friendly and approachable.
But Prowl continued avoiding Optimus.
There was one day when Prowl was following Optimus through the corridors of the Orion. He seemed to be taking a different, longer route than normal this time. As he rounded a darkened hallway (with Prowl stealthily creeping behind him), he suddenly stopped and turned around, to which he saw no one there. Prowl was well hidden, but Optimus was familiar with the creeping feeling of someone watching him. He looked in the general direction of where Prowl was and crossed his arms.
"Why do you keep following me? There is nothing for you to learn about."
Prowl decided there was no need to keep up the charade anymore. He stepped out of his hiding spot and faced the Prime.
"To appease my curiosity," he said simply.
Optimus tilted his helm to one side and stared at Prowl with a critical optic. "No. It’s to gawk...to ensure I don't kill your team."
He sighed sadly.
"Do not worry, Prowl. I am in no way a danger to your crew."
“I know that,” Prowl interrupted. He held up a servo and stopped Optimus. "You do not act like how the Autobots describe other empurata. However, you also stated that you had no secrets."
At that, Optimus Prime flinched. Prowl noticed, and continued.
“So tell me, empurata. What did you do to warrant such a punishment?”
Optimus looked down at the ground with his one optic. It shuttered slightly, giving off the expression of deep discomfort. Prowl started to reconsider his words when Optimus shook him helm and started.
“I made a mistake a long time ago. It was one that cost the life of my best friend." He looked back up at the cyberninja. "I am a murderer, and her energon is on my...servos and my servos only. I should have been the one to die then, so that she would have lived."
They both stood in stony silence. Prowl’s gaze had slipped to the ground and he stared at his pedes. After hearing his story Prowl understood one thing: Optimus never deserved empurata.
Several lunar cycles after Optimus arrived, Prowl and Ratchet fully trusted him. Bulkhead had begun to show bits and pieces of friendship, but Bumblebee remained stubborn as ever. He was still rude as always and managed to grasp any chance at staying away from their leader. But at a specific mission, it was up to the small repair crew to dig a spacebridge out from where it had been covered by rubble. It was a big job to repair it, and Bumblebee ended up being paired into a group with Optimus. Bumblebee’s stingers to loosen up the rocks combined with Optimus’ strength with an axe would have been perfect; except, Bumblebee chose not to cooperate.
The majority of the spacebridge was above ground (thanks to Bulkhead and Ratchet) when Optimus and Bee rolled out. It was up to them to work on unburying the rest of it. As they dug a small tunnel underneath the rocks to the spacebridge, they worked in silence. Optimus did not talk much because he knew how Bumblebee felt about him, and anything that he spoke to Bumblebee would not be returned pleasantly. Bumblebee grumbled and kicked small rocks out of his way as he shot his stingers at the bigger ones. Optimus looked at him and sighed.
"Please be careful, Bumblebee."
“Don’t tell me what to do,” Bumblebee grunted angrily. He shot at the ceiling. Above him, the unstable rock began to crumble. Optimus’ Academy training and his instincts began working. He would not let another innocent die.
He quickly jumped into action by running and transforming, rushing at Bumblebee in his altmode. Letting him fall onto the back part of the truck, Optimus speeded towards the exit. All around them, the ceiling was falling in massive chunks of rock, threatening to bury them. He rushed to the exit but noticed the ceiling falling faster. Bumblebee yelped and covered his helm as the duo sped towards the opening.
“Optimus, we’re not going to make it!” His optics widened in fear as a boulder threatened to completely cover the entrance.
And then Bumblebee went flying.
He screamed as he was thrown out of the cave, the last bits of rubble collapsing behind him. There was a brief moment of quiet as he laid on the ground, trying to assess the damage done from the fall. Once the pain signals had disappeared, he rubbed his helm and pushed himself up into a sitting position.
"What the scrap was that for?” He looked around, expecting to see Optimus, but there was no bot in sight.
“Scrap!" he shouted, staring at the now-covered tunnel. The right side of the spacebridge was almost completely out of the ground, but Optimus was nowhere to be seen. With shaking servos, he activated his commlink.
A few jours later, and Bumblebee was sitting outside the medbay with the rest of the team. Optimus had been badly injured. His battlemask was partially torn open, and the optical screen on that side was heavily damaged. Both his claws were twisted and bent, and he also had a collapsed spinal strut. Ratchet had managed to stabilize him and soon allowed for them to come in and visit. Optimus was able to talk, but had limited movement and his HUD kept on fritzing out, rendering him mostly blind.
Prowl and Bulkhead went into the room first to talk with him while Bumblebee lagged behind and sat outside by himself. Ever since the collapse he has been thinking about everything he did. He looked to his side and saw Ratchet, Prowl, and Bulkhead walk out of the room. Ratchet met his optics and nodded quietly, tilting his helm towards the medbay. Once they walked away from his sight, Bumblebee got up and entered the medbay. There were some things he needed to apologize for.
In which Bumblebee decides to review his various life choices.
Chapter 3: Discontinued
I am saddened to say this story will no longer be updated... originally there was a co-creator that wrote this story... it has been 6 months since we've talked and all their accounts have been deleted on all sites I knew them on. I an horribly worried about halituos (the tumblr name I knew them by) as they stopped responding with no reason as to why... and with all accounts deleted I cannot find out if they are ok. It doesn't feel right to continue this story when I didn't write it... and I do not know if the writer is safe... I worry everyday about them, feeling that it is my fault, but having no evidence on what happened...
If you see this...
I hope you're ok...