In the subdued, quiet atmosphere of the Iacon Archives two young mechs leaned over their prospective screens under the timeless arches of the high ceiling. Their digits flew over the keyboards and the screens scrolled dutifully with the billions of data they were processing. Every now and then one of them would pause for a few kliks, stood and straightened kinked cables and rotated stiff joints. At such occasions, they would whisper to each other for a few kliks before going back to work. The blue and yellow mech now stood behind his friend, who was still industriously typing away, continuing an earlier conversation…
“Ohh, come on, Orion, don’t tell me you never wondered!”
“No, Prion, I have not. I trust the system.”
“Well, of course. But still… whom would you want?”
Orion looked up from the file he was perusing and frowned. Prion was most insitent and quite annoying and he had hoped that his friend would forget this line of conversation… obviously, no such luck.
“It is not whom we want, Prion. The Lottery is designed to match compatible mechs and I have yet to hear an instance it had failed in any way. Also, I have work to do still, and you as well, before Alpha Trion checks on you.”
The other young archivist scowled back at him and stepped back, about to leave him alone. Maybe now he would now let it go, Orion thought, turning back to his work with a sigh.
“You are boring, Orion. I guess you won’t come to the local Coming of Age party either?”
Orion sighed again. He had been thinking of that to be honest. He was not a partying mech, though his fellow archivists and friends sometimes managed to convince him to an evening out in a solid, nice place. But the Coming of Age was definitely a cause for celebrations and happiness, and it would not be proper to get the notification alone. And maybe… maybe Prion was right, he should be a bit more excited about the prospect of who was going to break his seals. The matching computers did have certain ways and protocols that were, naturally a secret, but still, somewhat guessable. Especially by archivists, used to crunch data and make intuitive leaps of linking unlikely things.
Though it still felt… wrong somehow to guess. Maybe he wanted it to be a surprise… yes, that was certainly one of his reasons. The other being… a little fear, or rather anxiousness of the unknown, of what the act itself entailed. Cybertronians grew up fast in frames and processors, but interfacing came much later than legal maturity. Orion, along with all his age-mates and friends, were full adults and working in the Iacon Archives for vorns before they got informed by their medics that their designations have been submitted to the Matching Committee for a suitable mech to break their seals and teach them the ways of interface. It meant no more than that, though the mechs so matched usually stayed friends, but in no way they were obligated to become bonded or partners. To break the seals of a young mech was a great honor and responsibility and most complied gladly when chosen. But knowing the hows and whys did little to alleviate Orion’s anxiousness.
“Of course I am going there, Prion. I just don’t see the point of guessing.” Orion paused for a klik. Perhaps he was unreasonably serious about it and maybe Prion would be happy with something to chew on. “Though I had wondered… that I wouldn’t mind a larger mech than me. You know, for a change.”
Prion whirled back and stared at him incredulously. Orion allowed a tiny smirk to curve his mouthparts upwards. Though it never fazed him to be taller and bigger than his fellow archivists, he could never imagine himself with a smaller mech like them. Because, of course he had dreams, ever since his interfacing components matured and certain chemicals got produced in his frame. Everyone had such dreams, it was natural. He looked it up after the first one. And he really hoped he would be matched somemech more like his frame-type than the other archivists.
Prion lifted a brow plate and a slow smile drew his own lips.
“So you do… you really did… wow, Orion, I never thought…”
“That I can dream? Of course I can. I just don’t do it during my work shift.” He pointedly glanced at the screen, where the document flashed and continued. “But maybe we should talk about it after our shifts.” If he spent any more time on one document, Alpha Trion would certainly come around to check on them. Their allotted breaks were on a condition of a certain data-set being finished in time.
“You’re on, Orion! See ya later!”
Of course Prion called a few of their friends as well and Orion was at first grilled mercilessly, then teased ceaselessly about his dreams and wish… until he felt sorry for ever mentioning it to Prion. To his utter dismay, they started to look up large mecha on the nets and try to match him with one – playfully and good-naturedly of course, but still, after the second joor Orion’s face and audials were downright burning from it – and also from the high grade they kept pushing on him. The various pictures of big rigs, lorries, constructicons, even Seekers and shuttles, unnerved him and by the end he was not all that sure of his own earlier wish of a ‘larger mech’ for a mentor, however temporarily. He was glad when the topic turned to someone else’s prospective mentors, though it didn’t interest him. He was also reconsidering about going to the big party three orns from then, which would likely to be much the same, only with far more mechs.
But in the end he went to the local Community Center for the Coming of Age party, reasoning that it was easier to get lost and get his notification in secret among several hundred mecha than his small circle of friends. He touched the special notepad in his subspace, sighed and went to the bar for a drink. He was nervous, after all, Orion admitted to himself, it was a great occasion and he would get to know a total stranger most intimately. But even with the crowd, Prion and some of his friends have found him and they were now crowding around a small table, holding drinks, everyone looking nervous and trying to hide it with more or less luck… and everyone was unobtrusively checking their own notepads every now and then. The announcements would not start for some time yet, but everyone loathed this last few breems of waiting and apprehension.
“I still don’t get why it can’t be somemech we know.” Treshold complained, waving his drink around.
“There are no rules against it, as far as I know.” Ratchet, a well-known medic and the physician for many of them, answered, well over his third drink that was showing up heavily in his accent. “It is just the matching computers have a strong incentive of mixing mecha and CNA lines all over Cybertron.”
“It promotes good relationships among the cities.” Orion added himself, sipping his own drink. “You all studied about the political mess of that ended the Second Era, right? The discontent among Vos and Iacon? Well, it is harder to spread bad rumours about mechs you know personally.”
“Yeah, it was a brilliant idea from … who it was, Zeta Prime?”
“Primus forbid, not Zeta!”
Three indignant voices answered to Prion, whose specialty was the colonies and therefore a little less well versed in Cybertronian history than the others in the company.
“No, no, not Zeta! It was Nexus Prime!”
“By the Allspark, Prion, how can you mix up those two?”
“Well, whichever it was, it worked.” Ratchet ended the good-natured jabbing with a toast. “Here is to him, and your future mentors!”
The toast was repeated several times while they waited, and even Orion started to feel the light buzz of high-grade. Which was, of course the very reason for these Coming of Age parties, to get happy and buzzed with your friends by the time you get to see the mech – or femme, but that was rarer than rare – who would break your seals and teach you the ways of interfacing.
“So, Orion,” – Prion’s smirk made Orion immediately vary. – “how would you like… a Seeker?”
Orion sighed and lifted a brow plate. Prion was… annoyingly insistent about the whole thing. Besides… a Seeker? It was vanishingly unlikely. There were just a bit more Seekers in existence than femmes and to be matched with either would be a near miracle. Prion held a datapad under his nasal sensor insistently and grinned maniacally.
“Here, I have found one with a paint-job matching yours. He is eligible, too.”
Orion groaned, but glanced at the datapad held out to him and he had to admit, the Seeker… looked nice. Just like Prion said, he had a red-blue paint-job, though his white was more like sparkling silver than Orion’s usual looks and he had a much more beautiful frame than his own blocky one. The wings in particular made him look exotic and his dark face…
“Yeah, because it is so likely, Prion. He looks like somemech high up…?” Pun entirely unintended of course.
“Hehh… that’s the Vosnian Crown Prince.” Ratchet dragged the datapad towards him so he could see it. “He’s coming of age now too?”
Orion wanted to sink under the table, but instead he kicked Prion there.
“If he is coming to age too, then we can’t be paired with him, Prion. Besides nobles usually get paired with others in their class.”
“Yeah, romance novels and their miraculous pairings across the castes are rarely true.” Ratchet added laughing.
Prion laughed too, the slightly too loud, too forced laugh of someone already quite buzzed by high-grade and the datapad was put away, to Orion’s immense relief. His laugh had ended suddenly with a curious, choked yip and Orion wondered for a klik is he had some probems, perhaps energon going the wrong place… when he saw Prion go wide-opticked and with a trembling servo fished out his notepad from his subspace. It was flashing silently now with a notification.
“Well. Check it now, Prion!” Ratchet nudged the suddenly frozen yellow-blue mech “I thought you said you were eager to do it! And by the way, congrats for being the first!”
Prion lifted his cube and emptied it, still staring at the flashing signal. His audials were canted all the way back, which was strange for the usually happy and cheerful mech. He glanced around and Orion gave him a hopefully encouraging smile. Prion poked the notification and his optics widened as he read the designation silently first then out loud – “Ariel” – and widened even more as he accessed the picture file and the description. Then he whooped and grabbed another cube, throwing back the potent content.
Mixed ahhhhs and ohhsss greeted the announcement, Orion joining in wholesparkedly. Femmes were rare, elusive – and revered greatly. To be matched with one was rare luck and considered highly fortunate. Prion was congratulated by many mechs, some not even their friends, just walking by and hearing his match and bought a lot of cubes for his luck. The only thing tamping their awe and celebration was the tiny sounds of other announcers going off and mechs around pulling out their datapads from pockets or subspaces, reading their matches, mostly happily, with only a few groans or hisses mixed into the growing, happily chaotic noise…
Orion cheered every one of his friends, drank even more high grade that Prion kept pushing at him and tried not to be nervous about his own – still resolutely silent – datapad. More and more mecha now kept their optics on their datapads, reading about the unknown mecha whom they were paired with, some already planning their travel to distant cities, some contacting their intended mentors, and only a few, like Orion stiffly sitting still and waiting, waiting, waiting… usually most announcements came together, straight from the Matching Computers, only the ones requiring a special oversight from the committee making their recipients wait.
“You still didn’t get it?”
Ratchet’s sympathetic voice cut through Orion’s growing nervousness. The medic was smiling from audials to audials as he was congratulating every one of them, but his optics looked at Orion with concern.
“N-no. Not yet.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll get somemech soon.”
“But why so slow? I mean, I’m… nothing special. Why is it so hard to match me?”
“Well, you have a special spark, I know that.” Ratchet tried to hold onto his thoughts and drinks, which was not easy in the increasingly festive crowd. “Nothing wrong, just… unusual.”
Orion swallowed and nodded. He remembered it from one of his early checkups, but never thought that it would cause him trouble. He drank his cube and glanced at the others. Prion was dancing with Dion, the latter uncomfortable with it even now and frequently glanced down at his own datapad, memorizing a name. Wedge had his optics riveted on his own datapad where an unknown mech waved at him and smiled. Lucky one, already getting acquainted. Slightly off the side, nearly squashed into the wall, Tracks tried to charm his own silent datapad, so Orion was at least not alone in waiting. He moved there and was just about asking something from the blue mech, when a tiny, yet queerly loud ping sounded from his subspace.
“I told you.” Ratchet nudged him and his smile if possible became even wider. Prion threw himself down on a chair beside them after Dion finally refused to dance any more, now a bit more coherent, though still happy, looking expectantly and grinning enthusiastically at Orion.
“So? Let’s see your Seeker!”
Orion grimaced back at him, but pulled out his own datapad and stared it for a few kliks, venting nervously. Here was the klik he had waited for so long and was anxious of equally long. With an only slightly trembling digit he poked the ON button and the short message bloomed to life on the small screen. Orion read the name and reset his optics. Then read it again.
Time became frozen.
“So who’s it? What’s the matter, Orion?”
“Hey, is he all right? He just turned all white and still.”
“Is he… whimpering?” Treshold stopped trying to make his own datapad work and frowned at him.
Orion heard them all, but he felt like he was locked into a bubble, unable to make his frozen vocalizer work, or just lift a digit, or… anything…
“He’s in shock. Frag, what is it? Or rather… who?” Ratchet’s servo was a familiar weight on his arm, the medical scanner’s slight tingle melting the ice in his lines. Orion twitched and croaked.
“Are you all right?”
“Y-yes…” He could move now, though his processor still rang like somemech hit him with a hammer. Repeatedly.
“So who it is, tell, tell! Must be something more interesting than Prion’s femme!”
“It is…” Orion glanced down at the name again to confirm the impossible. Read it three more times to be sure. Absently he noted that the screen was cracked now where his whitened and trembling digits held it. His voice was still barely above a croaked whisper. “It is… Lord High Protector Megatron.”
The dead silence spread fast from their table, as even Prion had his vocalizer stuck, and Orion had a bare klik’s satisfaction of everymech reacting to the designation like him - before the sussuration of whispers started up again, the celebrating happiness all around turning into amazed incredulosity. Mechs all around stared at him with equal amount of envy and fear. Warbuilds were not a familiar sight in or around the Archives Quarter, though this warbuild, well, everymech knew him from the newscasts.
“Did he say… the Lord High Protector?” Prion’s voice was almost as high as a femme’s and barely more than a whisper.
He was the still the only one by their table who could speak up anyhow, the others mutely stared at him amazed, frightened or just plain shocked. Orion nodded slowly, glancing down again for a finaly confirmation. The designation and title didn’t change, much as he wished it. Ice cursed down his lines and his spark spun so fast it might have careened out of its chamber. The shock was wearing away, but very slowly. He still couldn’t move.
“By Primus, he did. Orion… well. Next time be careful for what you wish for. A larger mech, indeed…” If Ratchet meant that lame joke as easing the tension, he utterly failed. Orion whimpered again and new cracks appeared on the datapad.
“I didn’t… I wouldn’t… I… why?”
“Well, he is in the system, like every other Cybertronian citizens, who are not in prison, so… it was possible.”
“B-but… why me?”
“Well, for that you’d have to ask the matching computers and they don’t answer. Still… it’s not that bad, Orion.”
“Not bad… not bad, hahhaaa!” Prion apparently found his voice “Not bad, he says! He gets to be fragged by the most powerful mech on the planet and our dear doctor says it’s not that bad!”
Orion curled inward. Right now he didn’t want to bear Prion’s crude jokes and overwhelming personality. He wanted to go home to his tiny sleeping cubicle and… he wasn’t sure what he would do, but silence and being alone starred heavily in his wishes. It wasn’t likely to get his wish any time soon tough. As the news spread, their table was fast becoming popular and surrounded by dozens of mecha, all wanting to see the one who had gotten the Lord High Protector on their datapad.
“Second most powerful.” Ratchet injected acidly “The Prime outranks Lord Megatron, last I heard.” And I think it is best if Orion goes home now. You’d all be shocked at such news, aren’t you!?!” The question was asked loud, aimed at the mechs crowding them. Orion nodded, somewhat desperately.
“Yes, you heard it right, and yes, we are going now.” – Ratchet scowled around and his scowls were… famous. The crowd started to thin around them. - “especially before a news crew hears about it since Orion is in no condition to give a coherent interview.”
Orion let himself pulled up from the chair, at the medic’s insistence - maybe it’s best if you get drunk now - chugged down the last cube pushed into his servo, welcomed the strong kick in it, and was immensely glad for his friends, who surrounded him and protected from the curious crowd. They got him home, tucked him in and Ratchet put him to recharge with a small cube that tasted and probably was a mild soporific and the promise of talking more the next orn.