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The Ascension

Chapter Text

 

Radishes

-

The Ascension

 

Prowl, drawn by InNoMoChroMe

 

 

Part One

 

The grey hood of the cloak hung deep over his face, casting it into shadows. With every step, he swayed together with the high ringing sound of the bells that were fastened to the white cloaks of the priests and the stretcher they carried. The song of sorrows they procession sung mixed in his audios with the quite sobs of his brother, who walked between his creators. He was too young to be here, Prowl thought, but then he himself felt too young this orn.

The funeral procession was a long one, and became longer as the citizens that lined the way joined the procession once the priests and the ruling family had walked past them. Many were carrying small flames in honor of their God and Lord, some even crying. On this black orn, Praxus was mourning the demise of its beloved heir, Prince Brazen.

Prowl's optics never left the stretcher in front of him. The body of Brazen was grey, but besides that his brother could've only been sleeping... the surgeons had really done a wonderful job, he knew. But he didn't find the space in his spark to be thankful. Maybe later, but now he only felt all-encompassing sorrow.

A hand touched his arm gently, and he looked over to his carrier. Grand Duke Black Haze's tears were openly flowing beneath the hood of his own grey, plain cloak, still he looked concerned for his second creation. "Prowl? How are you?" he whispered softly.

"I'm..." Fine. Only he wasn't, and it wasn't even expected of him to be. Because his older brother was dead. "I'm managing."

The concern in the Grand Duke's optics didn't waver, but they both knew that this wasn't the time or place to talk about such things. "We'll arrive soon at the temple. Have you prepared your words?"

Prowl's spark clenched, but a quick glance to the streets around them confirmed that his carrier was right. How had he missed that? "I have," he answered.

The Grand Duke nodded and fell quiet again. At his side, Grand Duke Sparkshimmer bend down and scooped Smokescreen up. The little one was clearly already exhausted, more so in spark than in frame. With a whimper, Smokescreen buried his head in his carrier's cloak and began to cry without restraint. Grand Duke Sparkshimmer kissed his helmet, but for once was unable to whisper soothing words.

Prowl turned to the stretcher again. Even in death, his brother looked like a prince. He had inherited Sparkshimmer's and the Prime line’s powerful build, but accentuated it with the sweeping doorwings the Praxian frames were famous for. An open and friendly personality and a genuine smile had done the rest to make all of Praxus fall in love with him.

How was Prowl supposed to replace him as an heir? He knew that others saw as the uncaring, bookish prince and truthfully it wasn't far from the truth. He was an introvert, more interested in formulas than mechs that rarely smiled and had even less friends. Worse, even though he had reached maturity not even a vorn ago, he had continued to do his best to vanish from the public's searching optic. Brazen had even supported his decision, saying that a good education was important and that it was great he did so well. That Prowl could help him rule some orn in the future and ...

A sob escaped his throat. Brazen was dead and all those dreams too.

They had crossed the last streets and had now entered the park that surrounded the temple. Praxian crystals towered left and right of the path, all of them glowing a soft, ethereal white. As more and more of the procession entered the park, the crystals picked up the song of mourning, starting to vibrate with both high and low notes. A hum became audible, joining the song until it transformed into the Grey Hymn. Around them the crystals themselves shined brighter, their glow becoming stronger until it was nearly blinding.

Behind them whispers and chatters of awe started, yet the song never stopped. An old Praxian legend said that the crystals were the expression of Primus's sorrow and that if a good mech died, their light would lead them to the God himself. If it was true, Primus was crying alongside with them today.

The path through the park was winding and long, but to Prowl it felt too short. Far too soon the temple was visible above the crystals, its spires and towers built around the biggest crystal of Praxus – the One-all. For a moment even Prowl could only stare in awe as the One-all started to light up, until a column of pure whiteness cut through the sky into the heavens beyond.

Brazen's way to Primus would be an easy one, not that his wonderful brother deserved anything less. Absently, he noticed that he was crying again, even though he hadn't wanted to on this procession. He wasn't the only one. Barely any optic was dry and even the priests before him had a look of reverence on their faces.

The temple was an old, massive building with needle-like spires, four plain watchtowers and few of the elaborate decorations that new buildings had. The only exception were the richly detailed statues, each depicting one of the legendary Thirteen, standing in a circle around the temple as symbols of protection and strength. There were no windows breaking up the high grey walls. As a youngling, Prowl had learned that the temple had in wilder and more dangerous times once doubled as a fortress. Seeing it today left no doubt that it was as capable of doing so in the future as well.

Now, the temple's heavy iron gate stood wide open, easily five times as tall as the tallest mech Prowl had met and just as wide. Their procession needed all this space and maybe a little more as they continued inside. The bells and their steps echoed in the hall they had entered. Its build reflected the outside: sober stone walls, few decorations, and high above them hung a circle of Primus wrought from the purest and most expensive metals Cybertron offered.

The priests didn't stop, marching straight towards a second gate that was the twin of the first one. It was closed and the procession halted in front of it. The high priest, a thin, tall mech carrying a silver staff knocked with it at the iron gate. A dull sound washed through the hall, vibrating through Prowl's armor, and behind them the singing stopped. Silence descended, as he knocked again, thirteen times in all. Then he raised his voice:

"Let us in! We're accompanying Brazen, Prince of Praxus, Prime heir to throne of Praxus, beloved member of the House of Praxus and of the House of Prime, so that he will be smelted with all honors that he deserves and find his way to Primus! So again I say, let us in!"

Even though logically Prowl knew that there was no chance they wouldn't let Brazen in, old stories of Rejected flittered through his processor as the voice echoed through the hall. A sparkbeat, then two, and finally the heavy doors opened.

The procession continued down a hallway and finally entered the center of the temple, the square. In its middle the One-all was throned, sending its blazing light to the sky. Before it was a dark hole, the smelter and last stop of every Praxian's life. It radiated such a heat, that the resulting wind billowed their cloaks away, revealing their paintjobs. Prowl hastily caught his cloak again and pulled it closer. While his black and white colors were no secret by any means, a too close scrutiny would reveal that they were less than the usual standard for a mech of his rank. But he hadn't wanted to show up in his green paintjob he wore as the plain, intelligent student at the academy. He treasured the small freedoms his secret life had brought him.

The priests carried Brazen to the smelter, while Prowl's family went to the honor stands just before it. Behind them other mechs followed, all of them hidden by the same grey cloaks. They were other nobles, but also bodyguards. They all had come, Prowl knew, and it felt right.

"Today, we have all come together," began the High Priest, once all had found a place to stand in. The ceremony was old, the words even more ancient. Prowl's thoughts wandered, listening but not really noticing the words. When the Grand Dukes stood up and walked to the front to deliver their parting words, he quietly began crying again, despite knowing full well that he was next in line.

And then he was already standing there, looking at a sea of cloaks, of whom he knew many were judging him. Trembling, wishing for nothing more than to be able to mourn in quiet and peace, he recited his learned words:

"Brazen was a good brother, the best a mech could wish for. He supported me when I doubted, he brought me a smile when I was tired, he helped me to see my own path and beyond." His voice was wavering, he knew, but it took all his strength to simply continue. "Though I was created just when he reached maturity, he never let this be any distance between us. When I was small, he played with me in the mud, when I grew he brought me swords and books." He had appreciated the books a lot more than the weapons. Though as the second heir it was his traditional role to be the General of the Army, so his family had insisted that he at least knew how to swing a sword and their traditional weapon, a lance. "He was always by my side when I needed him and the mech I looked up to most. My brother, I love you. I will miss you now and beyond time."

He was crying again when he joined his family. Great-uncle Vapor, an imposing old Praxian and brother to the previous Grand Duke, had put an arm around Lord Black Haze, offering strength and comfort. Despite living at the other end of the state of Praxus, all of Vapor’s family had come. His bondmate, their three creations and even their grandcreations. This orn, every member of House Praxus was mourning.

One of the other nobles whispered "Good speech" towards him. Surprised he looked up and recognized the red and blue plating of one of the few mechs he dared to call friends.

"Orion," he greeted quietly, glad to see him.

The older mech gave him a weak smile, the deep sorrow clear in his face, then walked past Prowl and out to the stage. Representing the Prime, their absolute ruler, and his line, Orion's speech mentioned duty and Cybertron a lot more, despite Prowl's knowledge that Orion was mourning his best friend. Brazen and Orion had been close in age, and close in position as the prime heir to Praxus and the prime heir to Prime himself. Not to mention that Grand Duke Sparkshimmer was the cousin of Sentinel Prime. When their playdates as sparklings had worked out, the two mechs had been educated together in Praxus. In the sparkling games with Brazen, Orion had been a constant member, laughing and fighting as one of them.

After the speeches, the priests began to sing the holy rite of passing as the grey frame was lowered into the red-hot smelter. Prowl couldn't stop his sobs now, if his spark depended upon it. Black Haze hugged him from behind, offering strength and warmth. For one vorn, the body of his brother would remain in there, melting until the protoform had burned to nothing. The metal left by the process would then be offered to his family.

The ceremony was over. Quietly, Prowl followed his family outside, surrounded by silent, imposing guards, that created a moving wall to keep journalists away. In front of the temple a carriage already awaited them, towed by four truckformers of the guard, to transport them back to the palace as fast as possible.

"Where is Orion?" Prowl asked his sire, when he saw the other noble nowhere around.

"He takes a later carriage," answered Shimmerspark quietly, and put a servo at the back of Prowl, moving him along. "Don't worry."

He nodded mutely, entering the carriage, only too aware of the thousands of optics on him. Inside, he sank back into the cushions, the tension escaping him. Brazen would have taken the time to talk to the citizens, despite his own emotional pain. Brazen would have looked regal during the ceremony and not like a youngling in too big a frame. Not like Prowl.

"He – He is not in pain anymore, right?" asked Smokescreen as the carriage began to move. "I mean..."

"Shh, no," Grand Duke Shimmerspark assured their youngest creation, while his face portrayed nothing but loss. "He's not in pain anymore. Bra-" his voice broke at the designation, but he continued on, "Brazen is now with Primus and at peace."

No creators should have to bury their creations, Prowl suddenly thought. Even stoic Black Haze, his carrier, looked exhausted and older than ever. His creators were maybe suffering the most of them all.

Smokescreen, still clinging to Shimmerspark, his carrier, nodded. "Good..."

Was it? Prowl questioned internally For an orn the family had hoped Brazen could survive his accident. The medics had fought and they had provided the best care possible, but after only an orn Brazen had lost his fight. The injuries had been too gruesome and painful.

"He's now in the Well, little one," said Black Haze, caressing Smokescreen's little doorwings. "Maybe a bit lonely without his brothers, but surrounded by friends."

"I can't visit him..." Smokescreen whispered.

Shimmerspark kissed his helmet. "Not for a long time, Smoky."

Prowl looked away and out of the small window. The citizens were walking home on foot, a few of the richer ones had an altmode and could drive. The palace at the center of the city was a sight to behold. It was a statement of power and might, and as big as richly decorated. Above all flew the blue and gold flag of Praxus.

"Prowl?" Black Haze's tired optics rested on him. "You need to come into my office tomorrow."

It was an order. His creators, despite their status, rarely ordered him or his siblings – sibling – around. Not at least, when it wasn't important. He nodded, "As you wish."

Shimmerspark looked up. "Orion might want to visit you later."

"He's welcome to." More than that, Prowl really could need the distraction of a friend right now. "And you, my Lord creators?"

"We will see after Smokescreen, and stay in our own chambers," answered Shimmerspark.

Black Haze nodded in agreement and glanced at his youngest creation, who seemed to have fallen into a fitful recharge. "If you want to join us, we would be glad to have you."

"I know." Because he was now an adult, he had his own quarters away from his creator's and Smokescreen's room. He had been overjoyed to finally have them, but since his brother's death two orns ago, they felt lonely.

Still, when they entered the palace, he didn't follow the rest of his family, but went to his own apartment. It was spacious, and full with shelves of datapads and various furniture that just invited a mech to sit down and read. In front of a window leading to the courtyard stood his desk, and on the other side of the room was a small fireplace with armchairs for the rare occasions he had a guest in his chambers. A nearly hidden door led to his berthroom.

For a long moment, he contemplated simply falling into his berth and bidding the world good-bye, but the hope of Orion coming over let him seek out the reading material. The largest part of the datapads were about statistics, higher mathematics and physics. But mostly statistics. He was a student at the Academy of Statistics and Higher Mathematics after all, secretly or not.

He didn't have to wait for long until someone knocked. "It's me. Orion."

"Come in, your Highness." Relieved he put his datapad aside, not able to remember if he had been reading about analysis or a theorem, and stood up as his friend came in. "Some energon?"

"I have taken the liberty to have ordered a servant to bring us some." Orion tried a smile, failing miserably. "The usual. A coppery one for me and an acidic one for you."

"Thank you." Prowl sat down again and Orion copied him in the other armchair. "How are you doing?"

Orion sighed. "Same as you, I guess. Trying to continue." He looked away. "My Lord creator and carrier, Sentinel Prime, is sending his apologies that he couldn't be here today."

"Really?" It was rare that a Prime could leave Iacon. He was a ruler, but also the guardian of Cybertron's flame and as such it was frowned upon when he left the city too often. "I... I'm sure that he would've come, if he could."

"Maybe." Orion sounded less sure, but then he always had been a bit of a rebel. Like Brazen, really.

"I'm sure," said Prowl. "Lord Prime loved Brazen."

"Yes, he did." There was absolute certainty in Orion's words. "When he wasn't irritated beyond reason. He wanted the two of us to bond, you know?"

"You ar- were compatible?" Prowl hadn't known that.

"Quite so. 84 points." Orion sighed, blue optics looking somewhere Prowl couldn't follow. "But we didn't want to... commit to anything. We were still so young and wanted to wait, until we had to have heirs." There was nothing but regret in these words. "Now... I- I miss him, Prowl. I thought we had time!"

"I miss him, too," he answered quietly. It would've been a huge power shift if the Grand Duke of Praxus had bonded to the Prime, but it also would've made both their reigns much easier. No wonder Brazen had never really actively searched for a bondmate, when he had already the Prime Prince willing and compatible!

Orion had both hands in front of his face now, crying quietly. A servant knocked, but Prowl stopped him at the door, trying to spare the Prime heir's dignity.

"Here," he said, giving Orion the warm energon cube. "It's okay to cry. I- I've done nothing else since he passed." It still felt wrong to say that he died.

Gratefully, Orion took the cube. "Thank you."

It was a quiet evening that followed. Full of stories that contained Brazen, and the two mourning him. When it came to sleeping, Orion decided not to leave Prowl's chambers and took up half of the huge, soft berth. Prowl could have listed a hundred reasons why this was improper beyond words. If the gossip papers ever discovered this, they would have a field day. Yet Orion didn't seem to care at all, and truthfully Prowl didn't mind as well. As long as Orion was there, he was less lonely.

~

The next orn, Black Haze sent a servant to invite Prowl to his office. Yellowstripe was already there, sitting at his desk, correcting some report. He was a small Praxian with a classic civilian frame, and nearly hidden sensor horns he inherited from a grandsire that had lived close to the Helex borders. As Prowl entered he gave the younger mech a warm smile. "Good morning, my prince. How are you?"

Prowl couldn't help but return the smile. Yellowstripe had raised him as much as the Grand Dukes had, and had always encouraged and supported his studies. "I'm coping. Do you know why carrier has called me?"

The smile abruptly vanished, and Yellowstripe put the stylus aside. "Yes, but it might be better if you let your carrier explain. It's... delicate."

Prowl's tanks felt cold. "More bad news?"

"I'm afraid so." Yellowstripe sighed. "It's a dark vorn for the House of Praxus."

Prowl only nodded as he sat down in the visitor's chair in the middle of the room. It was a spacious office, with two desks. The bigger one was nearly empty of datapads, but had an expensive green and gold lamp and belonged to Grand Duke Black Haze. Yellowstripe's desk was smaller and filled with datapads. Prowl could still remember a time when Grand Duke Shimmerspark had his own desk here. But an infamous argument that had destroyed half the furniture and had been in hindsight completely pointless had led to them deciding to divide matters of the state between them. From then on, Shimmerspark's office was in the second wing and he took care of all relations of the Praxian state with other states, while Black Haze cared about Praxus itself.

"How are your studies going?" asked Yellowstripe. "I've heard that some consider you having Talent in statistics."

He nearly blushed. Talents were rare, treasured, and only appeared among civilians. Nobles most often considered their status of being noble a Talent in itself. "It's just a rumor, nothing more."

"Really?" Yellowstripe leaned back, looking amused. "Quite some rumor then, to reach me. They still do not know you're a prince?"

"Most haven't even noticed I'm a noble," said Prowl proudly. "My disguise as Black Dust is working out very well."

"I'm glad to hear that. You were a bit doubtful..."

"Yes." He had been. To disguise himself as a poor noble had made him nervous. After all, what if he wasn't good enough? What if he couldn't fool anyone? But his concerns had proven unfounded. Instead, what Yellowstripe had always said – that he was good at statistics – had proven true. "I have managed to skip the lower levels at the academy by only taking the exams. I'm now in the senior class and a professor has mentioned that I might be able to claim the Master title in less than two vorns."

Yellowstripe looked astonished. "That's amazing."

"I'm working hard for it naturally, but I love it!" Prowl's doorwings lowered. "Of course, I do not know if my Lords and creators will let me return now."

Yellowstripe sighed. "I cannot answer that question either, my prince. Forgive me."

It was only moments later that Black Haze entered the office with heavy steps. If he had recharged at all, it wasn't visible and his black doorwings had not moved from their position of deepest mourning. "Good morning, my creation. Yellowstripe, I'm sorry to have to ask you to leave us alone for a moment."

"No problem, my Lord." The secretary bowed, then hurried out of the room.

Prowl frowned. There was no mech outside the family more trusted than Yellowstripe and the secretary had already confirmed that he knew what Black Haze wanted to talk about. The only possible reason to send Yellowstripe away was that the Grand Duke expected this conversation to go less than smoothly.

"I have just spoken with Orion," said Black Haze, while walking towards his desk and sitting down. "He is much better today."

Prowl nodded. "That's good to hear. We stayed the night together and Orion said Brazen and he had wanted to bond some orn..."

The older noble shrugged. "They were compatible and liked each other, but both showed precious few signs of real interest. Still..." He shook his helmet. "It's in the past. How are you doing?"

"Better as well. Orion has helped me a lot."

The Grand Duke scrutinized him, and whatever he saw must have supported Prowl's claim, because he nodded. "Good. Especially good, because the next few vorns will not be easy on you, or the House."

Prowl balled his hands. "You want me to take over Brazen's duties." He had known that it would come, yet all he could think about was the Academy, his other life he had built so carefully.

"Yes, you are now prime heir. Vapor will continue leading the army in place of a true second heir, until Smokescreen has reached his 200th vorn." Black Haze sighed deeply. "But it's worse than that."

Prowl blinked and looked up. "Worse?"

"Quite so." For a long moment, Black Haze struggled for words, then said: "There is no gentle way to tell you this, I suppose. Your brother, my beloved creation, didn't die in an accident." Prowl's optics widened. "The plant he visited did explode, and for the first orn we really thought it was an accident. But Enforcers at the site have found tampering and a remote control for a small explosive that started the chain reaction."

Prowl stared at his carrier as if he had just started speaking in a foreign language. What was he saying? He couldn't mean... "Brazen was murdered?" he whispered.

"Yes." Black Haze’s sorrow was stark. "Someone wanted him dead and succeeded."

Prowl leaned back in his chair. "But... who? Why?" Everyone loved Brazen.

"We do not know yet. But many clues point towards a noble, maybe even a House, from the east of Praxus."

Anger sprang forth within Prowl's spark. "Someone betrayed us, and killed my brother?"

"Yes, but Prowl..." The Grand Duke tried to calm his upset creation down.

He shook his head, not willing to listen. "What are you planning to do when you have found them?"

"Your sire and I don't know yet," admitted the Grand Duke.

"They have to be punished!" he exclaimed and jumped up. "We have to do something!"

"No we don't."

"Yes, we do! If it's a noble, we hunt him. If it's a House, we have to take the army...!"

"Prowl. Sit down," ordered his carrier sharply. The voice left no room for arguments. Prowl obeyed quietly, still fuming inside. "I know we raised you as the next general of our armies, but there are other solutions besides violence."

"Other solutions? They killed Brazen!"

"Yes, they did." He sounded tired. "But we're rulers. That means not behaving like vengeance fueled killers. We have to look at the big picture and consider all angles before acting. And war always means that the civilians will suffer. That everyone will suffer. Can't you see that?"

"But with this act, they're traitors." He had studied the laws, he knew he was right.

"Maybe. Or it's a lone madmech. We know nothing yet."

The argument of his carrier was true as well. Prowl bit his denta, and tried to think about it all logically. "Even then, if this gets out they will think our House weak, if we do nothing."

"Prowl..." The Grand Duke had walked around his desk and now petted Prowl's trembling doorwings. "You're still so young that you can't see the possible damage of acting rashly."

"But doing nothing!"

"We will investigate and bring the culprits to justice," assured the Grand Duke. "Yet now is a vorn of mourning and it clouds our thoughts. No blade swung in sorrow can be just."

"Quoting Prima's scripture, my Lord?" Prowl wanted to argue more, but he knew when his creators had made up their mind. "I suppose I just don't want them out there longer than necessary."

"We feel the same," Black Haze said with an undercurrent of dark anger, doorwings twitching at his back. "But I do not want to punish the wrong mechs, you understand?" He looked Prowl in the optics.

"Yes, my Lord." He understood. But his training said differently.

Black Haze nodded. "I'm proud of you, Prowl. Never doubt that. There will be a time for your skills as well." Prowl doubted that. He was an average swordsmech and a good statistician. When did a ruler need such skills? But Black Haze carried on: "To other matters then. After the vorn of mourning, you will be officially inaugurated as our prime heir."

"...I know." It was not a thought he was relishing.

Black Haze gave his creation a sad look. "I'm sorry to say that this means you have to leave the Academy after this vorn. The prime heir has too many duties to become a scholar."

"Brazen managed to have free time anyway," Prowl pointed out, only to have his spark clench with a sudden avalanche of memories. To see his creator flinch at the name only made it worse.

"He also called his free time public relations." The Grand Duke gave him a broken smile. "And he often sent us or even you reports when he was short on time."

That much was true. "He was quite good with public relations," muttered Prowl. It was an understatement. The public had loved Brazen and at best ignored Prowl.

"You will win them over, too Prowl. You have a good spark and a bright mind. They'll love you."

"I hope so." He just doubted it.

"I know it. Until then..." The Grand Duke vanished and for a moment Black Haze was only Prowl's carrier. "Until then just be careful, yes?"

"I always am."

"Prowl."

He looked away. "I promise, carrier. They will not get me."

~

Despite Prowl's promise to be careful, his creators doubled his security detail. While he returned to the Academy he was acutely aware that he was not only followed by the usual bodyguards but by half a platoon that would be settling in everywhere he frequented.

Feeling more than a bit angry, but knowing that it was necessary and that he really had no choice besides returning home, he listened to the commander of the guards, a massive mech with shining red armor, explaining the security measures, emergency plans and where who was stationed.

Inside the carriage, Captain Quickstrike had placed a map between them and pointed now to the meal room. "And here we have managed to insert one of our own as a kitchen helper. He will take care that none of your food is poisoned, my prince. Still, we would prefer if you always show up at exactly the 12th joor to get your energon. Else, we might not be able to guarantee which one you will receive."

He nodded. Another restriction, but this one wasn't so bad. "That should be no problem."

"Good," commented Quickstrike and moved on to another part of the academy, the dorms. Prowl lived in a standard single dorm under the pretense of a scholarship. "Your apartment has already the highest security measures. Still, I have to ask, do you wish to leave the dorms and live outside the Academy?"

"Would that be safer?"

The warframe shook his head. "While the many students in close proximity to you are a security problem, we do know who belongs there. An apartment outside Academy grounds means travelling through the city, which in itself is a risk at least as high."

"Then I wish to remain in the dorms." At least this would not change. "Anything else new?"

"We added several undercover mechs among the student body. They will not bother you as long as nothing happens." Quickstrike showed him the roof of the building. "Also, we have cleared this as an emergency entry point. If you're attacked and can't get to the entrance, the back entrance or the gardens, you can try to make a run for the roof."

Prowl leaned closer as he examined the roof. It was a small place, never intended to be a landing point. In fact, he thought, it had never really been intended for anything. "I do not think a shuttleformer can land there," he pointed out quietly.

"They can't." The Captain looked grim. "But we can get you from the roof with ladders."

It would be a dangerous maneuver, Prowl realized. The winds were strong, but they could be easily shot down from nearly everywhere, especially when the shuttleformer was forced to remain a stationary target. He couldn't even imagine how much would have to go wrong for this to be the best option. But he said nothing. Better mechs than him had surely thought that through.

"What about the emergency contact?" he asked quietly.

Civilians and nobles did not have a commline installed. Too high was the danger for it to be hacked over it. But warframes with their much more aggressive firewalls and their work had collectively decided it to be an acceptable risk.

Quickstrike put a small box on the table. It had three buttons with the colors red, blue and green. "If you push red, it means you're being threatened and need help immediately. Blue that you have noticed something that makes you think that danger might be coming. Green tells us you're safe."

Prowl took the little box in hand. It was kept simple and through that nearly non-hackable and non-detectable. "Why do I need a green button?"

"We would like if you press the green button every joor so that we know you're still alright."

He sighed. "Of course."

"Only outside your apartment, my prince." Quickstrike managed to look apologetic. "If you fail to give us a green-signal, an agent will get into contact with you and confirm your status directly."

"You mean, he will ask me if I'm alright." In front of the other students too, probably. If he forgot a few too many times, he wouldn't able to keep his cover as a normal student.

"Correct. My prince, do you have any further questions?" The warframe leaned back.

"No. Thank you, Quickstrike." Prowl rubbed his chevron tiredly. "How did my brother manage his public life with this much security?"

Quickstrike's shoulders slumped. "He... was a lot more careless and less understanding than you. Of course, we also had no reason to believe anyone was targeting him."

Typical Brazen. He had never believed that anyone could mean him serious harm and for such a long time reality had backed his perception up. Until this vorn. Now he was dead and Prowl had to take over being the prime heir, only he had never been meant to hold that position. It hurt to know that Brazen wasn't there anymore.

Another thought occurred to him.

"Have my Lords and creators sent a teacher along for my new duties?"

"No, my prince. As I know, additional training is planned for the time after your inauguration."

Maybe it was for the best. The vorn would be bad enough with him trying to finish his schooling in half the time it took most to do it. He grimaced. To add in-depth knowledge about the economy and taxes and Primus knows what, would make his plan near impossible. Brazen wouldn't want him to forget about his dream just because he died, would he?

No, not Brazen.

He straightened. "Quickstrike, I want to finish my studies and become a Master of Statistics. It seems I only have one vorn left to reach that goal, but I will try my best. As such, I will trust you and your mechs with my security." My life and spark. "If you need something, do not hesitate to tell me."

Quickstrike looked utterly surprised for a moment, then leaned forward in a light bow. "As you command, my prince."