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Of Cybertron

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TIME MEASUREMENTS:

Astrosecond: .5 seconds

Nano-klik: 1 second

Klik: 1 minute

Breem: 8 minutes

Cycle: 1 hour 15minutes

Solar-Cycle: One day (20 hours)

Lunar-Cycle: One night (20 hours)

Deca-cycle: 4 weeks (one month)

Mega-cycle: 96 hours (four days)

Meta-cycle: 12 months (one year)

Stellar Cycle: 6 months

Vorn: 83 years

Mega-vorn: 83,000 years (1000 vorns)

60 mega-vorns: 4,980,000 years


Logically, Sam knew he had saved the world a couple times.

Of course, the only reason he survived long enough and fought hard enough to do the aforementioned saving-of-the-world, was because of his friends and family. 'Friends' being quite a few people who were also instrumental in protecting Earth and held the title of 'ally' (or at least, useful). And 'family' being composed of two slightly-older-then-middle-aged parents, a former car-thief turned specialized mechanic, one technical-inclined conspiracy-theorist, a good handful or two of military personal and their immediate family and five, count'em, five alien lifeforms.

Back to the saving-the-world bit.

When the consequences of your actions have an ending result of saving your planet, yes, obviously, that means that the planet of Earth was saved because of Samuel J. Witwicky's actions on two separate occasions. However, going to back to normal life (with the addition of said alien lifeforms) was simultaneously astonishingly easy and unbearably difficult.

The nightmares, sudden desire to take up track, flinching at loud noises, staring suspiciously police cars, military vehicles, large trucks and even expensive cars with pricey paint jobs was bound to be noticed. By your parents, other parents, teachers, fellow students…and your best friend who you weren't legally allowed to tell anything.

Sam's reactions to perfectly ordinary things were poked and prodded at by various people, mostly those looking to laugh at him, or the odd one or two who recognized the similar patterns in friends and family who worked in…dangerous fields.

The healing injuries had been stared at while Sam had laughed them off as a fight, but the scars that remained told a different story. Those silvery lines on his hands never did fully fade and, well, if his grades in math and physics gradually climbed up to Bs and As…that was just him studying seriously.

The final cherry on top, was that Mikaela Banes didn't mind hanging out with him and seemed to enjoy his company. Considering that they had save each others lives, the lives of Lennox and Epps, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime (not to mention, you know, the planet) with their combined efforts, they had a lot to relate to one another with. Which lead to a deeper relationship. Not to mention a sweet job helping out Rachet on the weekends.

Again, the saving-the-world bit.

Which happened again with the whole AllSpark, pyramids, Optimus dying, Matrix of Leadership, having your face blasted across the world with a capture-alive order, dying, meeting the Primes, Optimus living again and the Egyptians being slightly more grateful the Harvester didn't consume their sun than pissed off one of their several thousand-year-old pyramids was…dismantled.

Moving on.

Yeah, Sam considered himself to be somewhat knowledgeable in doing stupid, reckless, dangerous stuff that nearly got him killed, actually got him killed or almost killed everyone around him, while managing to do even more of the aforementioned stuff that ending up not resulting in an alien invasion or their sun being used as energy.

This, however? This, Sam was so far into unknown territory, he could barely breath. Not that he needed to breath anymore, but if he could, he would hyperventilating. Or throwing or passing out, just generally, out of his mind with fear and ohmygodwhyisthishappeningtome.

The reason for this, what had lead the past events to the currents events could be place squarely on Sentinel Prime's shoulder pads. Sam knew, Primus knew, it was all Sentinel's fault.

Megatron was at fault as well.

All those other Decepticons probably had something to do with it too…

Basically, it wasn't Sam's fault, just Sam had to fix it.

At least, he hoped he could fix it.

Still. Saving-the world.

Or rather, it would be more accurate to say…saving the worlds.

Being actually told he was going to do it, was drastically different from doing the best you could while running for your life, praying people you cared about would live to see another day.


It started like any other day.

Actually, no, that's a lie, it started off pretty great, but things went to pieces a short time later in a FUBAR situation that would go down in history books if it wasn't classified to hell and back. Sentinel Prime was the mentor of Optimus. The one who taught him a lot of the important things that he holds sacred. So Sentinel being a fragging, murdering betrayer was unexpected and incomprehensible. To the Autobots, it was devastating.

To Sam?

It just made him angry. Considering the loss of life in previous years, the soldiers, Jazz, Skids and Mudflap, Arcee, Wheeljack, Ironhide, and Optimus himself (twice, however briefly) there wasn't much in good things in the Autobots' day-to-day life. Having an old mentor/father figure, long thought dead, come back? That must have been the greatest happiness all of the Bot's had in a long time.

Before the Prime killed Ironhide by brutally shooting him in the spark while revealing his alliance with Megatron, that is. The Space Bridges were pretty important for the Decepticons to invade Chicago with, so Sam put that as priority one, in the control matrix taking down. He desperately hoped that when this was all over he could try and use the Matrix of Leadership to revive Ironhide and he prayed to any higher being that was listening that he would be able to save his family once more.

Because they were alive and they came back, thank Primus.

He set off, to the building with the blue light shimmering in between the pillars and the fraggin' space portal hanging over it. The Decepticons tumbling through it were focusing on the other Autobots, so he had a relatively clear path to traverse. Of course, the act of getting up to a place where he could actually do something, required climbing and being careful to avoid attention from the 'Cons who were patrolling, along with a handful of humans.

Fighting ensued when his stealth failed. His winning on the fights was mostly due to the alien tech that he had that Wheeljack had given him before the 'Cons-

Forcibly turning his thoughts away from that, he looked his gaze to the one pillar that was the control matrix. He should have known, right then, that this wasn't going to turn out well.

The thing was, Sam realized looking back on this moment, was that he had an odd relationship with Matrixes of any kind. Also, Primes, there were connections between Primes that he didn't understand.

Primes, Matrixes and the human Samuel J. Witwicky.

Also, saving-the-world. So naturally, there were explosions and buildings crumpling and people screaming, Autobots screaming, Decepticons screaming all in the shadows of the space portal and blue light. It was terrifying and he was so scared because Lennox and Epps, Ironhide- no, he had a job to do and he was going to do it and it didn't matter that Sentinel was blocking his way, he could do this. Later, Sam couldn't tell anyone what happened exactly, beyond Sentinel's furious yelling and the steady stream of curses running through his own head, yet he remembered with clarity the words he heard before everything lit up in a blinding light.

Sam Witwicky. You will save the world.


When he opened his eyes next, it took several minutes for him to process his memories and current status. The last words he heard were in the front of his mind, burning brightly with power that took a bit more time to understand. Next, was the state he was in. Which was quite peculiar as he couldn't see anything. Or feel anything. Deliberately, he attempted to twitch any part of his body.

Nothing moved.

Okay, panic was setting in and his heartbeat was rising and his breathing was speedin-

No…it wasn't?

He was not breathing.

Nor was his heart beating.

Oh slag.

He was dead. He had died taking out the control matrix and he distinctly remembered Sentinel being rather close, so he probably took the traitor with him, but holy Primus he was dead. Again.

Unfortunately (or fortunate, however you choose to look at it), Sam, while being a mostly normal-ish human being, was something of an honorary Prime. Considering that he held the AllSpark as it shattered into Megatron's chest, had it in his head, earned the Matrix of Leadership, met the Primes of Old, was revived by the Primes of Old and then proceeded to do the same with Optimus, the human was definitely Prime material. Granted, he was young, human and inexperienced but he did the right thing when call upon. That Sam went willingly to his death, several times, in defense of the Autobots, was noted.

When Sam and Sentinel Prime were caught up in the control matrix with the space bridge the organic tissue of Sam's body disintegrated and the former Prime's spark was forcibly removed. A decision was made, by the Primes in the Afterlife and by Primus, their creator who gave life to all through the AllSpark.

"Samuel James Witwicky. Valiantly you have fought. For the sake of your world, for the sake of your loved ones. Including Our own. Worthy, you are of the Matrix of Leadership. Worthy of the trust that has been placed in you. Your life for theirs, was a choice you made without hesitation. Their Sparks, into your hands We give. A new future has begun, one you will shape.

Welcome to the ranks of Prime, Janus, protector of Cybertron."

The awe-inspiring voice that tasted of ancient power, invaded his suddenly functioning senses and his entire being, yet as quickly as it came just as it faded away. Awareness slammed into his being painfully and he lurched up, uncoordinated and hurting as he dry-heaved. His eyes darted around in the darkness as he tried to see any familiar surroundings as he catalogue everything he saw. He appeared to be in an alley, a wall at his back and two on his sides, stretching up into the darkened sky. Everything, dull and dingy as it was, had a metallic sheen and he could see movement at the alley's mouth. The sound of moving machinery and distorted words. His thoughts were working so quickly, he could swear he could hear gears whirling and fans kicking in as his processors worked- wait what?

Slowly, Sam shuttered his optics, flexed his digits and clenched his servos. He took a deep breat- no he vented.

He wasn't human anymore. Dear God, what was he? Where was he?

Images flashed, two side by side, one showing a planet glittering like an obsidian in the light shining from its surface, the other, the design of the frame he was. He would have gasped for breath at the sight of the planet which resembled a picture Optimus had once shown him as he spoke of the days before the war.

Cybertron, I am on Cypertron. I am a Cybertronian on Cybertron…before the war?

He spent a moment dwelling in sheer disbelief, recalling the voice that had spoken to him, had that been Primus? The Cybertronian deity Bee spoke about?

Sam shook himself, forcibly turning his attention to the second image, the one he suspected answered his second question. He blinked, slightly put off by the small similarities with Sentinel the blueprints showed. Granted he had a more streamlined look and he could see something of Optimus, but he looked like a modified version of a Prime mix. . He rather liked the paint job, all sleek and polished black with artistic lines of an AllSpark blue and he looked somewhat deadly with, was that a sword?

It was, the schematics helpfully informed him. He didn't have the middle-gripped, double blade and shield combo, that traitor had used, it was a rectangular piece of a dull black metal with a hilt that could be used as both a single and double-handed hold. There was no other weapons... although…it appeared he did keep the blasters. Which were smaller and in his arms…save they weren't called arms anymore. Because according to data text scrolling across his vision, he was a fully-functioning, one-of-a-kind piece of Cybertronian machine. With a new-found knowledge in both language and how to take proper care of himself.

He needed a mirror.

Carefully, he heaved himself to his feet, deliberately ignoring the familiar sounds that he never expected to be the cause of and lifted a…ped…to take a step closer to the metal wall that held enough of a shine to see himself in. He stared in silence at his reflection, struck dumb at actually seeing himself.

His ey-optics, were blue instead of the brown his…human self once had. His frame lacked the flaring out shoulder plates Sentinel had and there weren't any wings or boosters that he could tell, so he was pretty sure he was closer to Optimus's build, rather than Sentinel's.

Which, thank Primus for small mercies.

Several little screens popped up into his…vision, the glyphs of Cybertronian language suddenly making perfect sense to his…brain module. One was pointing out his current location (the city of Simfur) followed by a list of major cities that were nearby. The other was going into further details on the specifications of his bi-pedal and his alt-mode. His alt-mode was wicked. Something that on Earth only the ridiculously wealthy could afford and a visionary engineer could only dream of. It was some combination of a helicopter/fighter jet hybrid and some high-end sports car.

There were no words to describe what he was now feeling.

I…am a robot, Sam thought fuzzily to himself, even as he could hear Bumblebee's offended radio-speak reprimanding him.

Bee's not here and even if he was he wouldn't be my Bee, he realized in horror, I'm not even human anymore and everything is metal and dead and I am alone, oh God, I can't do this! I can't-

A surge of something cut off his thoughts before they could trail into incoherent babbling and his hands- no they're servos now- came up to clutch at his face-plate. His battle mask slid down in an almost instinctual reaction to his rising adrenaline- he didn't have a human body anymore- and he could feel as every function slid from non-combative into battle-ready.

His back-plate hit the wall and he slid down to take on his skidpad as some distant thought remarked that it was a good thing no one would seemed to notice him so whatever was happening, an update to his software, a panic attack, whatever, it would happen with some privacy. He was almost grateful.

Right before his processors informed him of an emanate shutdown to prevent damage due to a sudden influx of a massive amount of data. Going by the familiar feel of energy running through him, he was pretty sure he knew what it was. Nano-kliks before he crashed, Sam, now named Janus Prime, wondered why, when the AllSpark was most assuredly destroyed, did it leave pieces of itself, everywhere?


Sam didn't know how much time passed before he was waking up, but when his optics came online, he registered a tiny face staring squarely at him. His jaw dropped open in disbelief. A tiny Cybertronian was standing on his chest plate, wide red optics fixated on him. It chirped at him, a wordless question as it cocked his head to the side. A small noise escaped Sam's mouth, or rather intake, as he reached up to prevent the sparkling from falling as he sat up.

It was adorable.

He noticed worriedly that it was remarkably small even compared to his servos, also his paint on its frame was dull and scrapped in several areas. Sam had no idea what a sparkling was supposed to look like, non-Con and healthy, and he certainly had no idea to take care of one. However, according to the vivid blue glyphs now scrolling across his view…it would appear that he had some help.

Protection-Prime-Sparkling-War-Protection.

Sam flinched at the wave of energy that flexed its invisible hands into his processors. A curse dropped out of his intake, as the sparkling in his han-servos shifted to grip his digits more securely.

Slag, that's the AllSpark and it's in my head.

"Oi! Lookit wha' we've found here!"

Unfortunately, before Sam could get over this bit of information without descending into hysterics, a voice echoed from the opening of his current hiding place. The once-human instinctively turned up his senses, caught the motions and distinct energy field of spark-chambers of several bots. The little one made a fearful whimper and cowered in his palm. Sam was resigned. Of course, it was always him.

"Stay back!"

At the girlish-sounding voice tinged with fear and false confidence, something ping'd in his chest. His optics narrowed as he reached for his sword, carefully setting the sparkling on his shoulder as he gathered his pedes underneath him. With a twist of his digits, he wrapped them firmly around the hilt and leaned far back enough into the shadows that passing glances should slide right off of him. He made a hushing sound to the child clinging to his grooves between his shoulder and back plate, which, thankfully, was understood.

Just in time as a small feminine bot entered the alley way, followed swiftly on her heels by five other larger mechs. While the supposed femme's frame was mostly clean and gleaming with a glittering shine, the mechs were dull and dented, obviously worn with several mismatched armor plates. They also carried weapons, blasters and one held some kind of staff that included a ball of visible energy on one end.

Now that they were closer, as the mechs were advancing as the femme was backing up, her optics frantically scanning the impossibly high walls and the thick shadows she was rapidly approaching, Sam could see them more clearly.

It was obvious to him, the mechs were some kind of thugs with weapons training and confidence in their power over the femme, who was both significantly smaller and untrained, while the femme kept looking for assistance from another absent bot. The designs on her frame greatly resembled his own, only they were in a much darker blue and were concentrated on her shoulder plate, gauntlets and her arm guard.

Sam internally sighed and mentally poked the bundle of AllSpark sitting comfortably in his processors.

What did you do?

Not-alone. Future-Servant. Protect.

His vision switched to a rapid download and comprehension of temples, priests, priestess, those in training, those in apprenticeship, differences in the two and all the places where a temple stood in correlation to his current location. No matter that robot-him understood it, human-in-the-robot-him needed a minute to understand. He squinted at the screen. There was a temple not that far away, at least by Cybertronian standards, maybe ten or fifteen miles or so? Or whatever they called their measures of distance.

Still, the situation was appearing to be escalating. Besides the fact the AllSpark wanted him to help, the femme looked pretty young. Not to mention Sam had a soft spot for saving alien robots and the fact that he was now magically of them, really didn't change that. So when the smaller bot went down, throwing her arms up to defend her head, Sam leapt forward, one servos gripping the hilt of his sword, the other going to scoop the sparkling off his back and dump the little one into the girl's lap.

According to the switch from non-combative processors to his battle-computer and the subroutines for thousands of sword styles, Sam was- or rather Janus Prime was very familiar with battle. Sam was too, but he could honestly say he had never used a sword to fight any Decepticons. Not that these were Decipticons, but the point still stood.

With an ease reminiscent of Optimus Prime himself, Sam effectively and efficiently beaten down the four followers and decapitated the leader. He reached out a ped and with an amused twist to his mouth, kicked the metal ball with enough force for it to rocket straight out of his sight. He glanced down at the four as he sheathed his weapon on his back before turning to the apprentice priestess who was gaping at him, the little sparkling protectively held against her spark.

"Are you alright?"

As this was the first time he had spoken, Sam took a moment to appreciate his new voice. Deep and firm, commanding with the concern he felt for the femme gentling the tones. His voice reminded him of Optimus and a surge of emotion in his chest prevented him from saying any more. Had he still been human he would have tears pricking his eyes and a lump in his throat, he was a robot now, but the emotion was still the same. He deeply missed the Prime and even if he were to see hiim again, he would not be the one Sam had grown to care so much for.

The sparkling gave an inquiring chirp, his attention on the once-human, while the femme holding him made a noise that didn't translate into any known language and Sam worried a moment that he would be unable to speak the language (and Dear God, that was another problem on top of the body transplant that he did not want to have a mental breakdown over later!) but when a comprehendible shout from behind them both relived him and sent him on guard.

He bent his knee joints, his digits wrapping around his hilt once more as an older femme, taller and decked out in battle armor with two… warrior-priests? Which were the priests who held a small connection to the AllSpark, not enough for communication or to touch it for longer than a couple cycles, but enough to serve those whose connection was. They both boast similar electric staffs with daggers and probably a blast or two. Whatever threat they saw in him, going by their increasingly hostile movements and the sharp scrap of metal against metal as they drew their weapons, where quickly stalled by the priestess shoving an arm into their path.

"Enough!"

Her voice boomed into the reduced space, echoing with power and ringing with authority. She took a step forward and Sam studied her frame. She was shorter than him, less armored, but she carried a single sword, although shorter then his. Her plating was a dark blue with shades of an ice-blue trailing down her sides and disappearing into her black plates, while the familiar detailing were done in silver and covered her entire top half. Her optics were white and there was a metal shroud around her shoulder plates with a pattern of repeating three dimensional squares.

Before he could continue his perusal of the unknown bot, she stepped forward in a powerful stride, drawing his attention to her face easily.

"You!"

At the audible tones of a beginning accusation, Sam changed his position to a defensive one over the young femme's still prone form, stretching his senses for his sparkling and if the other would make a threatening move. While the priestess herself gave no impression other than severe displeasure, the two at her back shifted their weapons, intending on drawing his attention.

Sam kept his gaze on the femme.

"You," she repeated, "How dare you?! Do you know what you have done? No, you must have, for even if you proclaim your ignorance, your innocence, it will not be accepted!"

Sam totally blanked out.

What.

His confusion must have been visible even through his battle-mask, because the priestess's temper lit up. She bristled, her armor moved and plates shifted and flared as she took a step forward, reaching for her own weapon. Before she could speak another word though, the apprentice scrambled to her pedes and darted in front of him. His sparkling was still in her arms, so Sam moved to a place where he could easily switch places in case the other three got any smart ideas.

"No! Priestess (trailings-of-ice-and-dust-in-the-wake-of-celestial-objects) Icetrail, he is not what you think! He is-"

"Youngling! Do not interrupt me! This one has trespassed against us and must be dealt with!"

Newly identified Icetrail turned a severe look to the little one in apprentice's arms and barely an astro-second later a sword was place at her neck. She would have stumbled back, but Sam reached out, grabbing her chest plate and holding her firmly against the blade, cutting a look to the guards both with blasters aimed at him.

He returned his attention the priestess who was vibrating with fury.

"You….dare?!"

Her voice was barely a whisper, but Sam ignore that and opened his information download on the priests and priestesses and continued to stare directly into her white optics as he accessed the data. It took barely a nano-klik, but when he comprehended it's contents, he smiled. Before Icetrail could further comment into the perceived slights against her, he shoved her back into the arms of her guard, raising his sword to both block the blaster shots and to slice off the ends to render them useless.

He took a step back and laid a protective servo on the shoulder of the youngling.

"As it so happens to be," he spoke with amusement, ignoring the radiating fury from all three temple-bots, "It is not I who dares, rather yourselves. Allow me to demonstrate."

Sam crackled in his mind as he grasped the AllSpark energy and sent it to the details which were apparently conductive designs specifically made for only High Priests, High Priestesses, Primes and Lord-Protectorates. They lit up like a Christmas tree, bathing the surrounding metal in glittering blue, perfect light for feeling/seeing how almost everyone's entire frame radiated absolute shock.

"W-what…?"
The previously bold and confidant femme could barely get the single word out as she took several steps back. The guards, on the other han-servo, dropped to the knees and bowed their heads.

Of course, their reaction was mild compared to how Icetrail and the apprentice reacted when he pulled out the Matrix of Leadership from his spark chamber. They ended up both crashing. The youngling was the only one that didn't hit the ground, as he caught her and pulled her to his chest plate amid his sparkling's concerned warbles.

The temple guards were frozen in stillness and when Janus Prime stepped to loom above them, he only commanded them to take the Priestess and lead him to the Simfur Temple. There was no question of disobedience, going to the temple was the best choice. A new Prime, overflowing with the energy of the AllSpark itself! A Matrix! Undeniable prove of another Prime, of hope for the future!

Sentinel Prime needed to hear this!


About halfway to their destination, the youngling woke and identified herself as (echoes-of-song-and-soaring-in-freedom-air) Songbird. Sam only blinked at the voice-over he heard as he gently set her down and handed her his sparkling (which, come to think of it, was probably a result of that blast of AllSpark right after his panic attack. His sparkling, huh?). Of course, when Songbird asked for the little one's name, the one thing that came up in his processor was a vivid image of Will Lennox.

"His name is (one-who-is-determined-and-brave) Ironwill."

Newly named Ironwill chirped happily and made little grabby motions towards his creator. Songbird quickly hushed him when Janus showed no sighs of moving to comply. Also, the fact that Icetrail was waking and had decided to take the lead at a faster pace with only passing questioning look to the discovered mech. Upon reaching the table, Sam made sure to show no hesitation in continuing the journey as his every reaction was intensely analyzed and would surely be remembered later on. Walking up the steps of the temple of Simfur was something Sam never in a thousand vorns imagine he would be doing. Bumblebee had only once mentioned he stood guard over the AllSpark in the temple during Optimus and Megatron's reign.

He was also beginning to realize that since the AllSpark was here, there was no war, that would likely mean that he was in the peace period, the Golden Age somewhere in the early or middle years of Optimus, a beloved ally and someone he was proud to call friend and think of as family, and Megatron, a hated enemy who he directly caused or led to his death, several times, ruling the planet as friends and brothers.

Sam was so screwed.

Still…all he had to do was encourage Megatron to keep on the straight and narrow or limit the damages of his war, or directly kill him without making an enemy of out of Optimus. No big deal. Seriously, easy as pie.

Sam…was so very screwed.

Along with the personality upgrade, level-Optimus in leadership vibes, Sam could do everything better. No awkward flailing, pointless rambling and nervous ticks, everything was controlled and calculated. If he were still human, Sam would wonder if he had a split-personality.

As he was a sentient-robot from a world made probably entirely of metal with a visible soul housed in his body with a certainty of who created him and for what purpose…who had also sent him back in time…most likely…

No, he absolutely had a split personality.

Human-who-is-Sam.

Cybertronian-who-is-Janus-Prime.

He could live with that.

"Sentinel Prime! Lord High Protector Megatron and Optimus Prime! There is an urgent matter that requires your attention!"

On second thought, as he ascended into the temple, straight into a gathering of familiar future Autobots and Decepticons, having Sam, who-is-Janus, and Janus, who-is-Prime, while not actually being human-Sam, was probably a good thing. If Sam had been standing in his place, he would have offlined instantly as every gaze turned towards him even as the AllSpark began to sing. Both, in his head and the one floating in the middle of the sanctuary.

This is all your fault.

You-who-are-Prime. Save-Them.

Chapter Text

TIME MEASUREMENTS:

Astrosecond: .5 seconds

Nano-klik: 1 second

Klik: 1 minute

Breem: 8 minutes

Cycle: 1 hour 15minutes

Solar-Cycle: One day (20 hours)

Lunar-Cycle: One night (20 hours)

Deca-cycle: 4 weeks (one month)

Mega-cycle: 96 hours (four days)

Meta-cycle: 12 months (one year)

Stellar Cycle: 6 months

Vorn: 83 years

Mega-vorn: 83,000 years (1000 vorns)

60 mega-vorns: 4,980,000 years


 

Despite the plea for him to help, Sam didn't quite know how he was going to accomplish that. But, considering the outcome of most of his efforts to save lives and planets, he probably had a good chance. Especially with the added boost of knowledge from the future and the ever helpful presence of the AllSpark in his head.

Not that all of his worries were his wonderings on how he was going to 'save them', as he had a child to care for, family to introduce himself to, enemies not to kill and that traitor who was marching towards him with a scowl marring his face and a heavy disapproval radiating from his frame.

Huh, actually that's very interesting. Emotions, rather then read by body language and facial expressions seem to be expressed through an energy field that is generated by the spark. The knowledge comes instinctual and is not a something I need to learn since apparently I am already doing it. Which is why the priestess went postal when I didn't understand her accusation.

There was an inquiring chirp, whisper soft from Songbird, right before there was a nudge form the AllSpark in his head, directing his attention to some gathering of energy...?

Oh. Oh. That's what Bee meant when he said there was a bond that could not be broken between the two of us…

Apparently there was a mental connection formed by spark energy between family…brothers and sisters, parents and children, spouses. Though Bee did once mention that forming a bond could also happen between friends who had a deep connection to each other.

Any other investigations into mental connections would have to wait until further notice, as Sentinel stood before him, his optics roaming over his frame, his disapproval bleeding into anger. Sam was happy to see that although his own frame was a fraction smaller bulk-wise, having been designed for speed and agility, he stood taller than Sentinel. He was among the tallest in the room, right down from Optimus and Megatron.

Dear Primus he wasn't ready for this! They were right there!

Now was not the time for that so Sam focused his attention on Sentinel and buried the urge to rip his head off and punt it into space. Going by the startled warble from Ironwill, he mostly suceeded. Focusing on his emotions, he bundled up a bit of the protectiveness and his concern for his sparkling's safety and gently lobbed in in his general mental direction.

Point for Sam at learning how to care for a sparkling! It worked and Ironwill settled down into Songbird's arms. Unfortunately, that drew Sentinel's attention and Janus stepped up and sideways, blocking the apprentice and his sparkling from view.

"My apologies," Janus spoke, his voice velvet-covered steel, the barest hints of warning in his tones, "Might I question as to the purpose for my presence here?"

Sam was strangely hurt and relieved that at his first movement most Cybertronians moved to a defensive stance, shifting so their weapons were in plain view. Regardless if he knew them all, either from stories or brief interactions, to them he was an unknown. A powerful unknown who wasn't concerned in the least being surrounded and outnumbered by many of the strongest fighters, if not all. One who didn't gap and stare in awe and reverence at the AllSpark.

Considering that Sam was at best grateful and at worst, irritated and annoyed in his feelings towards the Cube, all his other experience with Cyberton and Cybertronian-related incidents ensure he wasn't going to be impressed by much.

Not even by the two almost familiar mechs, one who sported a very familiar pair of cannons and right by his side, one Autobot he had only known through stories and a brief introduction.

Ironhide and Jazz.

Sam was going to be eternally grateful to the AllSpark for making his processing power so great because you could hold conversations in his head and make observations all within the space of nano-kliks. He was startled by the level of sound that registered in his audio receptors though.

"YOU DARE?! You who defile our ways, our most sacred traditions and stand there without any sense of guilt or shame?! You have not fooled anyone of us! Your appearance claims you to be an Elite, while your words claim you as an Alpha! Unacceptable!"

Whoa, he's almost frothing at the mouth. Err, intake.

Sentinel's whole frame twitched and his servos reached up to grab his sword. Janus didn't move, only sighed internally and made a mental note to gain better control of projecting his emotions. He was happy to note, that though the traitor was perfectly content to skewer him right then and there, Optimus stepped up, Megatron right on his heel.

"Sentinel!"

There was a rebuke in the Prime's harmonics, but also a plea. Optimus deferred to the other once-Prime and going by Megatron's subtle shifting…he disapproved. Well, both Janus and Sam disapproved too, rather strongly at that. Perhaps, he already had an ally in booting Sentinel out of power…?

"As amusing as this is," Janus made sure to interrupt the red mech at the beginning of his retort, allowing himself a flash of amusement at his reaction, "I have work to do and since I'm already here, I might as well get it done."

Disregarding any objections, some vocal, most physical and avoiding obstacles in his path with an ease and grace he once likened to Optimus, Janus strode powerfully into the midst of semi-hostile bots to draw nearer to the AllSpark. He was barely in reaching distance when he stopped, moving to look over his shoulder, right into the narrowed optics of Bumblebee. Only he showed no sign of recognition only a hardened face of determination with a blaster aimed at his spark from behind.

It was like the saving-the-world thing. Logically, he knew there was no reason and it was impossible for his best friend to have recognized him, but a part of him had still hoped. That part quickly died and he couldn't quite stop the flare of grief he felt before smoothly switching his attention back to the object in front of him. Of course, Bee had hesitated at the touch of emotion so Janus took a moment to spare a word or five.

"Can you hear it singing?"

The yellow bot was a Sensitive, from what Sam understood and it was something of a open secret. One of the reasons why Bumblebee was always chosen for the temple guard. So an unknown bot stating he held business in the temple with the AllSpark, one who carried the designs of a High Priest all over his frame and who could hear the Cube singing?"

Bee was a smart bot, smarter than many gave him credit for considering his age, but he understood things most other missed. It was what made him a good scout and what made him one of the most related to humans. Janus was not surprised that he lowered his blaster, albeit slowly and without change to his facial expression.

He figured Sentinel would have chewed Bee out if the next series of events hadn't effective grabbed everyone's undivided attention and held it.

A single servos was placed on the surface of the AllSpark. That was all it took before the present and future energies were untied in a vibrant display of blue arcing lights and a deep and immeasurable energy. It felt pleasant across his body, the glowing lines across his face, down his shoulder plates, arms, hands, back, torso and his legs. Even his sword sheathed in between his shoulder plates were etched in AllSpark energy.

In the awestruck silence behind him, his words were clearly heard, echoing softly in the chamber.

"Hello, my old friend," he whispered with something like sorrow ringing in his tones, "It has been a while since then, has it not?"

The presence in his mind deepened and he could hear two distinct voiced singing in harmony, one in joy at a second chance to be had, one at a destruction that would have happened had it not been for Primus's intervention. A wordless query pinged against his processors, bringing an image of a Fallen-possessed Megatron, so far gone that even after the removal of his presence, there was no recovering the once Lord High Protector.

Janus smiled and didn't even try to hold back the overwhelming feelings of determination, happiness and a fury that gave the gathered mechs pause, prompting an instinctual reaction to move away from the unknown mech. It was his reply to the question only three could hear that had them following that reaction though.

"When I find him, he will scream until his vocal cords cease to function, I will rip off his every member and melt them down to use as decorative ornaments and I will sift through every memory he holds until he breaks and shatters."

There was a brief silence heighted by the horror and fear crackling through the air before Janus finished his promise.

"And then I return his spark to the others and they will judge him and decide his punishment. He will not return, not even at the command of Unicron himself nor when the stars burn out."

There was a simultaneous dimming and brightening of the blue energy. The Fallen could not be allowed to rise, either in Megatron or on Earth as he had in the Time Before. To cause such pain and to deny one of Primus's first beloved creations the peace of His Bosom…his actions had sealed his fate and there was nothing that could be done for him.

Janus shuttered his optics in empathy, before a small nudge of curiosity towards both his little sparkling and the femme carrying him manifested in his thoughts. A quirk in his expression brought a smile and he turned on his heel. Songbird was standing under the entrance gates, still cradling his sparkling in her grasp. Ignoring the heavy weight of many optics staring in terror or reverence, save for a handful who were controlled and waiting to see the outcome of his actions, he reached out and beckoned her forward.

"Songbird, come. There is one who wishes to speak with you."

Despite the terror that surged through her spark, it only took her a moment to take the first step towards him. That courage was interrupted by an enraged shout.

"I am (one-who-is-to-watch-and-lead) Sentinel Prime and I demand answers! Never in mega-vorns has any Sensitive of your power stepped forward! Not when the AllSpark was lost, not when war ravaged Cybertron, yet now?! NOW WHEN THERE IS NO NEED FOR YOU?!"

The suffocating rage was keenly felt as remembered loss filtered through processors and the agony of an empty temple caused a hitch in the motions of the priests and priestess and the few Sensitives' in the room. When Sentinel whirled around, striding forward and stretched out a limb to take hold of-

"You are incorrect."

The words rolled like thunder, stilling the movements of Sentinel and the priests and priestesses who had gathered at the surge of life-energy immediately fell to their faces and prostrated themselves. All optics turned to the still unidentified mech now shining with an inner light and powers flowing visibly through him. His gaze was riveted on the old Prime, who discreetly lowered his arm, drawing himself up in self-righteousness while cloaking his form with remembered power and once earned dignity.

"You say my words are false, yet you do not even do us the courtesy of your designation! I have spoken nothing but truth! It is you who are in suspicion!"


Megatron leaned closer to his brother, who was staring in bewilderment and little anger at his teacher. While Megatron distrusted and disliked the aged Prime, there was respect for his victories and his accomplishments. That he was acting in such a matter to a mech who bore the sigils for a Prime, demonstrated an understanding of the AllSpark, calling the Cube an old friend and swearing an oath to offline a bot in one of the worst ways possible, was unthinkable! Sentinel was escalating the situation, mocking and challenging the gifted Sensitive to the point where he was glowing with Spark!

He had been keeping track of everyone's movements and most had moved to line the walls, silent and vigilant to any sudden changes to the Sensitive. (flitting-freely-from-place-to-place) Bumblebee as the last known sparked Sensitive, had granted and allowed access to the AllSpark by stepping aside and that was significant. None save him heard the words the unidentified mech had spoken, but there was potential for a way into his good graces going by how his spark had flared in old grief at the sight of the youngling.

There were possibilities here he could not see but Megatron knew deep in his spark, that something had changed and shifted and all of a sudden, it was as if a light a shown up from Primus below. It was baffling and confusing, but that stubborn glitch was ruining it. Sentinel was defensive and hostile and there was no reason to be! He shot a quick glance at (strength-that-will-fight-to-protect-those-behind) Ironhide and sent a ping for his attention. It was granted and Megatron sharply pressed the need for Sentinel to be contained or reasoned with.

There was a grudging approval and agreement but also a loss at what exactly he was supposed to do about it. The underlying retort that Megatron was the Lord High Protector of their Prime and the co-ruler of Cybertron and thus he should do something, was clearly felt.

Before either had a chance to act to prevent further issues…the Sensitive took care of the issue himself.


Bumblebee was young compared to all others that were both below his position and above it. There was some resentment, but he was needed. His type of gift was different than those of the priest and priestesses, those who held the Gift to tend and care for the AllSpark, to sense it's location from only a short distance. His gift was of communication and when he grew older he would receive some of the lost history contained in the Cube. Granted, it would be many vorns before that day, but it was necessary less the information overload his current storage capacity and destroy his processors.

It was unspoken, but every bot on Cybertron knew, the AllSpark may give life and was a blessing from Primus himself…but the amount of power it contained was dangerous and to treat the Cube as anything other than something sacred and precious was insanity. Only those who had earned the title of Priest or Priestess were allowed within a certain radius and fewer then them were allowed to guard it. High Priests were Primes. There was an issue with (one-who-will-fight-to-defend-favorable-outcomes) Optimus being a real Prime, even though he bore the name and a glyph that were carved into the tombs of previous Primes.

It wasn't mentioned, but the Priests insisted on treating him as an accepted Prime, even if Sentinel disapproved. While it would make a difference in the long run, so far Optimus being the student of Sentinel was enough for the moment. Though everyone had wondered what possessed the mech to take on a student whose status was in question? It was a question the Prime had never answered, but many were glad for his actions.

But as Bumblebee watched the events unfold around him… he could not help but feel…there was something balanced on the edge of a precipice, something that would change history and the future for eons to come. He could feel it so strongly it feel like there was a servos placed on his back, ready to push him when the moment came. As with all of the astonishing and impossible things that had happened in the last cycle, it came from the mouth of the new arrival.


Jazz was a noble. One of the Elite. His family could be traced back generations to the time when Primes still wandered with their clans. It was only one of the many reason why he chose to follow Optimus as a Prime. There was something about the mech that called to him, appealed to his senses. He wasn't especially concerned with why, there were many stories told by his carriers and their carriers about how Primes were in the Wandering Days. The fact that he held a Gift of patterns and movements that told him Optimus was something special, might have influenced his decision mostly. His Gift was known only to his carriers and a handful of others.

It wasn't very much of a secret, more of an unspoken fact between him, Lord Megatron and Optimus Prime. They all knew if he named his gift, it would restrict his access to dangerous situations and he would be suggested to take a place at the temple. It was Sentinel's point of pride to gather those blessed by Primus with Gifts. Jazz did not want to go and he had left it to Optimus to reveal that information or not. Going by his continued freedom, he had never spoken of it to his mentor.

Jazz was grateful for his discretion and firmly devoted himself to his training. He had the skills and the drive for being a saboteur and the thrill he got from climbing the ranks to the top, the excitement from alluding his instructors and trainers, it was addicting. The ebbs and flows of the pattern and motions all around him were intoxicating and made it so easy for him to smoothly insert himself into any situation, to crack codes and hack into computers. It frustrated his peers and delighted his teachers.

He was confident in his ability, but kept himself alert. There were many cautionary warnings in his family history and Jazz did not wish to make the same mistakes. So he branched out, into politics and laws. He spent time interacting with Enforcers and Gladiators before Megatron became Lord High Protector, so he could perfect his ability to blend in.

But then, he found his true calling. Music.

Music was like living and dying in a single cycle while watching your first child being sparked and your Bonded holding them in their arms. It was happiness and sadness, rage and love in perfect harmony with one another and it was so beautiful. Jazz could listen to music every single klik of every cycle, every vorn and be content to simply listen.

Then…everything changed.

They were called to the temple for a disturbance and everyone was needed to check out all systems, all functions for everything. The message from a priestess to a priest was shared about an unknown. A scan was sent and there was no record of a mech like that anywhere. So he was careful to find a good spot to be of most use if this bot turned out hostile. When Priestess Icetrail stormed through the entrance, terror, confusion and reverence screaming with her every step, bringing in the unknown bot with Apprentice Songbird…carrying a sparkling…he was wary simply looking at the mech.

And then…he spoke.

Jazz was enraptured. The mech moved and spoke like nothing he'd ever seen before, save for the fact he could swear on his spark the previous was true, even as he stared, all he could see was Optimus. Glancing between the two did nothing. It made no sense and it was utterly baffling yet, Jazz had never been so sure of patterns and those moments before. There was Optimus in the mech, but nothing like he was, rather what he could be.

The next breems would go down in history if he had anything to say about it. But the confrontation between that one and Sentinel?

It would be legendary.


Optimus had a concern. There were several that he dealt with varying in types and levels, but right this nano-klik, Optimus had a very real concern he was going to snap and yell at Sentinel. In exactly the way he was doing to the mech who had spoken to the AllSpark, reassured it, answered its questions and made a disturbing promise to it. Questions he could have almost heard had he been closer and even then he could hear enough to understand that the AllSpark had been…strongly displeased at something done to…a Cybertonian…by another Cybertronian but was satisfied and saddened in equal measure by the punishment that would be given.

He was entirely unprepared for Sentinel to take offence to the mech's entire existence, even throwing in a class insult, which resulted in disappointment rather than surprise. He knew his mentor held a great respect for freedom of choice and of will, that it was the right of every sentient being, but there were times when Sentinel did hold himself as a superior being to his people. He spoke of the right a Prime had to rule, their Gifts were important and they as Cybertronians were different then the others who weren't sparked as they were.

To Optimus who wasn't even sure he was a Prime himself, that did not sit well within his spark. He remembered well the times of Alpha Trion and learning at his side as a scholar and a archeologist. The mysteries of their own history, of the lost languages and arts of the previous generation alone made he wish to find them and to show them to his people.

Now that he was a Prime, in name or not, he ruled with Megatron in peace. Yes, times were difficult and the classes still existed, which was something that united both himself and Megatron in their rule, but there was peace and his people were beginning to build again. Paintings, sculptures and songs were filling the empty places and while there was only a handful of sparklings being sparked, there was hope.

Sentinel was destroying that hope.

He was set in his ways, did not heed to any words Optimus spoke, nor Megatron. He did as he pleased with his authority as Prime and there was truly nothing Optimus could do about it. Sentinel was truly a Prime. He was chosen and it was witness. Optimus only had a coincidental glyph on his helm and chest plate and was tutored by Sentinel as the mech grew older.

If it was not for the situation by which he had risen to power, Optimus would have continued his life as Orion Pax in peace. But he could not sit still when the Revolutions began, to change and to make thing better, so he had done all that he could. When it had ended in the time before the fighting had restarted, only against a different enemy, his plans were to go back to his life researching the lost histories.

He didn't regret his decision to take up ruler-ship of Cybertron with the former leader of the Rebellion Megatron as his Lord High Protector…but he had found a brother in the ex-fighter and they got along well.

This was not the time for nostalgia. As the Prime that ruled he was responsible for his people and regardless if this unknown had appeared out of nowhere according to (one-who-lives-through-rhythm-and-sound) Jazz before the Priestess had brought him to the temple. There were no words to the emotions that welled up in him once he set optics on him. He did not say anything even has he brushed pasted, nor did he speak when the AllSpark began to sing and came alive in a way no one had ever seen before.

He was vibrant and solid and there was a hum that caught his audio receptors and pulsed in time to his own spark song. It was similar to the time when he and Megatron bonded as brothers, as Lord High Protector and Prime, but something so much more. But he controlled himself. There was no need to make a scene and Sentinel demanded composure so he would remain where he was.

Until a breem later when his mentor lost all of his composure and all the senses his processor possessed when he began screaming at the mech. Dropping his full name and title was a surprise, there had been no need for anything other than his title for many vorns now. But after the mech stated that Sentinel was incorrect…that was when something in Optimus finally understood.


Sam found a vindictive satisfaction when Sentinel lost his shit at his accusation. Or rather his statement as it was because the was Sentinel was saying his name, and the way his actual name was supposed to be said, where two different things. That was the go-ahead-green-light for him. Sentinel Prime might not have betrayed the Autobots on an organic planet far into the future, but he was still the same as the one who did.

How on Earth he was the one who shaped Optimus to be the one Sam had known for years, was a complete and absolute mystery to him. Despite this, it was with a smile he spoke his next words.

"(one-who-is-to-watch-and-lead) Sentinel is not your designation. Your designation is (guard-to-stand-and-keep-watch) Sentinel. Which I congratulate for doing until you screwed up in a most spectacular fashion."

Janus turned to stare at Optimus who froze like a deer in headlights. Megatron stepping up to shield him in a way the one he knew had never done brought warmth to his spark. He dipped his head ignoring the shocked and infuriated mech he had just dismissed, keeping his attention on the one in his optics.

"(guard-to-stand-and-keep-watch) Sentinel was to stand and keep watch for you, (one-who-will-fight-to-defend-favorable-outcomes) Optimus Prime. Long has your arrival been awaited. They have waited for you and now I stand before you."

Noise instantly broke out, vindication spread across faces and disbelief on others. Some who had simply believed and they who mocked and scoffed at Optimus who bore the name Prime.

"He is a Prime?"

At the soft question, Janus shot a quizzical look at Priestess Icetrail who was staring at him in horror from her position prostrating herself on the floor.

"Of course he is a Prime. When has he not been? From the creation of his Spark, no matter his designation, he is Prime."

Again, the silence at his answer of one of disbelief and awe. To that, Janus tipped his head back and laughed. Not out of amusement, but out of pity and condensation.

"The Prime who would continue the line, foretold and promised, whose existence has been sung from one end of this universe to the next and his own people did not know him?!"

Ignoring the shock covering his entire frame, Janus moved away from Optimus, returning his attention to Sentinel who remained standing still as a statue.

"Never were you meant to fall this far, Sentinel. The AllSpark disappeared beneath Cybertron in order for the next Prime to return with it. Because you were not chosen to carry the mantle on, your actions that succeeded in locating and returning It to Above were to have consequences. Had you not, of course, provided energy that it did not need and search for the next Prime yourself, you would have been destroyed. The Others argued that you knew and understood that you had made a mistake and agreed to let you fix it."

Janus paused and spoke his next words with a bite a anger.

"You did not. You were to keep watch, yes you did so and found the Prime. You taught him to be a Prime even as you yourself did not follow the teachings you gave him. But, you did not step down. Instead you stepped up and into the position of an adviser and councilor you were not meant to be. By your influence and rule, you have encouraged actions that say some are created inferior to others and that is unacceptable."

He did not raise his voice. There was no need to. The staggering amount of sheer authority and ringing tones of power were unmistakable and echoed to the crowd that had gathered outside.

"Each spark was created unique by Primus himself. Every aspect of their personality, their Gifts and knacks was given to them by Primus through the AllSpark and you have the gall to proclaim that Primus made a mistake in His creations?"

With a fire shining in his optics, Janus pivoted once again to face Optimus, striding forward uncaring of his once greatest enemy's protective stance. He reached out and delicately laid a hand over the glyph stamped on his chest plate. If Optimus had been human, he would have sucked in a breath in absolute shock and awe.

"Optimus…Prime. Even you doubt the legitimacy of your claim?"

At the telltale widening of his optics, Janus held back a displeased frown. His digits clenched and he pulled his fellow Prime (who was unaware of being a Prime), forcing him to move his legs, and started towards the entrance.

"You! What do you think you're doing with my Prime?"

Good ol' Ironhide.

Janus tossed an approving look over his shoulder to the small group of once-future Autobots with the inclusion of Megatron. Save for Bumblebee and Jazz, they all held servos on weapons, swords, blasters and cannons. It was Ironhide who faltered first at the visible approval emanating from the still unidentified mech, but it was Megatron who broken into a jog to keep his place by Optimus's side.

So Janus successfully bullied an overwhelmed newly-confirmed Prime to the temple's stairs to place him on display for an extremely large gathering of mechs and femme of all age groups and classes, including seekers and grounders. No one at the foot knew what was happening, but at the sight of both of their leaders, even if one was being handled by an unknown, they calmed enough for Janus's voice to easily carry.

"By the Will of Primus I have come to this place to set right to wrongs! Your ignorance is offensive and it will be remedied! It is by the Will of Primus that each and every one of you were given sparks, given life! To hold yourself superior above another simply for your Gifts, your quirks or your talents is unacceptable! You are all created equal in the Sight of Primus by His Will through his vessel, the AllSpark! It is not your place to decide worth for another! Freedom is the right of every sentient being!"

For a moment there was complete and utter silence. For a nano-klik before every voice was raised either in fury or joy. Janus allowed the screams, shouts, cries to continue for a moment before he raised his voice and infused it with a smidgen of AllSpark energy.

"SILENCE!"

Every intake clicked shut instantaneously as Janus stood tall, power radiating from every inch of his form.

"I am (beginnings-and-endings-past-and-future-of-gateways) Janus Prime and I am here to correct your ignorance! He was promised of the line that would continue, yet when he came no one recognized him! A Prime given to lead you to new stars, far away galaxies and a Lord High Protector he would choose for himself! Lost history would be found! Arts and songs, languages long forgotten! A Golden Age to last eons! Yet this hangs in the balance, under attack from enemies and races reduced to myths and legends!"

With the practiced ease of a rebellious teenager, Sam ignored the questioning murmurings and voices, both panicked and confused and turned to Optimus and Megatron. They both noticed a shift in his stance, though it took the Prime a moment and gave him their attention. He only smiled, projecting amusement, relief and lingering traces of grief. He had no idea if this was to work, but he was trying. That had to count for something.

Janus moved his hand to Optimus's shoulder and proclaimed for everyone to hear.

"He is Optimus Prime! From when his spark first came, to the time when it will return to the Matrix, he is Prime forever more! By his side stands Lord High Protector Megatron, long may they rule!"

The thundering and nearly deafening roar of cheers almost surprised him, with the force of their renewed devotion and he could feel the AllSpark light up in happiness as a blue glow began to shine from within the temple. He removed himself from the scene, glancing back to take in the glittering forms of Megatron and Optimus reflecting the light. They look strong. Unbroken and no less weary than a recharge would fix. There in this city that had once been reduced into ruins and wastelands.

He turned and his optics found Songbird's who stepped closer, allowing his sparkling to crawl into his embrace. The young femme smiled, which he returned at feeling the lightness surrounding her.

"Please, " she spoke over the noise of the crowd, "I will come with you and serve you. If you will have me."

Her optics pleaded earnestly with him and Ironwill chattered hopefully in his audio receptors. He only inclined his head, watching as those he used to know walked past him to stand behind their leaders. Oh, they didn't ignore him, regardless of giving his designation they didn't trust him. They gave respectful nods, probing stares or, in the case of Bumblebee, an almost apology and a wordless desire to see him again.

For that alone, Sam would stay.

Chapter Text

TIME MEASUREMENTS:

Astrosecond: .5 seconds

Nano-klik: 1 second

Klik: 1 minute

Breem: 8 minutes

Cycle: 1 hour 15minutes

Solar-Cycle: One day (20 hours)

Lunar-Cycle: One night (20 hours)

Deca-cycle: 4 weeks (one month)

Mega-cycle: 96 hours (four days)

Meta-cycle: 12 months (one year)

Stellar Cycle: 6 months

Vorn: 83 years

Mega-vorn: 83,000 years (1000 vorns)

60 mega-vorns: 4,980,000 years


To Sam's delight, the temple held living quarters both underneath the sanctuary, and at a slight distance away from the energy field that AllSpark projected. The space under the Cube was only for those who could withstand the energy for long periods of time, such as sparklings, Sensitives, Primes and usually those Bonded or connected in any way to a Prime. Songbird could handle a mega-cycle, impressively enough, and she held a small room farthest from the field. The largest rooms were for Primes and were decorated in Old Cybertronian art, carefully crafted chairs and tables and held enough space to house twenty large bots comfortably.

Janus appropriated one of the Prime suites and reached for the little sparkling Songbird carried. "If you would be kind enough to find something for him to eat…? And possibly a berth more appropriate to his size?"

At the simply request, Songbird projected happiness and acceptance as she transferred the little one to him. "Of course, my lord Prime," she said formally, bowing her head.

Sam laughed, resisting the urge to rub the back of his head in slight embarrassment. "Simply calling me 'Janus' would be fine," he said, amusement in his vocals as the apprentice stuttered and attempted to refuse.

She quickly acquiesced when he leveled a stern look and firmly repeated his request.

"I will return momentarily, Janus Prime," she spoke with a touch of stubbornness emanating from her slight frame. She was gone before he could correct her.

Sam rolled his optics, knowing that was probably the closest to casual she was going to get with him for some time. Ironwill chirped, demanding attention, which Sam-Janus- readily gave. He ended up sitting on the floor, ignoring the furniture and simply holding the little one in his servos.

A part of him could remember the many vorns living with the knowledge that there was not a single sparkling in existence. Another part, stemming from the bundle of AllSpark in his processor, had very vivid images of what it was like to be used as well as not for vorns upon vorns, both careening through space and sitting alone and forgotten in the ice of Earth for ten thousand years.

The swell of emotions at the brief forty years of being forced to create life only for the ignorant organics to snuff it out barely cycles later. A short time when compared to how long the Allspark had been in existence to be sure, but some of the longest years the Allspark remembered all the same. A heavy pained time for all that it had been less than a vorn. Very few of the sparklings had survived longer than a deca-cycle, the experiments that they suffered through during that short time due to human ignorance and pride...when they were finally offlined, it was a mercy. Coming to the decision to hold back sparks and simply bring drones online had been bearable…and then the Allspark's joy when a Sensitive had finally arrived to bring them to safety… that had been a relief.

Being shoved into the severely corrupted spark of the once Lord High Protector was unimaginable agony. Not only was the shade of who Megatron had once been screaming, begging and pleading for 'someone, anyone please stop me I don't want this please, Primus, help me!' in an unending loop, but the Cube itself had sustained internal damage. Much of its people's history was lost, and while some was saved in pieces and eventually collected and reunited into the Matrix of Leadership, there was still loss of History-of Beloved Songs- that it had safely sheltered since its Creation.

Both the entity of the AllSpark and Sam held memories of his death and revival...memories from his visitation of the Primes of Old.

Logically, Sam knew now that the spark energy he carried- even as an organic, what his people would call a 'soul'- was taken into the Matrix at his death, which was what saved him in the end, but the fact was that he hadn't know until he picked up that sliver of the Allspark that fell from his jacket. He didn't know the AllSpark had transferred so much data into him, into the shard he carried for two years in an effort to save as much of its Beloved Songs as it could manage in such a diminished state.

If he had known sooner, perhaps things would have turned out differently.

Janus firmly shoved that thought into the deepest, darkest places he could in his processors and mimicked the act of taking a breath.

He couldn't afford to sit and think of what could-have-beens.

Megatron wasn't insane, everyone was alive for the moment and he was going to brutally murder the Fallen, the first chance he got. He would not live through all these memories of war and death, destruction and madness that were featured prominently in his memory banks. He would not allow the younger versions of those he had once called his family live through them. His little sparkling was curled up on his servos and for an instant, Janus dampened the connection between the two of them and let his rigid control over his emotion ease.

If he were human, he would weep. He would curl up to sob himself into a deep sleep. He did not have the luxury of allowing that here and now, but in the peace and quiet of the temple, feeling the comforting hum of the AllSpark, both internally and externally, he could mourn for a time. All the lost lives, the destruction of this entire planet. All the burdens and scars his friends and family had once carried that shone so vividly in his processor as he recalled them. And even as he mourned for what he remembered, he mourned for the Allspark at the same time, giving voice to its anguished pain.

And even as he mourned, Janus-Sam- remembered. He remembered the Optimus Prime he had called friend and perhaps even 'brother' was confident and assured, even heavily burdened as he had been. He had known a single misstep could and would-that it had- cost lives and resources they couldn't afford to lose, known that he was the leader, the one his people looked up to. The sheer toll of death and destruction he had seen...instead of letting it break him, he had turned it into determination. Determination that there would 'not be another one' that 'we will not allow this to happen again'. The faith the Prime had carried for everyone who fought besides him, those who had survived, the hope and belief that one day things would be better...the unbelievable depths to the faith his Optimus had carried in his spark was staggering.

Remembered Bumblebee's innocence that even Deceptions and endless war hadn't managed to snuff out completely. Ironhide's unwavering respect and loyalty to a Prime who might not have even been a Prime, but one Ironhide followed all the same because he believed. Jazz, the same before his death, protecting those who Optimus had deemed worth protecting. Ratchet, weary and tired, who made do with what he had, to keep everyone alive. Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, both without knowing if the other was still living, but never giving up hope.

And all those lost, so far from home. Acree, Skids, Mudflap, Jazz, Ironhide.

The shining examples of the last Prime and the best of the last remaining Cybertronians.

So much pain and grief at the memories, Janus could barely think. He had no need for breath, yet his chest hurt, ached and throbbed. He couldn't, would not go through any of that, not again.

Please, he begged silently, images of crushed little bodies and ruins of once beautiful cities, of a scattered, broken fighting people who would one day end up on an organic planet millions of light years from their home flashing through his processor please let this not come to pass once more. Please let me be enough.

He was physically bowed over the tiny child in his servos, feeling as if his spark was breaking when a noise drew his attention. In the time it would take one to blink, he had stood and lunged, drawing his sword in a ringing sound, bringing the blade to the exposed throat of the intruder while in that same instant angling his body so Ironwill was shielded and taken from immediate sight.

His processor shifted to battle-mode and it would take the barest of movements for Janus to remove the head of whoever had startled him. It took barely an astro-second for him to identify who was caught at the end of his blade. Before another blade could bat away the one currently threatening the life of Bumblebee, before anyone could react, Sam wretched the weapon away with such force it slipped from his grip and imbedded itself in the far wall. He stumbled back two steps, ignoring the (painful, oh Primus, they were all there) faces standing protectively behind the Sensitive and Megatron himself who stepped up in front of Bumblebee.

As if to protect the youngling.

From Sam.

It was a sharp, stabbing pain in his spark now. The rush from stillness and mourning to the sudden spring to combat-ready and just as quickly shutting it down in two sudden nano-kliks briefly made his brain module ache. The expressions on all of their faces, (Ironhide, Jazz, Optimus, Bumblebee, two Enforcers hovering in shadows- Prowl? Barricade?) suggested both a hesitant curiosity and regret they stumbled on an obviously private moment. An instant later, Janus was rounding up every single emotion he had allowed out and shoving them right back in. The memories were shoved into the deepest, darkest corner of his processors, because he could not look into the optics of any of them and not see what had been once upon a time if he didn't leave the memories where they belonged. In the past.

Carefully and deliberately, he projected a sliver of regret and a mental apology while voicing another.

"Excuse my actions," he spoke deliberately, moving Ironwill from behind his frame to allow the little one to curl up against his spark, "I was not expecting visitors."

The others relaxed at the sight of the sparkling, suddenly understanding that they must have triggered the Protection Protocols in the Prime's subroutines by entering unannounced. That was an expected action to a threat to a sparkling, nothing surprising.

Although Janus' reaction time and the speed in which he had stood up, unsheathed his sword, and held it to Bee's throat was unbelievable. Megatron stepped away, still close enough to intervene, but at a distance that gave a slight impression of trust.

Janus firmly ignored the knowledge that every bot in front of him must have felt his anguish and turmoil as they came into the room. He was allowed to grieve. Even if the events had not come to pass, he remembered them, he had suffered through them, he had lost, and they had no right to judge him for grieving.

That line of thought was very quickly extinguished. They didn't know, couldn't know, and he wouldn't be surprised if they turned around. He had never seen Bee so young...so inexperienced when compared to what he he had been. Will be. Might have been.

"Our apologies, it was not our intention to alarm you."

Megatron broke the silence, with a curt nod of his head, something eerily similar to sympathy and understanding projecting off him and in his optics that made a part of Janus scream in rage- how dare he after what's he done- but that was another life. One that was dead and buried with everyone else and it wasn't going to be dug up. Megatron was Lord High Protector and his focus was on protecting his people. Janus was an odd Prime who appeared rather suddenly, but he was no threat and there was no reason for him to fear another Prime's Lord High Protector.

That was that.

"What are your intentions?" Janus queried, raising a quizzical optical ridge, "For what purpose have you come to see me?"

There was a short disbelieving silence before Ironhide muttered a scarcely audible curse, gearing up some kind of rant, before he subsiding with a wave of Optimus's servo. The Prime stepped up and respectfully inclined his head as one equal to another. Janus returned the gesture, directing his curiosity to the larger mech.

"You have done me a great service-"

That was as far as he got before Janus gave a sharp chuckle, not one of amusement, but of bitter commiseration. He turned his back to the Prime and his Pack as he strolled over to the recharge berth, gently laying the sparkling down into the enormous place before returning his attention to the strangers before him.

"You are a legitimate Prime now, Optimus. Before, your mistakes would have been accepted as 'well, he might not be a Prime anyway'. Now that you are Declared, you will not be looked on as a person who can make mistakes, who learns from experience. Rather as the perfect leader, incapable of doing wrong."

Janus scoffed, visions of Egypt dancing in his mind as the once great Prime tried his best to harvest the sun of an inhabited planet.

"They call this the Golden Age of Cybertron. In my opinion, the Golden Age was the Wandering Times when each Alpha lead their own Clan, their own Pack and they did as their spark desired. Wandering across this planet, to distant stars, coming home every vorn to join in the One Song as they shared their history with one another and welcomed the newest generations to life, to speak their history aloud for the AllSpark to store as Beloved Songs."

Janus vented in nostalgia and melancholy, though not his own, as the AllSpark itself recalled these times so long past that the only records still surviving were housed in the Cube itself.

"Alphas?"

Sam swung around to stare at the unfamiliar voice. Little Bumblebee who had not yet had his vocals ripped out by Megatron-who would not if Sam had anything to say about it- and could speak perfectly fine at this point in time. Still it was the questioning tone of his voice that redirected his attention.

"Pardon, there's not much difference between an Alpha and a Prime. Though I have not heard Prime referred to as an Alpha in many, many mega-vorns, so the use was forgotten."

Janus took a brief moment to wonder if the reason why Cybertronians were down to one Prime were because they didn't act in an Alpha capacity in these times.

Sam knew for a fact that Optimus did. That he had even when Sam was still human. His Autobots were his Pack and he acted accordingly. Sentinel had never had a Pack, nor even a Lord High Protector, merely subordinates and Optimus as an apprentice. Sentinel had had no desire in his spark to form one either, which should have been an indication that he was not meant to be a Prime for long, honestly.

"I have never heard of the Wandering Times," Optimus spoke up in the middle of his thoughts, his voice thoughtful with a touch of interest, "Nor have I ever heard a Prime called an alpha."

Janus's intake dropped open with horror, his optics opening wide as he gaped at his fellow Prime. Bee was startled by his reaction and jumped in surprise at the flabbergasted expression on the elder Prime's face. Ironhide shuffled a bit to the side, taken aback at the sudden flux of emotion radiating from the black mech. It was Megatron who stepped up to his brother's side to continue what he wanted to ask, but didn't know how to phrase.

"If you would explain the term Alpha-"

"I shouldn't have to," Janus said, whisper soft staring at Optimus as if he'd never seen him before.

A klick passed before he lunged forward to stand bare millimeters away from the mech, chest-plate to chest-plate, his optics glowing a sharp blue, ignoring the open edge of tension and the barest touches of hostility at his sudden actions. Bumblebee was looking on in curiosity while Megatron felt that the other Prime did not mean any harm. The Lord High Protector motioned for Ironhide to stand down, knowing the weapons specialist's actions would be mirrored by the rest of them. Although the two didn't really enjoy each other's company, Ironhide followed his orders. There was silence for a just short of a breem before either one moved.

Janus broke the staring contest first, relief pouring off of him, easing into amusement before he took a step back.

"You, Optimus Prime, are an Alpha, and a very powerful one at that. Congratulations."

Optimus blinked in confusion.

"I do not…understand?"

The amusement faded into grief and sorrow as Janus's optics dimmed. He cast his gaze away from the mechs gathered near his door and waved a servo invitingly into the suite.

"Come, sit, and I will tell you of times long past and of the Gift you have been given."

They carefully filed into the room and settled themselves into seats at the table, saving one end for Optimus and the chair on his right side for Megatron. Ironhide took his left and Bumblebee sat in between him and Jazz. Both Enforcers (who Janus was surprised to see were Prowl and Barricade) stuck to the wall behind their Prime, giving the room a thorough visual check before they settled into their places.

The door slid smoothly shut as Janus walked to the opposite end of the table and eased himself into the expertly crafted metal to begin his history lesson.

"Many eons ago, there were the High Priests who wandered the lands. They were given the stewardship of Primus' Creation. They were naturally caring in most cases, magnetic in their personality and welcoming to those that sought their company. In this they tended to gather mechs and femmes to their side simply by being themselves. Those that chose to follow these High Priests- what we would come to call Primes- would be taken under wing by these bots.

The Original Thirteen Primes left the planet itself in the hands of these Priests as they were sent off to various places around the Universe with missions and goals- things such as exploration or finding new inventions for the advancement of their society. They were absent many long vorns and in their place, it was the responsibility of every Alpha, Priest and Prime to gather once every vorn and rely their history to one another and to the AllSpark. This was done through Song.

The Song itself generally lasted a cycle, but the Gathering typically lasted a deca-cycle. New sparklings, maps and drawings of the land as well as laws were discussed. If a Cybertronian from one Pack chose to take a spark-mate from another Pack, it was decided during these Gatherings where they would roam." Janus paused a moment, longing and happiness emanating from his frame, before his optics dimmed in sadness and ancient sorrow.

"For many vorns it was this way. Life was simple and treasured. That began to change at the return of the Original Thirteen. You must understand, " he said, the barest edges of pleading in his tones, "that they had lost one of their own, betrayed by the one now known as the Fallen. They had seen wonders and mysteries explained on numerous planets, beautiful creations crafted by others, both organic and metallic. They wished to share these wonders, especially in the face of such a loss as one of their own. They wished for the greatness of Cybertron. As all Primes have a love for their Planet, a love for their people is learned.

When the Thirteen reappeared with knowledge and ideas none on Cybertron had seen before, many Alphas came together and helped erect the first cities, the beginnings of what was meant to be a glorious thing, something to help better our- their- people. They took in younglings to help with administrative tasks now that there was a demand for organization and records. Previously, this had been done by memory which was made into the One Song. Something passed on from Elder to youngling to sparkling to be Sung of, in remembrance of all they knew, all they had learned. We were a very oral culture at this point, everything we knew and everything we learned passed to one another in this way and shared amongst the Clans at every Gathering. As the younglings were brought into the Cities, packs grew and blended together.

Some opposed this strange way of life. Clans took pride in their ways, their traditions and practices. Others were more accepting and several Clans banded together to leave the Wandering Time for settling into houses and the confines that a city imposed. In the beginning, there was room and a place for all that came to the Cities. Those that came to the Cities- the first to leave behind their Wandering- were called Alphas, in that they had come first. Some, of course, rejected being labeled something that was Gifted as a simple identification, but when more arrived- Betas and Gammas- they agreed to the way of labeling those who came to the Cities in an effort to keep organized."

Janus stopped at the annoyed/irritated/pained astonishment that proceeded Megatron leaping to his pedes, his face plates twisting up in anger.

"A labeling system?! That's all it was?!" The mech snarled the words, rage bleeding from his every motion and word he spoke.

Janus nodded slowly, vividly recalling Classes had been an issue before Megatron had slaughtered enough people for it not to matter anymore- especially when Optimus backed his choices in declaring the Class System to be outdated and useless.

"Yes." he agreed, flaring his own feelings of annoyance/anger over what had become of the labels.

AllSpark education was a very thorough way to learn the entirety of a culture stretching over thousands of mega-vorns.

"The system that was put into place was never intended to label in the sense of a Cybertronian's right or lack of right to do or be anything. To receive what was needed for them and their families- their packs, that was the original purpose. It was also used as a census tool. To see how many were in each group. Each group had different needs, different crafts, talents and Gifts that required different necessities to live comfortably. It was simply a tool intended to keep track of what was needed where, and how many mechs, femmes, younglings, and sparklings were in any one place. "

The black Prime vented heavily before raising his gaze to stare Megatron optic to optic.

"Never was it intended to place value on lives, simply because they bore a label of "Alpha" or "Gamma". It was the mistake of those who did not understand the consequences of their actions, of those who were used to following only the trusted word of their Alpha-their chosen Prime- and using an inexperienced system to institute laws and order. Crime, once dealt with by the victims, witnesses and Primes, became a public spectacle.

"The Primes were familiar with leading. Some with greater numbers than others. Their successors had proven, both their character and ability to protect and guide their Pack. There was a Council, in the beginning. Made up of all the Primes. Of course, there were many Primes, so the number was reduced to those who had earned the place, who had proven themselves with their Packs before during the Wandering Time. Those who had the largest Packs, those that thrived and continued to do so- those that lead properly were allowed to have a place on the Council to guide the Cities to the best of their ability."

Megatron stood for a moment longer, only reigning in his rage when Optimus reached up to lay a servo on his gauntlets. He regained his neutral expression and retook his seat, under the understanding gaze of Janus who dipped his head, projecting his own feeling of understanding-agreement-simmering rage.

Bumblebee tilted his head, waiting a moment before he spoke up.

"There is a Council in this Age, Ratchet once served on it, but it's nothing like you describe. Sentinel was the Prime and ruled as such. The Council held no power, they could only discuss and offer suggestions to influence Sentinel's decisions. They were able to solve minor disturbances when the Prime wasn't present, but that was the extent of their function."

Janus shook his helm. "It was never meant to be that way. In the Ages past, there were many Primes and they were all present on the Council. They acted to check and balance one another. No one Prime was meant to have that much power without someone to balance them. Like a Lord High Protector."

His optics drifted to Megatron. "The Lord High Protector is the optics and audials of their Prime when dealing with people that are not part of their Pack. The Protector will be the one that walks freely among the people, and the one to tell all that he or she learns to their Prime so that they may come to the best decisions. Never was it meant for a Prime to just assume they knew best when they don't understand what it is they are trying to solve of those they govern over. When they sit on their self-made throne and refuse to walk amongst their people no matter what this Age would consider their 'class'" Janus sneered the word, spat it like it was a curse.

Janus bared his denta, fury glittering across his optics as he continued. "Sentinel has no Lord High Protector to do this for him, and because he thinks himself above his own people he never took the time to understand them. He took command by virtue of his name alone with no Pack to help him."

Janus tilted his helm scanning each of the bots around Optimus and himself, his optics warming even as he allowed his pride/pleasure/joy to be felt.

"You, Optimus Prime, have chosen those that would help you rule and guide your people well. Each of the bots you chose- subconsciously at that which is a mark of your character- are from all walks of life. You have a diverse Pack that will help you will any and all situations you may come across in your reign as Prime. And in a further mark of your spark, every single member of your pack will unflinchingly offer you criticisms and advice...and you are not so...entitled that you will not listen to them."

A tiny, pleased smile curved his dermas.

"Truthfully, the fact that you were able to establish yourself as a powerful Alpha while you were unaware of exactly what you were doing is remarkable. Young and inexperienced you may be, yet at your side both older and younger bots are deferring to your decisions without hesitation." Janus paused, a smirk pulling at his dermas as he continued. "Unless, of course, they are stupid-aft decisions and they've elected to ignore them."

A burst of surprised laughter from Jazz almost muffled the amused snort from Ironhide. Janus allowed his grin to grow a little at the sounds. "It is the mark of both a remarkable Prime and an excellent Alpha that their Pack feels confident enough to do so of course."

At the sudden sound of the door opening without warning, every bot, save for Janus and Jazz, startled and reached for their weapons. Megatron had pushed back his chair, surging to his pedes in readiness for if the bot on the other side of the door proved hostile.

Prowl and Barricade were already in motion, one one each side of the entrance, Barricade already positioned with a blaster and a dagger aimed at the intruder before they were identified. Before anyone could get a clear look, Janus was up and moving. In an impressive display of speed and dexterity, he leapt up from his seat and moved like lightning, leaping up over Prowl and Barricade to scoop up the frozen form of Songbird with her arms full of a sparkling's berth and energon cubes. With the little femme safely settled in the crook of his arm, he turned a terrifying glare to the Enforcers, engine revving threateningly, his sword positioned defensively in front of their frames.

Sam fought not to initiate the first move, his own memories of his brief acquaintance of the Decepticon Barricade in the forefront of his mind. Still, he was impressed with how quickly both mechs shifted from hostile positions into a defensive stances, moving away a few steps. They gave the distance that Sam needed in that instant, their weapons being sub-spaced and their servos lifting into a Cybertronian promise of no violence, crossing at the wrists and their servos flat and open.

"My most humble apologies!"

Songbird fairly shrieked the words from her position shielded by the bulk of Janus Prime, sitting awkwardly in the crook of his arm like a sparkling. Her fans kicked in, an audible noise in the stillness of the room, a sign of her rapidly rising embarrassment.

Janus relaxed his frame at the visible promise of no violence from the Enforcers, his optics darting to the others inside his claimed rooms.

"She is one of Mine," he spoke, his words were soft in the silence after Songbird's exclamation, his harmonics lending a encompassing weight to the the word 'mine', "And she was not expecting company any more than I myself was. I had told her to come back to me before you all joined me and so she had every right to enter without knocking as she was expected."

He paused, taking in Megatron's tense frame, his weapon visible in his servos and the rest of the gathered in similar states.

"I do apologize for not informing you of this when you entered," he said, slowly and delicately lowering the femme to the ground.

He understood after all that their Prime- their Alpha- was inside the room, and how an unannounced, unidentified presence would be taken as a threat. He really should have thought ahead when he invited them into his rooms. It was dangerous, lowering his guard around them. They weren't his nor was he theirs as it was back on Earth.

He gently laid a servo on the femme's shoulder plate, silently reassuring her and calming her from her fright before making introductions.

"This is Songbird. She is an Apprentice here at the temple and she has graciously offered her services to me as a guide and a helper where (one-who-is-determined-and-brave) Ironwill is concerned."

The poor femme stared in shock and awe at (moves-to-ruthlessly-search-in-stealth) Prowl, the Praxian Enforcer that she had only heard through gossip and rumors. (to-block-and defend-against-opposing-forces) Barricade was supposedly the only one who would work with him, but some were of the opinion that the Enforcer shared a brother-bond with the Praxian. They both inclined their heads, once to her and another to Janus, pressing a sense of regret and an apology to them both.

Songbird lifted her gaze to take in the sight of the other mechs gathered in the room. She glanced at Janus Prime, who had saved her life and trusted his sparkling into her care without a second thought, then at the Prime that rule her planet. By his side was was his Lord High Protector and almost all of the mechs that were in charge of leading Cybertron. Not all of the Cybertronians that he had chosen for leadership positions and those he called friends were present, but it was nonetheless an intimidating crowd. Slightly less intimidating than it would have been had she been not abruptly scooped up into her Prime's arms and Claimed, but Optimus cut an impressive sight. The Prime in question, was on his feet, half a step behind his Lord High Protector, although he did not have any weapons visible on his person, he looked no less dangerous.

While (to-fight-with-passion-and-power-for-desires) Megatron held a terrifying reputation in many circles, it was other mechs that held reputations of their own that both assured and frightened her. The silver one, she knew was designated as (one-who-lives-through-rhythm-and-sound) Jazz, the rumors all whispered that he was some kind of genius in any field he applied himself in. Songbird didn't stick around long enough to hear the dangerous things said about him. The one with the weapons, was obviously (strength-that-will-fight-to-protect-those-behind) Ironhide who did not need explaining at all.

The mech was legendary, on and off the battlefield. He had a Gift for weapons, any and all of them and the things he did with them, both modifications and applications, was unbelievable. People said that he had personally help train Optimus before the Prime was even apprenticed to Sentinel.

(flitting-freely-from-place-to-place) Bumblebee, was one she knew, actually. They had spoken a few times during her Energy Endurance Tests, but she couldn't claim friendship with him, rather a passing acquaintance. They were polite to each other, not hesitating to greet one another in passing or to comment on the weather or even how Priestess This-and-That did something that Priest So-and-So disapproved of.

She aligned herself with quiet dignity, tipping her helm in a gesture of respect and submission. Without further prompt she turned to face her Prime.

"Janus Prime, if you wish these to remain here, I can take Ironwill out to be fed. He is likely hungry."

Optimus stepped forward, flaring his energy field in a silent request for attention.

"That is unnecessary. I had not intended to remain for long. Your knowledge of forgotten history was greatly appreciated and I thank you for the information you revealed."

He motioned towards the exit, allowing the others to filter past his frame before he moved, Megatron falling into step behind him. Janus only smiled, his own emotions firmly reined in his once beloved friends left the room without a backwards glance. All save for three.

Bumblebee stopped a short distance away before he spoke hopefully.

"Would I be welcomed if I should like to hear stories of Cybertron's past?"

Sam's spark leapt in joy and quickly voiced his agreement.

"As you wish," he said, carefully projecting a lightly neutral tone, "Your company would be welcome at any time. You are a gifted Sensitive yourself, are you not?"

Bumblebee nodded in happiness and promptly vanished out the door. Optimus meet his optics firmly, a glimmer of respect and the beginnings of trust already shining in his spark, adding another apologetic look to Songbird, before he too left the room. Leaving him alone with Megatron.

Sam could not help but fear some part of Megatron. Granted, as a human he had successfully killed him and injured him and watched his downfall, there were many times that the mech had almost taken his life. The fact that he had been corrupted by the Fallen and the AllSpark remembered his screams in his dying moment in Mission City, was the only reason why Sam was able to calmly stand in front of him.

Janus was immensely skilled in many areas, with a thousand lifetimes of the histories of war, weapons and military tactics from many different Primes and great generals of the past. That wasn't even mentioning the experience his frame had in his memories. Beyond the fact that Megatron had no reason to attack him, Janus was positive that although he would take serious damage, he would be able to kill the once-warlord.

So he smiled at the strange look in the other's optics, wondering if that was reluctant admiration, grudging respect...or the beginning seeds of suspicion. It didn't matter because the emotion was quickly masked and Megatron quietly left the room with an acknowledging glance at Songbird.

Chapter Text

TIME MEASUREMENTS:

Astrosecond: .5 seconds

Nano-klik: 1 second

Klik: 1 minute

Breem: 8 minutes

Cycle: 1 hour 15minutes

Solar-Cycle: One day (20 hours)

Lunar-Cycle: One night (20 hours)

Deca-cycle: 4 weeks (one month)

Mega-cycle: 96 hours (four days)

Meta-cycle: 12 months (one year)

Stellar Cycle: 6 months

Vorn: 83 years”


 

Optimus is curious about the unknown black mech that has come to the Temple of the AllSpark. There is a difference to him, one that is an almost a physical touch against his frame. He can sense Megatron behind him already gearing up for a fight, the others mirroring his reaction. Optimus is one of the few, who despite being close to enough Bumblebee in case the mech turns malicious, that is waiting without a hostile intent. The instant the mech stops and reaches forward to place his servo on the Allspark, is one characterized by astonishment.

Optimus' optics went wide as he, along with many others, witness the following events with disbelief and confusion. The entire temple fell silent as powerful bright arches of blue light poured off the Allspark, arcing in waves to pass over the now relaxed frame of the mech bathing in the glow of the Cube. Optimus finds himself pulling in a sharp vent, as an unmeasurable presence, an energy seemed to settle comfortably across Optimus' shoulders.

And he watched with a kind of shocked awe as the mech lit up, the designs all across his frame, and even those on his weapons came alive with Allspark energy. Optimus had never seen anything like it before.

"Hello, my old friend" the mech whispered in the stunned silence, his voice sorrowful and weighty in a way Optimus had not even heard from Sentinel when he spoke of the wars and losses he had lived through. "It has been a while since then, has it not?"

The temple watched in silence as the mech spoke to the Allspark intimately and gave it a promise, his emotional-field dripping with determination, happiness, and a boundless fury tinged in thick sorrow. Optimus could feel the spikes around the temple- mostly from those who tended the temple such as the Apprentices- of horrified terror or shocked awe. Optimus felt none of this.

Instead he wondered what loss the mech had suffered that affected even the Cube, what events had prompted the promise- the Oath- and as he watched the Allspark react to it...the glow dimming in a negative response and yet glowing brighter in approval? Never before had the like happened and Optimus felt his curiosity grow.

His optics followed the mech's movements as he turned away from the Allspark, the trailing marks of his status slowly fading as he disconnected from the Allspark and instead walked towards the entryway, beckoning a young femme cradling a sparkling in her arms.

"Songbird, come. There is one who wishes to speak to you."

She moved to obey the mech, reverence and a stunned wonder in her every step. When the heavy silence was broken, Optimus was not the only one whose optics jerked around to stare as his mentor began to bellow with no regard and instantly gained the undivided attention of the unknown mech.

"I am (one-who-is-to-watch-and-lead) Sentinel Prime and I demand answers! Never in mega-vorns has any Sensitive of your power stepped forward! Not when the AllSpark was lost, not when war ravaged Cybertron, yet now?! NOW WHEN THERE IS NO NEED FOR YOU?!"

Optimus pulled back, struck speechless in disbelief at his mentor for daring to bring up such times past in the Temple of the Allspark, mere steps from the Allspark itself and in the presence of those who had dedicated themselves to serve and protect in all capacities. He began to move even as Sentinel strode forward, prepared to intervene, when he stopped short at the words that rolled across the temple, heavy like thunder and lightning, booming and yet not. There was a heady power in the air, sharp across his sensors like a polished blade and stars burning in front of his optics in all their brilliance.

It was nothing like anything he had ever felt before and then...then the mech spoke.

"You are incorrect."

Optimus could not help but stare at the mech as the designs trailing over his frame lit with a radiance from within, centered over his spark and yet freely moving across his frame with a will of its own. The mech's gaze, unyielding with the barest visible traces of an unspoken accusation, never once wavered from Sentinel who lifted his helm as if to look down on the unknown mech even as he responded to him.

"You say my words are false, yet you do not even do us the courtesy of your designation! I have spoken nothing but truth! It is you who are in suspicion!"

Optimus had no idea what possessed his teacher to act as he was, especially to the mech who, at the moment, felt more like an extension of the AllSpark itself, ancient and forever, untouched by time, than a singular individual. How Sentinel, as Prime himself, could not see this, was beyond him, but anger was stirring in his spark.

This was not right.

As his spark-brother leaned closer to his frame, radiating his disapproval of the situation in a way only Optimus would feel through their bond, Optimus couldn't help but agree with Megatron's silence support. There was no reason for the hostility that his mentor was violently projecting, no need for the theatrics and it was unnecessary for the Prime to be so set against the other mech without the slightest provocation.

Sentinel was making a mistake and regardless of if he wasn't really a Prime, he was still responsible for Cybertron, still the ruler, so he needed to intervene before this escalated further. Except he didn't have to. The mech solved the problem himself.

There was a smile on his face-plate as he answered the accusations with ease and a surprising revelation.

"(one-who-is-to-watch-and-lead) Sentinel is not your designation. Your designation is (guard-to-stand-and-keep-watch) Sentinel. Which I congratulate for doing until you screwed up in a most spectacular fashion."

And then the mech was staring at him, and Optimus had never felt power like that before this cycle. Like a black hole pulling him in, able to take, to obliterate and wipe him from existence and yet never once does Optimus feel smothered or threatened. He feels as if he could take on everything, even as his spark seizes in his chassis because something is about to change everything, he can sense it in the very air trembles in anticipation.

His spark-brother reacts to his not-quite-fear, sliding into a ready stance to shield him as he has always done since the time that Optimus swore to help him change the system that allowed the Gladiator Pits. There were many others Optimus had assisted in freeing from the Gladiator Pits, the ones who followed his spark-brother those who Megatron had claimed as his own.

He is drawn from his idle recollection, of the normality and what he knows, in this confusion and uncertainty by the words the mech drops, heavy as stones, as every last Cybertronian in the vicinity holds themselves in silent anticipation.

"(guard-to-stand-and-keep-watch) Sentinel was to stand and keep watch for you, (one-who-will-fight-to-defend-favorable-outcomes) Optimus Prime. Long has your arrival been foreseen. They have waited for you and now I stand before you."


 

There is a part of Optimus that has no idea what to do or how to react. His thoughts were frozen in shock and he cannot understand. Yet, even as he knows this, there is a place inside him that screams in wordless vindication and twists with betrayal. He knows he's not really a Prime, there is a chance he might be, but it is more likely Sentinel simply chose someone to carry on the teachings of a Prime until a true Prime takes his place. Never, in a thousand vorns did he ever... he had not...he had been called 'Prime' through many vorns by numerous bots, but he had never thought it was truth.

Megatron...Ironhide...Jazz...everyone of his friends had told him he was Prime. He just...hadn't truly believed them. Not even with Sentinel agreeing to teach him, not when so many- including himself- doubted it. How could he be a Prime when he doubted himself so often? There was no proof, just a coincidental glyph pressed into his chest plate.

And yet Janus Prime, who is undoubtedly a Prime, had spoken so assuredly, as if Optimus being a true Prime was glaringly obvious. This Prime had appeared out of nowhere, had Declared him to the City and Optimus absently wonderers if his legs are going to fold underneath him. Megatron is a steady, supportive presence at his side even as his chosen friends gather to him, every last one of them radiating a kind of smug 'I-told-you-so' that Optimus is not ready to deal with. Not even close.

Because he is a Prime.

He is not ready.

It doesn't matter what anyone says, he is not ready.

But Janus Prime had seemed so sure...Optimus needs to know more, needs to understand. It's Megatron's optics he first meets. There is instant comprehension and acceptance of his desires, an approval. So he turns to Ironhide, Jazz, Bumblebee and to Prowl and Barricade, those who had followed him since his days as Orion Pax, a mech apprenticed to Alpha Trion, with a thirst for lost knowledge.

"We need to find (beginnings-and-endings-past-and-future-of gateways) Janus Prime. I have questions for him"

Primus bless them, but his mechs don't comment on his less than firm tones and the stiff way he still holds himself. They only nod in agreement and begin mobilizing to find the mech, without asking questions or pressuring, or bursting into celebration that they were right and they follow the Prime.


 

Bumblebee is the one who knows the temple, inside and out, so they defer to his leading them down, deep into the temple where there are living quarters. There are only three rooms built for Primes and according to a passing Priest, Janus took the first one. Optimus is in his own processor, a thousands questions to ask, wondering if this Prime will even answer them, when he notices his spark-brother flex his digits.

It's only when they draw several steps closer that the rest of them even notice what unsettled the Lord High Protector, even as they come to the rooms of the one called (beginnings-and-endings-past-and-future-of gateways) Janus Prime. Megatron just stops a short distance from the door, not willing to go farther, to move closer.

There was an echoing sense of profound grief pouring from the room of the Prime. Grief and loss in such quantities, the sorts that Megatron remembered from the Pits, when femme fought against femme for the rights to their sparklings and lost, the kind he remembered from mechs and femmes suffering from severed Bonds. A spark-deep ache, all-encompassing and staggering in its weight and mass. Even with parallels to draw upon, to compare and pinpoint the line of thought that causes such aching sorrow, Megatron had never felt such overwhelming emotion to this extent.

He had no need to glance behind him, the others had blanched and were reluctant to take those last few steps to knock on the door. Optimus looked to be the most affected, his servo pressed tightly against his spark, his helm bowed and his optics shut. Megatron knew, for a moment his Prime was going to turn around and leave, without his answers, to get away from the emotion field Janus Prime was projecting.

Mere nano-kliks before his spark-brother could follow through, Bumblebee broke out of the stillness, ignoring the hesitation invoked by the intensity of the Prime's radiating feelings. The youngest of them, and a Sensitive to boot, Bumblebee had always wanted to help others. The yellow bot had moved before his companions could intervene, reaching out and pulling the door to the Prime's room open, as quickly and quietly as he was able.

Megatron was throwing himself forward even as the door opened, instinct and Gladiator enhanced reflexes carrying him across the gap between him and Bumblebee swiftly towards the door. It was a single astro-second before that spark-deep grief shifted to rage-anger-threat-defensive-attack at the soft noise the door caused as it slid open..

And yet, even as Megatron moved, it seemed the Prime realized who stood in his door as he wrenched his sword back and to the side, the blade flying from his servos and imbedding itself into the walls even as he staggered back two steps. That didn't stop Megatron from inserting himself between the unknown Prime and the youngest of those that he and Optimus called their own.

The Prime's emotional-field was strong and open as he suddenly switched from the rush of combat and battle-readiness, to a stabbing aching pain and sorrow, before the emotions were rapidly pulled back. Megatron could see the visible actions of the mech balling up those feelings, reeling them away, and throwing up his shields just as quickly only allowing a simple regret-apology to brush against them as he spoke.

"Excuse my actions," the mech said, easing his posture and showing the sparkling he cradled protectively in his arm, "I was not expecting visitors."

Megatron relaxed a bit at the sight of the little one. He understood perfectly the drive to protect sparklings when there was a perceived threat. He had done it often enough on behalf of the young ones in the Pits, and he knew how instantly the Protection Protocols could come online when subroutines were triggered. He still found himself impressed with the old bot's speed as he stepped aside from Bumblebee, re-sheathing his sword, keeping his focus on Janus.

A klik passed before Megatron broke the silence, nodding in respect to a fellow warrior of incredible skill, while briefly resting his gaze on the little one, before returning it to the brightly glowing optics of the old Prime. For an instant, there was a sea of unspoken words and emotions that he couldn't identified, for an instant, Megatron felt very small. He did not show his discomfort, rather set to ease the sharp edge of something that barely registered on his sensors.

"Our apologies. It was not our intention to alarm you."


 

A little over a cycle passes in the Prime's rooms as Megatron's knowledge of what 'is-and-always-has-been' is shattered and reforged. The battles he had fought so hard against, all the disgust on the Elites, on the Alphas' and Beta's faces, all their disdain over his lower class...originated from nothing more than a labeling system. A way to make organization more efficient.

Megatron can't quite remember the last time he had been that infuriated. All of the hatred, the deaths, discrimination, all of it, could have been prevented if someone has just remembered Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta was not a Class-System, but in what order Cybertronians first came into the Cities. Now, there was no excuse for those proud, arrogant glitches to look down on him, to look at his Prime as if he was something beneath them.

As Janus Prime began to explain long forgotten and thought forever lost histories of the beginning over everything, Megatron could not help but think that perhaps they were wrong.

There was more to being Prime then anyone remembered.

So much lost history and it is all reflected in that old Prime's optics. Traditions and celebrations, Gatherings and everyone's Gifts and talents encouraged and explored to their potential. There was the ever-present grief as well. So much loss...and yet still the Prime soldiers on.

Megatron finds himself respecting the mech, sensing an understanding and a kinship despite the brief times he has spent in his company. Any mech that could face the staggering amount of absence and spark-ache Janus Prime had projected, that had as much experience and knowledge as the Prime did, who had looked at his spark-brother, his Prime, and seen someone worthy of being a leader, and in the same vent had handed that power over to another was deserving of that much at least.

He projected this feeling of respect and understanding to Optimus through their Bond, knowing his brother would understand his thoughts without words.

Ironhide isn't sure what to make of the self-proclaimed Prime.

Oh, he knows there isn't any way a mech could do the things that one did without being a Prime, but Optimus had struggled since he became Prime, doubting himself to such a degree that he convinced himself that he wasn't a Prime. Regardless of his gratitude of the fact that the Prime had Declared his Prime, that he had shared the past of their people, one without any prompting and one with very little, things didn't quite add up in his processors. He is aware that the emotions that slipped from Janus Prime's control were too deep, too painful to be faked...and yet…

Ironhide is wary. He is suspicious. He is not sure how to label this mech, not sure what to say for sure he knows about him, how he works. There's something about him, something unsettling and dangerous. He gave no explanation, no reason for his actions, no gain for himself, just did.

Ironhide's main concerns regarding the mech are the endless questions his every action generates. What does he want? What are his plans? Why did he Declare Optimus before the people, for what purpose? Where had he been? Was he hiding, waiting, what?

Why had the mech come from wherever he had been only now?

Ironhide may have been frequently labeled a paranoid, trigger-happy, old warrior, but he had not gotten where he was now, he had not survived by ignoring his instincts. Right now, his instincts were insisting on caution and were all but screaming that there was more to this than met the optic.

However, he firmly avoided that bit of himself that whispered deep in his processor that 'maybe whatever it was that haunted Janus Prime was something he should stay far away from…'

Barricade waited patiently until their group reached the ascending stairs before pinging Prowl with a com-request. It was accepted soon enough and he quickly unloaded his thoughts.

Did you see how fast he moved?! Holy Primus, I could barely see anything it was just a blur of motion and black and he had that sword to Bumblebee's throat! Optimus couldn't even match that speed!

Irritation and grudging agreement slid down their Bond, even as they both showed no visible reactions to one another.

Yes, indeed I did. Logically, that is another indicator of the advanced age and experience Janus Prime has in combat.

Barricade let a sliver of caution and suspicion crawl between them.

If he is who he says he is...which Cybertronian is he going to violate and destroy in the most painful of ways we know?

Prowl sent a brief reprimand, before they both paused for a klik to scout the way beyond the entry to the first level of the temple. There were many Priest and Priestess milling about, some studying the AllSpark, although four were attempting to find out which one of them recommended Apprentice Songbird to the temple. Both Enforcers tuned into that conversation. None of the four said much, simply making plans to look up the young femme's immediate superior in order to transfer Guardianship to Janus Prime, at her request.

The brother exchanged a look, mentally taking a note to bring this up with Optimus at the first opportunity, noting that there were no immediate threats. Prowl watched as Megatron leaned closer to their Prime, barely making out the troubled expression on both their faces. The information of the beginning of how Alphas', Betas', Gammas', Deltas', came about, was disturbing news to them.

Prowl and Barricade shared a similar thought, that Optimus might have gone to Janus Prime for answers, but he found out things that simply brought up more questions.

It is not 'which Cybertronian' we need to think about, rather who would commit such acts that would enrage a Prime to the point where such an Oath, to the AllSpark, was both necessary and approved.

There are very few crimes that would invoke that kind of response…

Barricade's voice trailed off, exchanging a meaningful look with his brother as be continued in a quieter tone.

Such as genocide, mass-murder of sparklings, the highest level of betrayal...these are what crimes at the minimum that would require that would justify that kind of punishment.

Prowl couldn't help the surge of utter disgust and revulsion that Barricade agreed with, judging by the mutual feelings.

We would have heard of such things, perhaps is it not a Cybertronian?

No, Barricade instantly denied, the Prime is old. Ancient. He probably crawled in a hole somewhere to mourn and deal with his loss until he could function again. Either that or he tried to offline himself but failed?

A moment passed in silence at that thought. That a being, a Prime, would suffer such loss that he would give up living, was not something they wanted to dwell on.

Regardless, Prowl began, He has shown no hostile intentions towards our Prime. Besides the fact that he Declared him, he was willing to speak of ages long past with very little prompting even though those memories were cherished and it pained him to do so. Optimus seemed to trust him to some degree.

Megatron's reaction was different, Barricade pointed out, like he was greeting someone he knew long ago, not well enough to call friend, not as an enemy either...someone he recognized, but couldn't place a face or a designation.

Perhaps it is because he knows the grief the Prime carries?

In the same way which I can point out bots who've fought in the Pits before?

Prowl flinched, barely imperceptibly, but his brother caught it and instantly sent reassurance down their bond.

You did the best you could, looking for me Prowl, Barricade impressed that thought firmly to his brother, There was nothing you could have done that you didn't already try. So don't blame yourself. Megatron looked after me, just as Optimus looked after you.

There was nothing one could learn from looking at Prowl's face-plate in the moment. No visible expression, emotion nor any hints of his inner turmoil. Yet Jazz sudden appeared beside him, letting the Enforcer see him and brush over his senses before vanishing once more from view. Prowl was still able to sense him, one of Jazz's talents he liked to use to assure him that he was still there even though he couldn't sense him.

Hey, it wasn't your fault and if you think for a moment it was, I'll kick your aft.

He straightened minutely, as a visual image of his brother doing just that, drifted into his processors.

It would be impossible for you to do so.

Oh yeah?

Optimus can beat Megatron.

You little piece of scrap!

You are younger than I, Barricade.

There was a burst of static over their com-link before Jazz's amused voice cut in through their conversation. Ad he spoke it became obvious that he had invited everyone into the conversation, dragging everyone back on track as he spoke.

"As amusin' as this all is," the mech began "It seems ta meh, tha' Sentinel is takin' his sudden frustrations and losses out on th' masses." there was a pause before Jazz continued, providing the information he had managed to gather. "From wha' Ah managed ta put together, Janus Prime came ta the City after wipin' the floor with some lowlife scum tha' were trying ta mess wit' his femme. She took him straight here- at his request- and we saw wha' happened here."

Jazz paused another nano-klik, flicking into view of his Prime so Optimus could see his visor- meet his optics as it were- before he continued. "The Prime isn't happy wit' Janus right now. He geared himself up ta a right rage while we were downstairs bein' educated. But th' people, the Priests and Priestesses aren't ta happy with 'im righ' now. They started yellin' back at him. Callin' his choices inta question, askin' why he never Declared Optimus...Sentinel ain't ta happy wit' tha'...and he's makin' sure everyone knows it."

The area was silent, no one making a sound as they processed what Jazz had just told them. Not one of the bots doubted the mech, having known him too long, and trusting him, having watched situations play out enough to know better.

The moment of contemplation was broken as both the Sensitives in the group stilled, their helms snapping around to face the stairs they had just climbed up even as their battle-masks slid into place without thought. They were quick to dart away from the the immediate line of the stairs, pressing themselves to the walk beside it.

It wasn't even a thought as the rest of the group mimicked their actions, immediately moving to follow after Jazz and Bumblebee, readying themselves for battle, and falling into place to better defend each other without thought.

Optimus found himself moving in front of his people without thought, Megatron moving in synch with him as he always had, until the two bots- Prime and Lord High Protector- stood in front of those they called their own.

Neither bot expected the events that followed.

Before anyone even came into view, they could sense a spike of powerful rage-anger-disbelief. And then Sentinel Prime- Sentinel Prime- came flying up the narrow hall of stairs that led to the rooms beneath the temple at great speeds, flying past the place Optimus and his group had been standing an astro-second before, and slamming hard into the temple wall.

Optimus felt his spark squeeze for a nano-klik, his optics snapping back to the stairs as the sounds of steady, intent pedes falling against the stairs seemed to echo up to temple room.

Janus Prime stepped into sight, his frame tense and enraged, optics gleaming almost white with his anger. He looked to be a being of myth, an avenging deity, righteous in his fury, as the AllSpark pulsed in time to his rage.

"You dare?"

The Prime's voice boomed across the temple and there was utter silence in its wake, the sounds of the temple falling into a terrified quiet. It was as if a black hole had opened in the temple room, pulling all attention straight to Janus and yet Optimus could feel the weight of the Prime's anger pressing down on him, threatening to crush all who were sucked into the black hole's pull.

"You who have no rights, would dare to take that which is mine from me?!"

Opimus had no idea what Sentinel had done, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know what had pulled this rage from the Prime who has sat so calmly and spoken of history long past with him and his people in a way that brought Alpha Triton to Optimus' processor.


 

Janus was startled by the door opening once again.

He had been sitting quietly at the conference table, wondering over the brief touch of frustration he had read in Optimus's posture before his departure. He understood that the almost-brother he had once known, was not this familiar mech he met only recently. He knew, and understood, yet a part of him could not help but partially forget that this wasn't his Optimus, tested and tried through battle and experience, both hardened and tempered through war, loss and suffering.

This one carried himself tall, confidently, with the same edge of charisma and power that hung like a mantle around his shoulder plates... and yet, there was an edge of youth, of innocence and hesitation that Sam had never seen in Optimus before.

Janus was absorbed in his thoughts and thus taken aback when Sentinel stormed into the room, without as much as a by-your-leave. He reached for his sword, grasping the hilt and shifting to block the little Apprentice behind him.

Songbird was in the background, barely finished with feeding Ironwill. She was young, but she trusted her Prime and she had never liked Sentinel. So when the older Prime invaded their rooms, she was concerned. When he actually snarled at Janus Prime, Songbird felt the beginnings of fear slide down her back strut.

"Your offences towards me will be righted," the Prime boomed, marching forward, regardless of the blade held up in Janus's servos.

There was a moment when Songbird was confused. And then Sentinel Prime's optics zeroed in on the sparkling, peering around in curiosity, cradled protectively in her arms. There was an instant of stillness as Sentinel took one more step, his arm rising, his servos opening and his fingers brushed barely past Janus's shoulder plates, right before her Prime reacted.

Later, when Jazz would ask her what had happened, Songbird would only be able to repeat one thing.

"He was there one moment and gone the next."

Sam was seriously pissed. As in he was finding that murder was an acceptable solution. Granted, he had killed Megatron, but he had been revived and that was a bit difference. Also granted, that he planned to kill the Fallen in an extremely brutal and painful manner, in the name of all those who had suffered, but this?

This was going to be personal.

He reached out with his blade, using the flat-side and swinging it across to bash Sentinel over the helm at the exact same moment he lashed out with a pede and delivered a punishing kick to his chassis, aiming for where he knew the spark casing would be below the armor. He didn't even think about the action, following the knowledge in his processor that said it was the equivalent of punching a human in the solar plexus.

As Sentinel went flying, Janus darted after him, not allowing him a moment to recover, using an uppercut to give the bot a lift so he could punt him out the door. The old Prime landed heavily on his aft and Janus took a moment to glance back, checking on Songbird and his sparkling to make sure of their well being.

Ironwill was afraid. Trembling and making soft little whimpers, whirling and clicking as he huddled down in Songbird's arms, while the femme herself was pressed into the wall, using a corner to hide most of her frame while keeping it curled around the sparkling.

There were memories, from the AllSpark, trying to creep into his vision. Memories of the dead and dying, the screams and cries of all the defenceless children that had been murdered and Sam…

Sam let go.

And Janus straightened and calmed and rationally decided that even though he was not guilty of the act in this timeline, Sentinel was still the one to apathetically shoot Ironhide in the spark.

Twice.

He hadn't changed since Sam had last seen him, so he was pretty sure, given the chance, Sentinel would make the same choices, speak the same words and kill the same bots. Therefore, according to the law, murder was illegal, but Janus was a Prime and a Prime held a duty to the people. It was common sense to make sure betrayers would not betray again, that murderers could not kill another victim.

It was common sense, obvious, that Janus would not, that he could not give Sentinel that chance. Especially when the mech had his optics on his sparkling. Janus tried not to think about the likelihood that Sentinel had done the same as he was trying to do now to other sparklings. He tried not to think about how the Prime could- maybe had- taken sparklings from their Creators for any reason he wished, and no one would be able to stop him because he was Prime..

Janus failed. So if he slammed another pede into Sentinel's faceplates just because he could, well that was his business. It wouldn't matter in a few kliks anyway, he reasoned as he followed the mech's path up the stairs and towards the Temple Room.

Sentinel was not prepared for the assault Janus dished out, the black mech remembering clearly every single fight he had ever witnessed. From Megatron to Optimus, Ironhide to Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, Sam had watched them all and now he had a chance to apply his knowledge to his actions, aided by the experience of his frame and the AllSpark buzzing in his processor.

Down the hall Sentinel was pressed, by kicks and punches, palm strikes and the hilt and blunt side of his blade. Janus wasn't intending to kill Sentinel right then and there especially when he was an unknown to everyone which would leave him at a disadvantage should they take offence to his offlining.

So if, instead, when coming up to the stairs where the old Prime blearily staggered to his feet in an effort to counter-attack, Janus decided to make a spectacle of him?

Well, punishment was due and what better way to punish a politician than to make a mockery of him?

With an ease that almost surprised him, Janus took firm hold of Sentinel's back-plates and reared back, gathering every single last bit of strength, even as his details glowed with power…

...and threw Sentinel Prime as far as he could.

To Sam's delight, the action in no way diminished his fury, nor his desire to beat a little bit more on the fragger that dared to think he could take his sparkling.

Of course, it was simply a bonus when he climbed to the top of the stairs, just in time to see the looks on everyone's face plates.

Bonus or not, Janus had a mech to demolish.

Politically of course. For now.

"You dare?" he growled the words, allowing his rage-fury-protectiveness to bleed into his words, to bleed into his emotional-field. Let this old bot know how enraged Janus was. Let the temple know. Because this- what he did here and now- would act as a warning. A promise to his reaction if any other bot dared to touch what was his.

After all- if Janus would beat down a Prime, no one would get away with it would they?

"You who have no rights, would dare to take that which is mine from me?!"

Janus strode forward, optics and designs gleaming with his fury, as he stared at the place in the temple wall that Sentinel had come to rest. A part of him took a moment to appreciate the distance Sentinel had flown, and the way Sentinel was hanging in the wall thanks to the damage his frame had done on impact.

"You would dare to touch my sparkling? My Apprentice? Dare to try and take them from their place beside me?"

Janus allowed his engine to snarl and rev loudly in the silence, the weight behind his rage growing heavier for an instant, moving towards painful to others around him, before he pulled it back to simply 'crushing'. He had no desire to harm the young ones in this Temple after all- Sentinel was the focus of his rage.

Janus continued his path towards the old Prime, reaching forward and pulling the bot from the wall, his servo gripping hard to the armor on Sentinel's front, optics narrowed and bright, the steady pulse of rage-fury-protectiveness pouring off of his frame in time with the pulse of his spark, the light of his designs, and the pulse of the Allspark behind him.

Undeterred, Sentinel gained his bearings and leapt up, gathering his pedes underneath him in a smooth movement. Energon leaked down from his intake and there was several noticeable dents in his chest plate and helm. He reached and pulled out a blaster, one Janus instantly recognized as the Cosmic Rust weapon that had once killed Ironhide.

His rage jacked up a notch or two, before he quickly controlled it. He spun around, ducking the first shot and stretched out a leg to hook around the Prime's ankles, but Sentinel was prepared this time, and he jumped high and rolled behind Janus, firing off several more shots. Janus quickly made it priority number one to take out the blaster, running through all available maneuvers in his memory banks even as he angled himself so that the wild shots Sentinel was taking at him were less likely to hit any bystanders. The fact he had to so at all was enraging on its own. Janus would not see another bot (another Ironhide, Sam whispered in his processors) fall apart around their spark as the rust spread and consumed.

He distinctly recalled this one move that the Twins had used in the beginning of inventing their Jet-Judo...He carefully calculated points of contact, his position and his opponent's…

Doable.

A nano-klik later, Janus burst into a series of movements, aiming perfectly timed strikes and flips off his surroundings and to the mech's wrists and servos to wrench the blasters from Sentinel's grasp, tucking them neatly away into his subspace. His engine revved with his anger over Sentinel's careless shooting in a temple full of bots with no regard to their safety.

As soon as the blasters were in his subspace, Janus reached for his sword, pulling it free and lifting the point so that it was even with Sentinel's throat, his engine rumbling a low threatening note even as his armor bristled.

Sam had had no idea that Cybertronian armor could act like a rattlesnake's tail, or the ruff on a wolf, rattling and bristling a non-verbal warning. The equivalent to a human screaming "Don't mess with me or mine or I will mess you up".

As Janus' armor rose and rattled-for some reason Sam kept thinking of death knells- he watched Sentinel tense, his own armor beginning to flare in response as he pulled his own sword free.

Janus kept his optics on Sentinel as the bot advanced towards him. The first strike was fast and brutal. Janus had no doubt that Sentinel was not happy Janus had his prized blasters- which he would not be giving back- nor that Janus had very publically challenged his authority and it showed in the strength and intensity behind each slash and the angle of his strikes. He was very clearly aiming for vital areas. Spark chamber, knee joints, fuel lines, neck cables...things that would end with Janus offline.

In response, Janus blocked every movement, his frame strangely relaxed for how confrontational he had been kliks earlier.


 

Optimus was frozen, his optics wide as he watched the events playing out in front of him. He had never seen Sentinel act in this manner, nor had he seen his mentor so determined to see a bot offline that had not attacked him first.

Jazz was the one to voice the realization that both he and Megatron had come to.

"Th' mech is playin' wit' 'im."

His voice was whisper soft, meant for only two audio receptors, the first sound not made by Janus or Sentinel to break the silence.

"What?"

Optimus pulled his optics from the fight to glance at the silver mech beside him, but it was Megatron who spoke in response to his question.

"Janus is playing with Sentinel. Look at him. Every strike that connects with Sentinel is nonlethal- made with the flat or dull side of his blade- and in some way is correcting the mech."

Megatron glanced at Optimus and his spark-brother was one of the few who would be able to see the respect, satisfaction and amusement in his optics.

"Do you not remember how you were taught to handle the blade Optimus?"

He inclined his helm towards the two bots, his attention never straying.

"Look again."

Optimus obeyed, completely silent as he realized Jazz and Megatron were right.

Sentinel was trying to murder the bot, and Janus was reacting as a Master might to a foolish challenger completely out of their league, knocking his strikes away with ease, one servo holding the hilt of his sword and the slightest of movements deflecting every attempt Sentinel made to break into the Prime's guard.

Janus was gliding around Sentinel's form, a darkness in his optics even as he herded Sentinel across the temple and back to where they started. Eventually, Sentinel venting hard and utterly furious-humiliated-bewildered, was forced to stop when Janus lashed out, quick and intent.

The strike brings Sentinel to his knees, dazed and confused. The next strike is harsh and knocks the sword from Sentinel's servos, where Janus was quick to pick it up and subspace it.

"You are a fool," Janus' voice is soft but lined in steel as he speaks, "you think you are above everyone due to your title, but a Prime is nothing without their people. You have rejected those you consider to be 'less' than others and in doing so you have rejected part of what makes a Prime a Prime. We are meant to lead everyone, not those that we choose. That is not the right of a Prime."

Janus shook his helm, his optics darting to Optimus and his pack,

"No, it is a Prime who is chosen, " he stresses, his optics clouding in memory as Janus continued "Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing Sentinel Prime. Primes are chosen in the very beginning. Chosen by Primus, by the Allspark, and when they come into being, come into themselves, they are chosen by those who would follow them."

He made a sharp gesture towards Optimus and those he had claimed- who had freely claimed him-

"and they are loyal. You have chosen to reject this, chosen to attack those who should be your brothers, you have chose instead of waiting to be chosen and you do not understand why this is wrong. You chose to come to my rooms, chose to attempt to take my sparkling, and chose to put yourself above all those around you."

Janus paused, allowing the weight of his presence to come to the forefront as he spoke his next words,

"And so I now choose to give you a warning. Do not attempt to take what is not yours. Do not attempt to take those who have chosen others over yourself...or I will chose your fate for you."

His servo tightens on the hilt of his blade, his optics dark and intent, and his frame still in the way all predators are when stalking prey.

Prowl is the one to step forward, his voice steady and strong as he pulls the attention of Janus Prime to his person.

"Janus Prime."

At the sound of his name, Janus shifts the slightest bit, his sword remaining steady despite that, and Prowl knows the Prime is listening to him. He continues with his speech.

"I am (moves-to-ruthlessly-search-in-stealth) Prowl, and this is my brother (to-block- and defend-against-opposing-forces ) Barricade. We are Enforcers of Cybertron, and we will bring Sentinel Prime in for his attempt to unlawfully acquire your sparkling, however, if you were to give into your desire to bury your blade in his spark, we would be required to do the same to you."

Janus stilled, his servo tightening on his blade again, before it loosened. He stepped back from the downed form of Sentinel Prime, dipping his helm in acknowledgement even as he spoke,

"I will leave him in your servos then, (moves-to-ruthlessly-search-in-stealth) Prowl; (to-block- and defend-against-opposing-forces ) Barricade, but know that I will defend myself and those that look to me for protection."

Janus kept his sword free of his subspace, but he lowered the point down and away from its place over Sentinel's spark as Barricade and Prowl both moved forward to restrain the disgraced Prime.

"You," Sentinel snarled, his optics narrowing to focus solely on his defeater, "You spawn of Unicron above! Filthy glitched fragger! You don't deserve the name of Prime, you bring shame to its very ideal! Elite? Alpha? I label you Omega! Below my pedes is your rightful place in this world!"

Prowl's voice was sharp and commanding as he spoke "That is not your place or decision. Be silent."

Sentinel barely glanced at the mech, his attention focused on a bit of metal clutched between his digits, only speaking a single line. It proved to be a costly mistake, as Janus' reaction was instant and powerful. Where he had remained stoic and silent in the face of the spew of insults to his person, this sentence caused an immediate and violent response.

"I hear by discharge you from duty, Enfo-" Sentinel rose up in a smooth quick movement, the little bit of metal in his servos lifting with a deadly intent.

Sentinel's words and actions were cut off when Janus shot back around, swinging his fist in a merciless punch, sending the mech skidding across the floor, tumbling aft over helm until he landed prostrate in at the base of the AllSpark. He scarcely had time to lift his optics before Janus spoke again, his voice hard as diamonds and cold as the blackness of space.

"Old friend, he was once yours. You know his actions and his ways. Do as you please."

Those inside the temple watched in shocked silence as the Allspark responded to the Prime's words, the Sensitives in the temple flinching back from the Song that rose from the Allspark. A Song that spoke of anger, of sadness, of loss and an intented will to see through to the end.

The Allspark lit from within, sparking and crackling with power, its sheer presence acting to keep Sentinel pinned in place at its base. It pulsed once, twice...erupting into an blazing bolt of power that slammed into Sentinel and the mech arched off the floor, his vocalizer reacting to the agony with sharp stutters as words and noises failed him.

When Sentinel fell silent and still, whispers from the Apprentices, those that had witnessed this moment broke the heavily charged moment. Janus made no noise or movement, distant from the events even as he bore witness to what the Allspark had chosen for its punishment of Sentinel.

The noise suddenly cut off, quiet once more falling as glyphs were made visible in the faintly smoking ridges now carved into Sentinel's frame. The AllSpark pressed the information into his processors and Janus faithfully repeated it out loud.

"For a selfish love, did this one betray his spark."

Janus stared at the smoking frame of the once great Prime and closed his optics, his shoulder-plates dipping suddenly as if a heavy weight had been placed upon them, his very frame radiating the feelings of weary-exhausted-mournful he vented sharply his soft words carrying across the Temple despite being barely audible

"Choices define who we are. It is our actions that affect those around us, and our actions that lead us along our paths. You were once a mech of dignity and pride Sentinel...but it is your choices, your actions, that have brought about this end for you."

He straightened determinedly, lifting his shoulder-plates and firmly turning his back on Sentinel, allowing the two Enforcers to sweep past.

Chapter Text

TIME MEASUREMENTS:

Astrosecond: .5 seconds

Nano-klik: 1 second

Klik: 1 minute

Breem: 8 minutes

Cycle: 1 hour 15minutes

Solar-Cycle: One day (20 hours)

Lunar-Cycle: One night (20 hours)

Deca-cycle: 4 weeks (one month)

Mega-cycle: 96 hours (four days)

Meta-cycle: 12 months (one year)

Stellar Cycle: 6 months

Vorn: 83 years

Mega-vorn: 83,000 years (1000 vorns)

60 mega-vorns: 4,980,000 years


 

Janus is still for a klik as he scans the faces of those around him. The future is most certainly changed. This is the start of a new beginning. He has done his part in this. Now...he turned to Optimus dipping his helm so that he did not have to look upon his face as he spoke,

 

(disgraced-nameless-betrayer) Nameless has been Judged, and while I am sorry you had to see your mentor this way, you are the Ruler of Cybertron. You must sentence him, Optimus Prime.”

 

And Sam was sorry about this. He knew- remembered- how important Sentinel was- had been- to his Optimus. He remembered how happy Optimus had been, on that day when he discovered that Sentinel could be revived. That he would no longer be the last Prime, even if Sentinel decided that he would retake leadership. The sheer heartbreak and disbelief that Sam had witnessed in Ironhide as Sentinel dismissed him from service? What that had done to Optimus, Sam was almost grateful he was not there to see or hear it.

 

To an Optimus that had undeniable proof that Sentinel would murder anyone who stood in his way, to reach his own ends, justice was a burden he bore and did not hesitate in delivering. Not matter how his Spark must have hurt. To this Optimus, who held Sentinel in high esteem, the mech who guided him into adulthood, taught him valuable lessons and would have been a father-figure a step down from his mentor Alpha Trion in the days of Orion Pax...

 

It would be agony.

 

Yet, no matter the time, Optimus was still the same, wearing his determination and dignity about his frame. With Megatron a steady presence by his side, Janus watched with pride and sadness as the Prime stood over the prone frame of his once teacher.

 

“( disgraced-nameless-betrayer ) Nameless, once Sentinel Prime, by the laws of our Society, you have been found guilty of seeking to seize the sparkling, designated ( one-who-is-determined-and-brave ) Ironwill, the ward of ( beginnings-and-endings-past-and-future-of-gateways) Janus Prime. Additional charges include but are not limited to: attempted murder of your fellow Cybertronian for their decision to follow protocol and uphold our Laws, abuse of your power and authority and failing to Declare ( one-who-will-fight-to-defend-favorable-outcomes ) Optimus as an acknowledged Prime as your duty demanded.”

 

Optimus paused, steeling himself before he carried out his verdict, thankful for his spark-brother silently offering his own support, for the silent support of all those he called his own around him.

 

“I carry out your sentencing. Due your your previous rank, you will not be allowed a chance of exile. The judgement of the AllSpark has left you branded for the rest of your life, thus there is only one option.”

 

There was a muffled sound as Nameless attempted to move, but his frame only twitched once, before falling still.

 

“Imprisonment.” Optimus spoke, the word heavy and final, tineged with an edge of disappointment and sorrow.

 

He motioned for his Enforcers and they came without pause, reaching down to grip the mech by his arms and haul him to an upstanding position. They quickly dragged him away, the gathered mechs and femmes clearing a path for the disgraced bot to be moved through.

 

Optimus watched them leave with a heavy spark. His stood tall, yet stooped and burdened down with emotion. Megatron was at his back plates, silently offering comfort even as satisfaction shone in his optics as he stared briefly at the once-Prime as he was dragged away.

 

In the silence, Janus’ soft voice was welcome distraction, echoing loudly in the silence as he called for his Apprentice.

 

“Songbird. Come. There is one who still wishes to speak with you.”

 

Songbird froze, her optics wide in disbelief as all attention turned her way. She had come up the stairs and was cradling Ironwill in her arms after she had sensed her Prime’s protective-rage-defensive calm and settle to satisfied-sadness-settled . She had thought her entrance had gone unnoticed, but it seemed that her Prime had sensed her arrival.

 

She remained still and staring for an instant as the crowd inside the Temple parted before her, leaving a clear walkway leading to her Prime who stood at the base of the steps leading up to the Allspark. Sh was used to attention in the general sense, she was an Apprentice, but at the moment she was the center of everyone’s focus.

 

She dipped her helm to him, striding forward and trying not to project how nervous she was to be the center of everyone’s attentions as well as whatever her Prime was planning. She trusted him of course, knew he would not harm her, but she was nervous all the same.

 

As she approached her Prime, Janus watching her with warm optics, he reached out to her, his attention shifting to his sparkling. She handed Ironwill over to him without pause, even as he projected trust-safety-pride through a brief encouraging touch on her shoulder plates in support. He angled his frame to shield her from the weight of the stares aimed her way and walked beside her, escorting her up the stairs to stop in front of the Allspark. She realized an astro-second later as he arranged and gentle cradled Ironwill in his arms, before he brushed a servo over her shoulders and scanned over her form that he was checking them both over even as he escorted her up the stairs.

 

It left her feeling touched that her Prime tended to them both- Ironwill and herself- even as the Allspark asked to see her. That he made sure they were both alright, ignoring the audience they had when most bots expected Primes to project a sense of distant calm, unchallenged authority and power radiating from their frame.

 

Granted, Janus had this and he wore the mantle of Prime comfortably and seemingly with ease, but he was unlike an Prime Songbird had never heard of. Optimus came close, but due to the fact that no one really knew if he was a true Prime or not, his oddities were ignored or written off. That this mech was without question a Prime, a powerful and ancient one, who could not even be compared to the acknowledged behaviors of Primes. Janus did as he pleased when his feelings moved him. He was guided by this force that she could barely comprehend.

 

Perhaps it was the AllSpark, maybe Primus himself, Songbird did not know and wasn’t concerned with the details. Janus Prime was in a league all his own and he had accepted her, chosen her. Just as she had chosen him. So despite her uncertainty and the panic that she was doing her best to suppress, she projected reassurance-confidence-trust his way even as they climbed the stairs towards the Allspark.

 

Songbird trembled just slightly as they came to a stop in servo-reach of the artifact. She’d never communicated with the the Allspark directly before. Where she was the focus of the ancient artifact, and where she was focused entirely on the Allspark in turn. Communication like this was usually done by Primes or multiple Apprentices at the same time usually with a High Priestess or two leading the effort.

 

Janus remained still and silent beside her, allowing her the time she needed as she stared and the pulsing Allspark in front her. She vented deeply, straightening sharply, and unflinchingly reached a servo forward. She was ( echoes-of-song-and-soaring-in-freedom-air ) Songbird, she had found her Prime, and he trusted that she was ready for this...she would not waver nor would she falter.

 

Her servo lifted, a smooth movement despite the near invisible tremor in her digits, as she reached forward and placed it confidently against the Allspark. For barely an astrosecond, there was only the sound of silence and several flares of intense displeasure that a lowly Apprentice as her would dare to lay unworthy digits on their most precious and priceless treasure.

 

There was barely any time left to do anything in that astrosecond of time before her attenion was rather forcefully drawn away and her intake went slack and her optics wide as she stared at the AllSpark.

 

For an instant, an eternity came and went as she burned , every part of her was consumed with fire and she could not move. There was so much and it was pressing into her processor and it was overwhelming-going to crush her under the weight-burning her inside --

 

The sudden absence of those feelings almost sent her reeling as the ice chased away the heat and curled around her servos. She felt as if her optics had been shut her entire life, and now, right this moment, she opened them for the first time, to see what she had been missing for her entire life.

 

And there was only blue .

 

For a single instant in time, Songbird could comprehend the turns of the universe, time stretching on and on for innumerable vorns, she could feel every precious and unique life ever gifted from the thumming Cube beneath her digits.

 

For an instant, she was everywhere . And then it settled in her processor. It took Songbird several nano-kliks to recognise that there was in fact a... presence ...an entity, in her helm. An Ancient-and-Forever presence that was watching her and felt welcoming-encompassing-amused.

 

The Allspark .

 

She thought for an klik she might actually glitch.

 

“You-who-are- ( echoes-of-song-and-soaring-in-freedom-air ). Welcome.”

 

She was totally going to glitch.

The Allspark was talking to her . It had said her name. She had always loved her name, but coming from the Allspark itself, it seemed to carry a weight she had never heard before. As if there was another meaning that she couldn’t quite grasp, but it was there . And she had never heard her name spoken like that before.

 

“( echoes-of-song-and-soaring-in-freedom-air )-you-who-follow- he-who-is-( beginnings-and-endings-past-and-future-of-gateways) -he-who-is-Ours.”

 

Songbird could hear a background Song as she listened to the Allspark speak, a Song of freedom-flying-happiness-laughter-on-wind and it took her a good klik to realize she was hearing the Allspark say her name . It was Singing of her. Of who she was, who she had been...who she could be as it focused its attentions directly and overwhelmingly on her and her alone. There were no words, no pictures of images or even sounds, just feelings . Like wind and light and indescribable emotions that she could barely grasp.

 

And she was ventless.

 

“We-have-watched-( beginnings-and-endings-past-and-future-of-gateways) -since-his-beginnings-and you-who-are- ( echoes-of-song-and-soaring-in-freedom-air )-will-watch-him-for-Us-now.”

 

Songbird felt her spark stutter. The Allspark...wanted her to watch her Prime?

 

For what ?

 

Why her ?

 

You-are-trusted-tried-and-proved. Your-desire-to-help-is-not-shadowed-by-hidden-motives.”

 

Songbird felt as if she had abruptly been entrusted with a task of great importance. A responsibility the likes of which she had never been given, nor even dreamed of. She was a simply Apprentice, only chosen for the Temple because of the potential she might one day have. A Prime, of extraordinary strength and knowledge, unbearably sad and kind in equal measures, and she was given the duty- from the AllSpark itself - to watch him.

 

The word ‘watch’ meant so much more when the AllSpark said it, with undertones of keeping-safe , guarding-and-caring-for and edges of worry coming from the Cube. She was supposed to actually watch for...for something that she would see and recognize and...do what exactly?

 

There was a firm impression, a glimpse of understanding and a deep, profound faith.

 

“Always-are-there-choices-to-be-made.”

 

Before Songbird could continue her questions, she felt a gentle release of the grip the energy held over her as the AllSpark withdrew from her processors. Or was it she who pulled from the Cube? Songbird wasn't sure, but even as she pulled away, she could hear the echoes and whispers of the Song of her Name from the Allspark, a Song she heard much more clearly than she had ever heard before.

 

She wavered on her pedes, and Janus was there instantly, a servo pressed against her back-plates to keep her steady even  as he projected concern-pride her way.

 

“That…” she whispered, optics turning to Janus and wide with a sort of awe she couldn’t put into words.

 

Janus’ dermas twitched up at the ends, his optics bright as he agreed with her unvoiced attempts at explanation.

 

“It is rather... much , the first time isn’t it?” He turned her around, his servo a steady support on her back-plates-and it was only then that Songbird realized the entire temple was still and silent and staring at her . In disbelief, in awe, like she was someone they’ve never seen before. It was...disconcerting.

 

She wished they would stop.

 

And for an instant- just an instant- she felt the urge to cringe back, make herself smaller. It passed when the Song she could now hear so clearly rose in volume, the Allspark speaking-yet-not with authority that You-are-Ours-now-and bow-to-no-one. Do-not-pull-back. Stand-tall-beside-your-Prime.

 

Songbird instantly stilled, her back-stut snapping straight and tall as she lifted her head.

 

She was ( echoes-of-song-and-soaring-in-freedom-air ) , she had spoken to the Allspark, and it had seen her as worthy . She would not cower, especially while she was beside her Prime. None had any right to judge her, none save her Prime and he had already looked at at and found her worthy.

 

She descended the stairs leading to the Cube with a grace she never knew she possessed, wrapping that certainty, that confidence in her own self around her frame like armor. She tried to ignore the distracting spikes of almost overwhelming emotion from the bots crowding in the Temple and in front of her. Some of jealousy-anger and others of reverence-awe .

 

She was different, she understood this, but it wasn’t that she had changed, it was that the world had changed around her. Not that she would be able to explain that to anyone who had never heard nor felt the AllSpark in the manner she had. She tried not to think about how this event would change how she was seen and treated.

 

Of course, that was ruining barely a nano-klick later, when in the complete silence of the temple, Bumblebee's voice shattered the moment.

 

“Primus, femme! Talk about an upgrade!”

 

Songbird halted, her optics swinging to meet the yellow Cybertronian’s. His tone wasn't awed or angry, but touched with an ease and an understanding. His tone was that of a friend making a joke, as one might shove another in the shoulder in play. She tilted her helm in confusion at his words.

 

“Upgrade?”

 

Bee shuttered his optics in faint surprise before he gestured to her frame like the answer was obvious.

 

“An upgrade. Those are some impressive Sigils you have now.”

 

Songbird froze instantly. Sigils? What had happened to her Sigils? She turned her optics to Janus, asking a silent question of him.

 

“The Allspark...promoted you, as it were.”

 

He tipped his head to her frame, something like amusement briefly brushing against her spark before he quickly provided her a projection of her own form as he saw it.

 

Songbird’’s optics shuttered sharply, staring intently at Bumblebee and Janus, as if the bots had stuttered. She turned her attention to the projection Janus had provided, looking at the ‘upgrades’ the mechs had mentioned.

 

She had always had the Sigils on her frame that told those at a glance that she was Sensitive of some power and was chosen as an Apprentice to the Temple.

 

These Sigils were not those.

 

They were so much different.

 

For one, they trailed over her shoulders, winding around her arms, down her back-strut and curling delicately around her outer thighs to stop just above her knee joints. They were longer, more detailed, intricate in a way that her Apprentice Sigils had not been, nor would ever have been.

 

They were the marks of a High Priestess .

 

Oh. Oh.

 

Upgrade.

 

Very much a significant upgrade.

 

Songbird was...this was too much all at once. She turned to her Prime, projecting across their Bond instinctively overwhelmed-beginning to panic-help me-information overload.

 

The reaction was immediate, his amusement vanished as Janus straightened sharply, the servo at her back-strut pressing tighter, as he let his presence fill the air around him, a nonverbal que to those around him that he, and those with him, would be given space. Now.

 

The reaction was instantaneous as every bot that had been brave or uncaring enough to go closer, immediately backed off, those behind him following their example.  

 

Janus began to move, guiding Songbird towards the stairs leading to the rooms below, ignoring those who lingered too long only to scramble out of his way when he drew closer. Songbird was thankful when they descended the stairs. She was even more thankful when her Prime spoke, his voice soft, a request that could be denied, but with an edge of this-would-please-me.

 

“Would you like to sit in my rooms for a while or would you prefer solitude in your own?”

 

Songbird only took a moment to respond, leaning into the servo still pressed against her backplate.

 

“If I wouldn’t be intruding?”

 

“Never. You are always welcome. Come along then.”

 

Janus led his Apprentice- now High Priestess- towards his rooms, opening the door and immediately scanning the room for threats without a thought before he stepped aside for Songbird to enter.  He strolled into the room on the femme’s heels and settled into one of the chairs, absently reaching out and preparing a meal for the sparkling. He hadn’t had the chance to feed the little one in the incidents that required his attention.

 

First it had been Optimus and his pack that had come in, which he was slammed with memories both happy and sad, then the whole Songbird incident, and shortly after that Sentinel had come in. There had been no time. He would busy himself with feeding the Ironwill and allow Songbird the chance to settle herself.

 

For a breem, the only sounds in his room were the clicks and coos of a sparkling eating happily and the soft sounds Janus made in return. He could feel her gaze on him, but he didn’t mind. He was tracing his optics over the fine features of his little one’s face. He had seen many different Cybertronians in his life as Sam Witwicky, yet he had only glimpsed the bodies of the sparklings Megatron had tried to raise.

 

The sparkling in his arms was beautiful, healthy and strong in a way he had never seen Cybertronian children before. The sheer heartbreak that had been so predominate in Optimus posture, in his voice when he spoke of the days before the War, of the sparklings that had all died, had almost made Sam cry. Now, as Janus holding onto Ironwill, he was grateful that Optimus would never have need to speak of such death to a naive human teenager so many years into the future.

 

If he had anything to say about it.

 

He ending his line of thought, just as Songbird spoke up, her voice soft and hesitant.

 

“...I don’t think I am ready.”

 

Janus pulled his optics from the content face of his sparkling, shifting the mechling into a more comfortable position, as he questioned her, keeping his tone mild.

 

“For what?”

 

Songbird gestured, an all-encompassing movement.

 

“This. Any of it. I don’t think I’m ready for this kind of...of responsibility. What if I mess up? What if the Allspark was wrong? What if I-”

 

“Songbird,” Janus’ tone was stern but kind as cut her off, “The Allspark would not have chosen you as it did, if it did not feel you could handle it.”

 

“But I…”

 

“Sometimes things may seem...overwhelming, but it is our actions under pressure that exemplify who we are, not those when times are easy.”

 

“But I do not feel...I was just an Apprentice, and now I am a High Priestess. I was not prepared for this. I was not- I do not feel that I am prepared for a position of that prestige.”

 

Sam went still. He knew this feeling. He remembered the crushing weight of the Autobots standing in front of him and declaring Samuel Witwicky, you hold the key to Earth’s survival. He remembered the Fallen, being at the top of every Most Wanted list, the horror when Optimus died, and everyone looked to him .

 

“Sometimes,” Janus’ voice was thick with remembered experiences, “We are thrust into a situation we do not expect. When we are at our lowest, when we feel that we cannot possibly take another step, sometimes the world will add more weight. We think that we are going to break. That we can’t bear this burden that is asked of us.”

 

His optics shuttered, focusing on her form as he remembered Sector Seven chasing him, of choosing to step out of the dam and into the city, his mad dash, of staring at a dying Optimus, and even as an Allspark that had no idea how to Speak to organic life drove him slowly mad, choosing to save him . He remembered seeing the Fallen, the Sun Harvester and declaring ‘ no more’ . Years and events long gone and never to come to pass. There was only him left to remember a future that he was trying to destroy.

 

“But instead we soldier on. With hope for the future and a determination to do all that we can do. It’s not easy and the memories are things we live with until our dying day. But still, perhaps you weren’t asked, your permission sought, but there is something in you that another saw and knew ‘this one’. ‘ This one will not fail.’”

 

Janus paused and leveled a heavy stare into Songbird’s wide optics.

 

“The only one higher in status than you is Primus. High Priests and Priestesses are the equals of a Prime. You may feel now that it is overwhelming, that you are sacrificing your life, your individuality, even your peace of mind as you shoulder new responsibilities...but in sacrifice there is always a victory.”

 

Sam thinks of the choice he made to take out the Control Matrix in the Once-Future. He thinks of the sacrifice he had made, and the victory in saving the world- his parents, the Autobots. He thinks of the sacrifice of all that he had known, his world, his home, his species...and the victory that he is standing here now, able to help all of Cybertron as Janus Prime.

 

“Even if we do not see it,” Janus continued his thought, “there are people that will look to us and we have the opportunity to help them. You now have the opportunity to help them. Those of us that come into power like this from the bottom, we know better how to use the power we given, where best we can help.”

 

There is silence before Songbird speaks up.

 

“From the bottom?” she asks quietly, curiously, ever so cautiously with surprise ringing in her tones.

 

Sam hums in agreement.

 

“The bottom,” he agrees.

 

He remembers where he started, where he came from. A nobody nerd in highschool who only had one friend, no goals beyond the present day. No power. No money. No influence. Nobody important and nothing special.

 

“I was what would be considered a Gamma in my youngling-hood. This would make me a mid-class rank...but those I called my friends, were Deltas and Omegas. The bottom of the social ladder. I was not accepted among those of my Class- I was rejected and scorned for my views and actions. I knew what the problems of those below my Class were. Walked their streets, shared their homes, saw their struggles. For all that I was mid-class I fit better with those of lower station than myself. I was welcomed by them. Helped. Appreciated.”

 

Another pause as Songbird leaned forward, curiosity radiating from her spark, before Janus continued.

 

“And then an Alpha and his pack found me. Asked for my help in a way that benefitted me more than them, the way I first saw it. I agreed and we worked together to accomplish our goal. They could have left me, done it themselves, but they were right next to me when the battle started and I did everything I could to help. In the end, he- they- saw something in me that was worth something. I was nobody important, nothing special with no great talents...but he saw potential in me. Believed in me. He...he was the Prime to make me who I am today. My Alpha. I would have followed him and his pack into the Pit. “

 

Sam closed his optics in memory, ignoring with practiced ease the pain that came with remembering. He continued as faces flashed across his processor.

 

“I was introduced to many of Alpha Class who were set on helping those below them. This Alpha’s pack had no Class lines. Alpha...Beta..Gamma...Delta...Omega...none of that mattered to him nor the others, and so his pack was made of many Classes. All of them equal to one another, no matter their talents or strength. They all had a voice, and he listened to each equally. ”

 

Sam focused on Songbird again, mentally shutting the door to his past and the Future-That-No-Longer-Was.

 

“So I understand the feelings you are experiencing now. I understand how overwhelmed you feel, how uncertain...but in this sacrifice you will find victory. I will not leave you to flounder.”

 

Songbird vented slowly, keeping her gaze fixated on the floor. A klik later, she raised her optics, snagging Janus’s own and holding them.

 

“I do not think that I am ready, but, regardless of this, the AllSpark has granted me this new station. So I will do my very best and I will do all that I can.”

 

Sam smiled, emitting a warm approval at the determination that Songbird radiated, before he inclined his helm.

 

“That is all anyone can ask of you.”

 

The moment was broken when Ironwill clicked and whirred up at them, happily full now and radiating joy-playful-want .

 

The two bots in the room smiled at each other before obeying the little mechling’s demands, willing to play with him. It was a good reminder of what they would fight for . Janus scooped the little bot in his servos and gently tossed him into the air. Ironwill shrieked with momentary fear before abruptly landing in his caretaker’s servos again. The sparkling blinked in surprise, his optics lighting up in pleasure as Janus carefully repeated his actions several more times, then handed the little one over to Songbird. The newly made High Priestess encouraged Ironwill to climb over her frame, teaching him the best pede-holds and niches to hold on to.

 

After a few kliks spent playing with the sparkling Janus pulsed his emotional-field in a request for attention.

 

Songbird looked up immediately as Ironwill froze with one servo reaching for her helm. They both looked at him expectantly and Janus suppressed a smile.

 

“I have business across Cybertron,” Janus spoke softly “and would ask if you should like to accompany me?”

 

Songbird blinked, not hesitating in the least, her answer immediate.

 

“I will follow you Janus Prime.”

 

Janus smiled, vaguely pleased.

 

“We shall be leaving shortly- I do not wish to be stopped, and the less time they have to do so the better. I know the location of the items I seek, but not what obstacles may be in the way. So I ask you to prepare for a deca-cycle of of travel. This does not mean we will be absent from the City for the entire deca-cycle, but I have found it is better to be prepared and have no need, then have a need and not be prepared.”

 

Songbird nodded in understanding, hesitating a moment, before noticing Janus’s curiosity aimed at her.

 

“Is there a specific purpose for your journey? Something or someone you are going to see?”

 

Janus thought about the way Sentinel had invaded his rooms, how he had attacked and Janus had only really had his sword. He thought of the lessons learned on the shoulder of Ironhide on his Earth. The insistence of the mech that there was never enough weapons on hand, that ‘you never know when the next battle will happen, or what situation you would eventually find yourself in’. He remembered the War Stories Ironhide had shared, about how even when injured sometimes all it took to win was the right weapon in the right circumstances, and about Ironhide’s insistence that everyone have at least three weapons of varying purpose and size on their person no matter the time or place.

 

He thought of the memories he now had. The Allspark, Sam was sure, that remembered .

 

“I am acquiring a few weapons for protection purposes.” His voice was mild, but his conviction strong.

 

A few .

 

Right. Compared to Ironhide. His Ironhide who had been at war longer than Earth had been inhabited. On a bad day.

 

Or would that be classified as a good day?

 

Regardless Janus would not see himself so woefully underprepared again.

 

Especially not now, when he had so much to do. So much to change . So much to lose .

 

Now for the really difficult part.

 

Getting out of the temple. Full of bots. Curious and interested bots. Who wanted to meet their new Prime. Influential people who wanted to make a good impression on the Prime that no one knew a thing about. A substantial number of Cybertronians that would absolutely wonder what, exactly, Janus was doing if he just got up and left especially after making such a lasting impression.

 

He really, really , hoped those lessons from his Bee about sneaking around without getting caught had stuck. Granted the lessons had to be modified to his human self, but Bee had first taught him as a bot, what someone his size would do, what Jazz and various other bots had done. He vented hard, rubbing a servo over his face-plates as he contemplated his situation.

 

“Do you happen to know how to exit the temple discreetly?”

 

He asked Songbird hoping against hope that there would be an easy way out of this mess. He was sure there were ways in and out of the tower that were not the front entrance. He was just as certain they would be hidden and guarded when the Allspark rested in the walls of this temple. Escape routes and emergency exits in case of attack.

 

Songbird shook her helm slowly, confirming what Janus already thought.

 

“None that we may access. We would need to leave out the front.”

 

“I thought that would be the case.”

 

Janus fell silent, casting his mind back as he ran different scenarios through his processor. His Bee’s voice- scratchy, broken, with clips of various songs and talk shows scattered throughout his words as he struggled to explain his lessons- came back to him.

 

Sometimes it isn’t hiding that gets you in and out of a place. Sometimes, it’s being in plain sight. It’s belonging somewhere, having an actual reason to be out and about. No one questions anybody with an alibi. Especially if it’s a partly true one.

 

Sam smirked to himself at the memory and the stories the spy-scout had shared with him once upon a time.

 

Sometimes you can walk right out the front door.

 

So he needed an alibi. Something to get him into the temple rooms without pulling too much attention to himself. He had to make it out the entrance of the temple, and do it in such a way no one questioned him, or attempted to stop his progress outside.

 

The question then, was not what he had to do- it was how to go about it.

 

Unbidden, memories that were not his-perhaps recorded by the Allspark?- came to the forefront of his processor.

 

Blend in they whispered, flashes of doing just that, sliding through the crowds easily, happily chatting to mechs and femmes alike, sliding across his optics. Mingle they continued don’t stride with purpose to any destination. Let the crowd move you .

 

Bee’s voice overlapped in his helm as the two thoughts completed each other: sometimes you can walk right out the front door.

 

“Songbird.”

 

His voice was firm, but not demanding, catching her attention instantly.

 

“If we were to walk among the people in the temple, could you provide information on those within it?”

 

“...Yes?” her voice was questioning but steady, “Not all of them of course, but a large amount of them”

 

“And could you do so in such a way that we just happened to drift through the crowd towards the entrance? Without making it look purposeful?”

 

Janus knew he could, but he wanted Songbird to come with him, so this plan depended on her ability to manage it. Songbird fell silent as she thought about her answer and if she had the ability to do such a thing. Comprehension dawned as she figured out his plan. She nodded decisively.

 

“...I believe so, yes.”

 

Janus grinned. “Good. Go- gather what you would need for yourself and Ironwill for a deca-cycle of travel, and return here when you are finished. We will go upstairs afterwards.”

 

Songbird nodded, rising to her pedes with Ironwill in her arms and strode out the door, leaving Janus to patiently wait for her return.

 


 

 

Janus kept pace with Songbird as they meandered around the temple room, listening as she pointed out various mechs and femmes, providing bits and pieces about them as they went. Ironwill was quiet, even as he looked around in curiosity from his hiding place in the sparkling hold Janus was delighted to discover he had. It was partially open to allow the curious sparkling to look around without being obvious, and it would be easily shut in the event someone tried to attack him, or started looking too closely at his frame.

 

They were casually working their way through the crowd with surprising success. There was no patterns to their movements, no rhythm or rhyme, each step or turn they made was decided by those around them, allowing the crowd to move them wherever it pleased so long as it eventually lead to the doors.

 

Janus had carefully bundled the ‘presence’ that would announce him as a Prime away, letting it rest deep in his spark. He couldn’t allow any of the bots in the room to sense him, otherwise he would never manage to slip out of the temple simply because that ‘presence’ pulled people in and Janus would never make it out without an entourage. It was difficult, almost-but-not-quite painful, but Sam refused to bend to the instinctive urge to let go.

 

“...he has an unhealthy addiction to oil cake…”

 

Songbird’s voice was washing over his audials, a hint of amusement in her tone, and Sam absently wondered what oil cake even tasted like as they slid ever closer towards the exit. When Songbird leaned closer to him, Janus automatically leaned down a little to better be on her level, carefully shutting his sparkling hold a little more, so that Ironwill would not fall out when Sam leaned down.

 

“That one there- you see him, the green one with white detailing- he has a rod up his aft, but once you get some high grade into him, he’s actually pretty funny. He tells the best stories, and in such a way that no one actually knows if they’re true or not.”

 

Sam just barely controlled a bark of laughter.

 

“And he-” she nodded to their left and Janus automatically turned to see who Songbird was indicating only to almost freeze in shock, “Is ( one-who-is-perceived-to-prevent-deterioration ) Ratchet. He’s a politician, technically, but he has a talent for being a medic as well.”

 

Sam had a moment where he reeled both at the grouchy medic’s sudden appearance and at the idea of a politician Ratchet. Straight-forward, wrench-tossing, Ratchet...as a politician? It didn’t really fit in Sam’s mind, but he could vaguely remember a mention of the Autobot medic in a high-class setting. No-nonsense, intimidating Ratchet would have fit well into the role of a diplomat. Sam almost laughed at the image of Ratchet throwing a wrench at just the right angle to hit four different mechs at once, as the wrench bounced off helms and walls just so , in the middle of a diplomatic meeting. Sam had seen his Ratchet do that exact thing with both sets of twins once before after they fought about following his medical advice.

 

“He’s brilliant, and I heard he’s followed Optimus for vorns …” Ratchet must have caught the tail-end of Songbird’s praise or noticed their optics on him, he absently but politely dipped his helm even as he strode over to Optimus, most of his attention fixated on the still form of the Prime. Sam almost wanted to smile. Even if Ratchet was a politician at the moment, Sam knew that stride, the angle of his shoulders, the glint in his optics.

 

Optimus was about to get what the Gladiator Twins had coined a ‘Ratchet the Hatchet Lecture’.

 

Sam let Songbird’s voice become a bit of a background noise even as he listened, forcibly drawing his attention away from Ratchet lest his continued attention drew noticed to himself. He was casually keeping an eye on those who were most likely to stop him if they caught onto his plans to leave, temporary as they may be.

 


 

 

Jazz noticed a flicker, just barely, in the edges of his vision. Easily dismissed and ignored. It was for that very reason that Jazz gave that little detail the very fullest of his attention. The sight of two bots blending in so thoroughly with the crowd, even though one towered over practically everyone and the other was simply a youngling , was of great interest and fascination to him.

 

They looked remarkably similar to one Janus Prime and his newly acquired High Priestess. The technique the Prime was employing to escape notice was beautiful and flawless in a way that made Jazz want sing with the desire to stare . That level of causal blending in was something that Jazz himself would have to prepare to do. It would take effort, but in the end he would be able to accomplish something with similar results. Regardless of the fact that he was remarkable good with blending in period, for a Prime to pull that off? Jazz almost wanted to steal him. Keep him close, observe, learn from the Prime.

 

The Prime who currently did not feel like a Prime either. Who had used his color-nanites to change his frame’s appearance enough that most of the crowd wouldn’t immediately peg him as Janus Prime. Added with his ability to hide his Presence and it was no wonder the other bots hadn’t pegged him for the Prime they were so excitedly discussing.  

 

Curious thin’..

 

Several nano-kliks of almost blatant staring and steadily following their every movement revealed something very curious. The Prime was moving in a distinct way, one that Jazz himself could recognize as a style almost identical to his own. It was clearly adapted to his size, and more advanced than what Jazz could do at the moment without a long prep and research period. Janus was just...doing it. On the move, without thought, though there were odd hints of shifting out of synch for just an instant or two, as if hiding an injury.

 

Ah, no, not an injury. A sparkling carried in his hold? Yes, that was a factor, but there was something more.

 

The Prime couldn’t be sensed as a Prime at the moment. Janus appeared as an ordinary mech, yes one with considerable height, yet exuding none of the every sense that lit up in acknowledgement of a Prime.  He was holding in the very presence that defined him as a Prime. Added to the way Janus had changed his coloring with his nanites, and hidden his Sigils via hologram and no one was looking at him too long. The odd out-of-step moments, the instant where Janus almost seemed to limp...it was him struggling with his Presence.

 

It was jarring and distinctively unpleasant for Jazz to look closer at him and not hear the symphony that had accompanied his every movement. To not see the beautiful patterns that had trailed in his pede-steps. It was like listening to a Song, and three notes in the flow being discordant, like the screech of metal on metal.

 

A Prime’s Presence instinctively wanted to wash over all around them. For Janus Prime to be not only hiding it, but managing it thoroughly enough he could walk in the middle of a crowd? No wonder he was struggling. Jazz was still completely impressed.

 

Even if it was wrong to hear those three discordant notes, even if it grated against him to see it happening.

 

He was absolutely and utterly curious.

 

What was the mech doing?

 

He had to know. It was his duty, his job, his responsibility and he wanted to know.

 

Jazz easily slipped away from Optimus and the others, slinking into the crowds, and quickly trailing after the Prime, making a note of Ratchet striding powerfully towards Optimus. It was the work of less than a klik for Jazz to catch up to the Prime and his Priestess thanks to his smaller size.

 

“An’ where do ya thin’ yer goin’?”

 

Janus didn’t tense, or jerk around. Admirable of him, keeping his reactions smooth and fluid, controlled.

 

Reactions would have given him away, drawn attention, when he didn’t want to do that. Instead he slid easily around, as if greeting an old friend he had just heard call his designation. Jazz couldn’t stop himself from staring even if he wanted to. What the old Prime was doing was a work of art.

 

“I have some things to do.”

 

There was a moment when Jazz visibly took in the words he said. There was no lie in his voice, yet it was completely void of details and practically any information.

 

Hm. Deflectin’. A reluct’nce ta lie ta meh. A hint’a respect in his tone. As if he knows meh...perhaps Ah remind ‘im of someone?

 

Janus wouldn’t lie to Jazz. He remembered that Jazz had been Optimus’ acting Second on Earth, and he had learned later on from Bumblebee that Jazz had been head of Special Ops, the one that taught Bumblebee everything he knew. Lying outright to the mech would be a bad idea . Not to mention that he had been a mentor to Bee, a close friend to most of the Autobots and he was sorely missed.

 

Still, one fact about Jazz that Bee had managed to convey was that once something captured his attention, he was reluctant to let go. Going by that shiney spark in his optics and the beeline he took straight to them moments after they caught his attention, Janus was positive that he had invoked Jazz’s curiosity.

 

“An’ those things would beh?”

 

“I have belongings that were left in various places before I came here,” Janus explained, simply stating a fact yet offering no other information.

 

It was the truth, after all. He had never said they were his belongings, though they soon would be. Jazz could draw whatever conclusions from that simple sentence that he wanted to.

 

Jazz knew, as sure as he had known Optimus was a Prime, that Janus was not telling him everything. He didn’t expect the mech to- he barely knew Jazz after all, had no reason to trust him other than his connection to Optimus. That would change with time, and Jazz was certainly making plans to give Janus the time to know him. The Prime was fascinating. He hummed as he posed another question.

 

“An’ when ya’re done? Wha’ ya gonna do then?”

 

Janus tilted his helm, not hesitating to answer with a simple reply.

 

“I will come back here. I did promise to share our history after all, and I do not break my word.”

 

“Do ya have an estimate on when yer goin’ ta beh back?”

 

“A deca-cycle at the latest. Sooner if I can manage it.”

 

Jazz stared at them for a klik before he nodded. He had spent vorns upon vorns reading Cybertronians, he knew when he was lied to. Janus wasn’t lying. He wasn't sharing everything, but he wasn't lying. And Jazz didn’t really think he could stop Janus from doing anything anyway.

 

Curious thin’...

 

He nodded decisively.

 

“Ya come back. Ah will hunt ya down if yah don’.”

 

Jazz paused deliberately, holding Janus’ gaze before letting his optics drift back towards Optimus and the others. He spoke his next words deliberately, with weight and meaning.

 

“Ya Declared ‘im. Ah… appreciate it. Th’ others do ta...bu’ ya can’t leave ‘im ta flounder ya ‘ear?”

 

Janus bowed his helm in acknowledgement, warm and approving, making sure that he brushed the emotion against Jazz’s emotion-field so he would know.

 

“There will be no need. I will return. I will not leave him,” the ‘or any of you’ wasn’t voiced, but Janus thought it all the same, ”to flounder.”

 

There was a note of power that slipped into his words that gave the words the edge of an Oath, a promise. Jazz was briefly taken aback, before he relaxed and grinned at the Prime.

 

“Good.”

Chapter Text

Getting out of the city once they made it out of the temple was much easier. Janus may have Declared Optimus, but it had been done on a balcony, high above the the city, while standing with Optimus and all the other bots. No one had gotten a good enough look at him to pin him down as 'Janus Prime' especially with the changes he had made to his frame the way Jazz had managed once-upon-a-life.

He kept the hologram hiding his Sigils up, and made no move to change his color back to normal all the same. It was better safe than sorry after all. Still, he gathered some attention outside of the Temple walls. His frame was taller and well built compared to most other Cybertronians and regardless if they knew him as Prime or not, his appearance was bound to be noticed. He was passed off as a noble fortunately enough and the crowd's attention was pulled elsewhere.

It was with little interference that they made their long trek out of the City, beyond the gates and into the outskirts. While the City itself was a shining endless wonder of brightly polished and intricately decorated metal forming all the living quarters and business areas, just before the walls separating the city itself from the wilds, was something of a different story. The Center of the City was their Temple, housing the treasured spark-giving artifact, while the outskirts were made up of the spare materials. Not that it didn't hold a beauty of it's own, but there was an obvious division between those within and those outside. The polish was provided by the acid rain when it came, while the carvings were of a different nature than the City designs.

Walking along the road that lead into the wilds, Janus was reminded of the hobos of Earth during the Great Depression. Symbols draw on fences, mailboxes, stones in the front or even sidewalks, letting others know what kind of person lived there. If they were one to help, or one to chase them away.

It took much longer than Janus expected for the buildings to begin to thin out and the beginnings of Cybertron's unmarked wilderness was revealed. Songbird radiated wonder and curiosity as she gazed at life beyond the City. Janus took a moment to regret that Cybertron was devoid of any life, in the manner of Earth. There were no lush pastures, no stream of crystal clear waters, no trees. Due to the lack of a star to revolve around, there was no light other than the stars. Considering that Cybertronians had no use for oxygen, some of those stars were quite close.

Relatively. Not enough to be classifed as their sun, but close all the same.

Even then, they were not needed. It was to varying degrees, but everyone could see in the darkness. Some could see farther and clearer, but it was a trait every last bot possessed. Considering that the planet revolved around no sun, all light came from either artificial sources, stars or the silvery-blue of energon that shone from deep underground oceans that could only be glimpsed from looking into the bottomless chasms and occasionally even from the mouths of caves. Energon, while it was a liquid of some sort, didn't flow so much as rest. So there were no streams, nor any rivers or creeks.

There was also a distinct lack of trees or forests of any kind.

Cybertron was beautiful in it's own way. There were many different metals that blended together, jutting edges of cliffs that had been smoothed and polished by acid rains for thousands of vorns. Their proximity to the City meant that there were roads and the occasional structures dotting the plates, but Janus knew that the further out they went, the less official roads and deliberately built structures to help them there would be.

Janus vented and cast his thoughts back to the memories lingering in his processor. The nearest place where he could accurately remember being a cache was quite a distance from their present location, but if they transformed, they would be there much sooner. While Sam had never transformed, he had witnessed it many, many times. There was the knowledge stores in his memory banks and the instinctual application that he could feel so he was certain he could do so with ease.

With that decided he turned to Songbird, waiting for her attention to return to him. When her gaze snapped back, he carefully initiated the shift, making sure to accommodate for Ironwill in his hold. Plates of cybertronium folded and rearranged themselves into a compact shape. Janus was fascinated and paid close attention to every single piece that moved and twisted, relocating and forming an unbelievably sleek vehicle. It was designed for maneuverability and speed, practicality, but it was elegant- in a distinctly Cybertronian way.

When he was settling into his alt form, he took a moment to test out the anti-magnetic force field that surrounded his frame. It allowed him to hover a sizeable distance from the ground, but it did not allow him to leave the gravitational pull of the planet. All bots had this device, of varying strength and quality. The Seekers were the only one who could truly fly. This was a pale imitation, but it functioned as it was intended to, helping him to navigate the sharp scarcely touched metals of the planet.

Songbird triggered her own transformation, shifting swiftly as her plating slid together with practiced ease. With a flare of amusement, the newly promoted High Priestess rocketed off, before stopping suddenly. Carefully a flash of lights lit up as she backed up, coming to a halt besides the still frame of Janus.

There was a vague, hastily suppressed flare of sheepish embarrassment before she spoke.

"Janus Prime," she said, her voice firm and steady, "I do not know the way."

To her credit, she did not move even as Janus' deep chuckles washed over her. He carefully revved his engines, making sure to keep the mag-lock engaged. He sent a mental poke for Ironwill to keep still, before he released his brakes. The speed which his frame possessed honestly surprised him for a moment, before exhilaration overcame his shock. He shifted his view to the rear noting the distance between him and Songbird, humming happily that although she was a ways behind, it wasn't enough to lose sight of him..

Sam's inner child- the one that wanted to have the best toys, the fastest 'car' the most amazing things, was utterly and completely thrilled. The rest of him was remembering a time on his Earth, when Bumblebee heard him muttering about how he 'wished he could drive like that' when talking about the impressive synchronized u-turn from Mission City, and took it as a challenge.

Sam had ended up behind the wheel of Bee's alt mode, with himself firmly in control. He'd been taught simply to drive by Cybertronian standards, which by Earth-standards, was considered stunt-driving. He had ended up behind the wheel of all the bots at one point or another, learning what he considered 'stunt' driving, the end result of which was Sam discovering he was an adrenaline junkie of the highest order.

And here he was- firmly in control of himself, and he found he really wanted to push the limits, to test his new body. He wanted to learn what Cybertronians considered stunt driving.

At the thought, many different memories jumped to the front of his processor. If he could have, Sam would have drooled.

Oh. Yes.


Going high speeds was done with ease, as most of the terrain was just smooth enough to qualify as roads. For the moment anyway. Not that it mattered, because the force field that made hovering possible automatically adjusted for changes in distance to the ground. To a certain degree. When moving lower to the ground, there was less time for the processors to correct turbulence, compared to when you were several thousands of meters in the air.

Of course, there was a different setting to engage if you were to pass a certain height, as the force fields worked best in lower altitudes. While it was possible for someone to slap rocket boosters to a bots back struts and enable them to fly, it wasn't ideal. Maneuverability wasn't great, and adjustments had to be made manually during flight to sustain it without decaying and crashing painfully into the metal below.

Some legends spoke of Seekers, on the verge of death, who gave their wings and their parts to a grounder and made them into a hybrid. Most Cybertronians considered it to be a myth, since it had never been verified to happen. Sam knew it had happened, had seen Jetfire hand over his parts to Optimus without thought, and Optimus keep and use those parts. Considering Seeker attitudes towards Grounders, and Grounder views of flight being mostly a convenience for travel versus a Seeker's way of life, Sam could understand why Cybertronians considered it to be fairy tales

He, personally, had always been curious about flight. He'd have loved to go for a flight with a Seeker as a human, except every time he'd met one they were xenophobic and homicidal which kind of put a damper on the whole thing. Regardless of the fact that he would have to strap himself in very tightly and with enough strength to hold himself in place during the twists and dives most Seekers seemed incapable of doing without.

An image of Starscream, trying and failing to dislodge him from his person as he tried with increasing intensity to shake him off from his frame popped into his processors. Sam snorted, but transformed it manifested as an odd revving-clank. Ironwill warbled sleepily in his hold at the noise, emerging from recharge at feeling his caretaker's distinct amusement. Janus' engine rumbled in response to the sparkling waking noise.

He almost wanted to 'purr', but it was an intimate noise for Cybertronians. A sign of trust, of bonds forged and tested, a privilege to hear. A noise meant to comfort packmates, a noise meant to convey 'you're not alone, you're somewhere you're trusted and wanted, and it's okay to let go, to relax'. A bot didn't purr their engine unless they felt comfortable, unless they were amongst pack, or alone and in need of comfort. Sparklings were the only exception to it, the bond being forged between them near instantly by the Allspark itself, but as much as Janus liked Songbird, as much as she was his, she was still a stranger and he could not- would not- purr anywhere she could hear it until she had earned that right.

Instead Janus rumbled his engine, and sent warm-happy-joy-tenderness across their bond. In response he could feel happy-welcome-fondness swell from Ironwill.

Janus' spark felt...almost tight in his chassis. He wondered if this was what his mother had felt when she first held him. Sam had heard about parents and the almost instant kind of bond they shared with their children on Earth, but he hadn't understood. Not really. And most certainly not the depth with with Cybertronian parents held with their children.

Ironwill...With Ironwill though, he thought he understood. Not even a full Solar-Cycle with the little one, and Janus couldn't imagine not having the sparkling there, in his helm and spark. The very idea of losing that made Janus defensively murderous.

He shook the thoughts away, checking to make sure Songbird was still keeping up with him. She seemed to enjoy the speed they were going, and was keeping up well enough. If they kept up this speed they would make it to the first cache of weapons by the end of the Solar-Cycle.

That was good- Janus had no idea what would be waiting for them when they got there. If the cache had survived, and if it had, what sort of traps were between him and the entrance to the cache itself.


Janus slowed, transforming back to his bipedal mode and staring hard at the jutting mountain of metal in front of him. Nothing made it stand out from the mountains around it, but Janus knew the truth. The mouth of a cave system inside this mountain was hidden from sight, holding many traps and failsafes, and beyond those it hid a cache from Ancient times.

Songbird transformed and stood beside him, looking curiously at the seamless appearance of the face of the mountain.

"Janus Prime?"

"We've arrived," he said, answering her obvious confusion, "keep your senses high, this area is clear, but there are traps disguising the way to the entrance."

He turned to face her, his chest plates folding open and tucking themselves neatly into his sides. He reached in, gently lifting Ironwill from his sparkling-chamber, staring firmly at the little bot gazing up at him with questioning optics.

"I need you to wait here with Songbird little one. I will be right back."

Ironwill stared him down before he crooned softly back acceptance rushing over their bond.

Janus smiled at the sparkling, running his digits carefully over his helm before he turned to the caverns waiting for him to enter. "Remain here. I will be back as soon as I can safely manage."

"We will wait for you." Songbird acknowledged the command easily despite her concern and curiosity.

Janus turned to face the cave system, bracing himself mentally as he began the careful trek towards the cache he knew was concealed inside. His scanners and sensors were cranked up as high as he could stand, memories of another place and a different time drifting through his processor, as he took slow careful steps towards a section of the mountain that appeared like all the others.

The Allspark prompted him carefully, the memories a strong presence in his processor showing him the careful pattern he had to press and tap into the mountainside. Pedes, servos and digits, all had a place to be in a correct order. There was even a place where a piece of the mountain that appeared to simply be jutting out of the side actually slid to the left and slightly down into a little natural looking divot in the metal.

Janus went still after he felt the metal click into place. He heard Songbird's armor rattle with surprise as the mountainside appeared to rip itself open.

That was the easy part- messing up that particular trap would only make it so the entrance wouldn't appear. If Janus made a mistake on any of the others...that would have more...dire consequences. He vented deeply as he took a careful step forward, making sure to use his full stride on the first step so he wouldn't set off the perimeter pressure-plates. The design was meant to last mega-vorns, but at the outer edges of the entrance, rocks were piled up, save for one spot where there was a perfect oval hole in the floor.

Janus could only be grateful that the craftsmanship had withstood the test of time. He could vaguely recall one instance where a trap had been set, that relied on several hundred vorns to pass before it became active. Of course, to actually set off that trap, a bot had to have inside knowledge into the pitfalls, all save for that one in particular. There was a nagging familiarity to the setup of that specific snare, one he could not place.

He brushed that line of thought aside to concentrate on his current task. He deliberately relaxed his frame and walked confidently into the darkness, avoiding the switch on the floor that would trigger a massive explosion meant to cave in the cavern.

Safety measures crafted and implemented by the powerful and paranoid Cybertronians of old in a time where skirmishes were relatively common between packs over territory and resources. Still, when the invaders came much later after Cybertron's hard-won victory, each weapons cache was made accessible to all warriors, be they of their pack or not.

Going by the absence of any disturbance in all of the mechanisms, besides the obvious wear and tear of time and disuse, Janus was the first living thing to step foot into this place in many mega-vorns. He paused, letting the information settle and clarify in his processors. There were many dangerous places, each with their own level of damage they were meant to deal.

Cautiously, he moved forward, placing his pedes this way and that, sidestepping a thin wire that would trigger a chain of events which would lead to a painful death, being slowly crushed by the weight of the mountain. Only after being impaled by spears though. A few of them were malicious in nature, intending to result in an agonizing and cruel death, created after the war and no one wanted to take the time to dismantle them. Others offered a quick, merciful death.

With a twist, Janus bent around and under a support beam which was hollow and outfitted with a system to pump superheated slag from deep beneath the outer surface plates, set on a delayed timer as to catch an intruder leaving, guard down and spoils in their grasp. This action very narrowly resulted in another cleverly placed obstacle that would have triggered another domino-effect event. There was little rhythm or reason to most of these hurdles, save that should you activate just one, all of them in the nearby vicinity would instantly come to life.

To put it clearly, if you did not know what exactly you were doing and how exactly you were going to do it, this was a suicidal venture to take. In the vorns long past, each member of the pack knew how to access these caches. It was easy for them, as they carried an identifying mark which indicated if they entered voluntarily or were coerced. Traps would activate in their wake at the command given from a small insignia hidden somewhere on their armor.

Should someone learn of the insignia that acted as their 'pass' into the caches, and try to take it, it would be deactivated the instant it was disconnected from the Cybertronian with the encoded spark signature. Granted, it would be reactivated via a correct flaring of spark energy field, as the Primes and Alphas wanted to make absolutely sure that only those who they wanted would be able to get in. The security measures in place were impressive and Janus wished that he held an override key as all the Primes and Alpha had.

Without it, he was doing this the hard way, which was going through and avoiding each and every trap, every deadfall and pit trap without the system registering him as an unwelcome intruder. Still, as a human he had beat worse odds, and as a Cybertronian, as a Prime with the memories of Sentinel Prime and the AllSpark in his head, he was confident in his ability to make it in and out unscathed.

It took almost an entire cycle, his inner clock ticking away ever closer to his recharge time, but he made it safely to a hollowed out room stacked with crates and weapons displayed proudly against the walls. There were recharge berths, medical equipment and enough weapons and energon to sustain a small army. There were lights integrated into the wall, the power fueled by several durable batteries stacked out of the way. They lit up as soon as he crossed the threshold.

He strolled forwards, aiming for the armory side of the enclosure, reaching toward to allow his digits to curl with familiarity around the Rhisling Sword. He slowly pulled the blade up from it's resting place, satisfied when it came willingly to his side. He hefted it aloft appreciating the shine of a sharpened blade and swung it experimentally in a crisscross, side to side fashion. It felt comfortable- like he had done this before.

He allowed it to settle against his back, waiting a moment to see if the blade would disagree with his desire to wield it. When the blade magnetized itself to his back-plates in such a way that it didn't impede his movements, Janus took a moment to grin, and brush a feeling of gratitude-welcome over the blade. He wasn't sure why he did it- only that it seemed like a good idea. Like a ritual he had long forgotten.

He turned his attention to the rest of the underground chamber. It held multiple stores of energon, some basic first aid supplies, various hand held weaponry and some specialty weapons that would have belonged to a specific bot who had mastered them.

For some reason- beyond just having the Allspark memories in his helm- each of the weapons looked familiar. The handhelds he understood. Some of them were common, some were modified heavily, but still based on something familiar, but the specialty weapons? Sam had no idea why those could be familiar, why he looked at the cybertronian version of a whip- a flexible conductive piece of metal- and had the instinctive urge to take two large steps to the left and put the jutting metal stalagmite between him and something he couldn't see. Why the sharpened boomerang brought ringing melodies to mind, why the two large energon-axes brought broad shoulders and a gruff undertone to the forefront of his processor.

Then he saw what cybertronians, specifically Seekers, called talons. The were a bladed weapon crafted by Seekers that magnetized to the space between digits, used most often by a Seeker that dropped from the sky to sink the slightly curved blades into enemies. They could be used by other bots of course, but they were made by Seekers, and rather guarded, so it was rare to see a 'grounder' with a set.

Janus couldn't stop himself from approaching them. They were gleaming obsidian black, and when he tilted them just so in the lights, there was a subtle tinge of blue in the polish. Janus almost wanted to keen, and he wasn't sure exactly why. There was a sense of loss with this particular weapon, but all the same, Janus couldn't have stopped himself as he slid the talons between his digits, magnetizing them into place. They felt natural, fitted, as if they were supposed to be there.

With a thought, he had his subspace protocols programed to work with the talons. He took a quick series of test swings with them, noticing absently that each movement would be lethal if used on a bot as his body moved automatically, before triggering the protocols. Between one swing and the next, the talons were in his subspace, before he continued through the movements, triggering his subspace again. Sure enough, the talons appeared between his digits, already magnetized into place and ready for use.

Janus flexed his servos testingly, staring down at the gleaming talons, at the maker's mark that showed up as a bright azure blue flame at the base of the talons, and trying to vent through the sense of grief-loss-missing.

He sub-spaced the talons, and turned to absently grab a few of the basic first aid kits, subspacing them away alongside the more common handhelds. His optics pulled away from the familiar weapons and down to his servos when his digits came into contact with the grip of a gun that felt too new to belong to anything in this cache.

He was glad for the distraction as he took in the weapon he had picked up. It was worn, well used and cared for, like the other weapons in the cache, but in a different, fresher way than the other weapons. It was also, however, familiar.

He stared hard at it, his optics slowly widening as he realized what he was looking at.

It was Starscream's Null-ray! That was impossible. He knew from his Optimus that Starscream had invented the Null-ray, and that it was impossible for such a new creation to be inside this cache, behind all the security measures. His optics darted to the place he had picked up the weapon automatically, and stilled as he spotted a previously unnoticed glyph, scratched into the metal of the ground directly beneath where the gun had been resting.

Save Us.

Save us? Save who? Janus didn't recognize the servo-writing, but he would bet a cube of high-grade it was Starscream's, or at the very least, one of the Seekers. The glyph was one that when expanded upon meant, save us from one who has enslaved us.

Janus suddenly felt as if he'd been bludgeoned upside the helm. It was an accepted fact among the Autobots that all the Decepticons, from Megatron down to the last drone, was batshit insane. No one had thought to question it. It just 'was'. Some speculated from Bonds broken, friends and family lost, imprisonment or any number of scenarios that could happen in war time.

But this…!

Never in any of their wildest imaginings had they ever thought that there was something deliberately, maliciously wrong with any of them. Janus did not even need a nano-klick to know who was responsible if it was true that the Seekers had been embedded with a virus. The Prime bared his denta, his features rearranging themselves into a snarl as his digits folded over the weapon in his servo.

This changed things. If the Fallen was responsible for the entirety of the war? Janus would have to slag that fragging glitch as soon as traces of his presence appeared on the planet. He would not allow the slagger to ruin Cybertron, to ruin the bond between Megatron and Optimus, to ruin an entire race. He made no move to control his Presence as it flared aggressively, beyond ensuring Songbird and Ironwill would not be affected by it, allowed his armor to mantle aggressively and snarled his engine. He would destroy the Fallen. He had planned to before, had sworn it before the Allspark and a room full of witnesses, but if that mis-clocked son of Unicron truly had started everything...Janus would atomize him without hesitation, erasing his existence from the Universe.

He allowed himself this unrestrained moment of fury, before carefully pulling himself back together. Songbird was waiting for him, he had promised Ironwill he would be back quickly, and he knew it would soon be time for recharge.

He had to finish up here. His servos flexed. He could deal with the Fallen later, when he was present to be dealt with.


Regardless of the lateness of the cycle, Songbird was patiently waiting for her Prime. Ironwill, however, was not. She had allowed him to perch on her shoulder plates and to walk in a very small circle around her body, but not a millimeter farther. Of course, the sparkling took this as a challenge to see how fast he could move from place to place, all the while taking in every change of the landscape around them.

For the first half of the cycle, he had been content to lightly doze, yet with the absence of his caretaker and the rapid approach of the lunar cycle, he had gotten that burst of energy before his recharge time. Songbird had looked after several sparklings during her early years before coming to the temple, while each one was different, they were all alike in that they got hyper before going down for the night.

Ironwill teetered on the very edges of her shoulder plates, loosening his grip until he was hanging far as he could get. Songbird whistled sharply, bringing his attention to her before sending a stern reprimand to his energy field. The little one drooped down in disappointment, flattening himself to hang over her plates to peer up at her apologetically with bright blue optics. A sound startled her and her attention shifted to the entrance that had hidden itself after Janus has vanished into the depths of the mountain.

Janus was returning. His stride was ground-eating as he headed their way, and she noticed that his pedes stepped exactly where they had been placed when he approached the mountain as he now approached them.

"Songbird, Ironwill. I am sorry it took me longer than I planned to get through the cache."

He slowed to a stop in front of them, reaching for the hyper sparkling that was babbling at him happily to run a digit carefully across his helm in a calming gesture.

Songbird shook her helm in instant denial.

"You warned me that you were not sure how long it would take you to get through the caches. I did not mind waiting for you to get what you needed."

Janus sent a quick burst of gratitude to her before holding out his servo.

"Come, there are recharging berths in the chamber, and I have disarmed the traps." .

Songbird shuttered her optics as Janus turned on his heel struts and marched back to the entrance mechanism. She hurried to keep in step, making sure that Ironwill was securely in her arms as she picked up her pace to match her Prime's long strides. She watched with amusement as he had to turn slightly sideways to fit into the opening concealed both by the natural shape of the mountain and the devices designed to conceal.

It took barely a breem of Songbird following Janus for them to reach the cavern, hardly the cycle it had taken for her Prime to dismantle all the traps and pitfalls. Still, she was appropriately astounded with the sheer size of the chamber and amount of supplies packed into the space. She stared at all the miscellaneous objects impressed with the amount of history in the cavern. Sure it was similar to what they had today, but there was a sense of age, and weight in the room, a sense of battles seen and won with the things she was looking at now. It was different- she could see personal touches to the weapons in the caves, hints about the bots that had owned them once before. She was looking at pieces of her culture, and that was worth more than words could express.

She turned to take in the entirety of the caverns, following in her Prime 's pedesteps. He lead her to the recharge berths he had mentioned easily reaching forward to pluck the sparkling from her arms as he did so. Only he paused, shifting the little one to a single arm before reaching for his subspace. A med-kit rested on his servo, one of a design that Songbird had never seen before. He offered it to her and she carefully picked it up, surprised by the weight.

"For emergencies, these were prepared with the maximum amount of supplies for every injury imagined using the minimum amount of supplies for treatment. Always be prepared for the inevitable."

At the solemn and grave tones Janus spoke in, Songbird bowed her head and subspaced the kit without questions or hesitation. Her Prime graced her with a soft brush of approval before returning his attention to Ironwill as Songbird retreated to her berth for the night.

He absently began to rock the little one as he approached the berth he had claimed as his own for the night. Ironwill was not happy to be rocked, beginning to fuss and twist in Janus' arms in the way all of all sparklings who fought the call of recharge.

Janus cradled Ironwill in his arms, ignoring the little one's fussing with what appeared to be practiced ease. He settled down into his recharge berth, making his frame comfortable, before pausing a moment. Ironwill must have picked up on something because he instantly ceased all noise and stared up at his caretaker with curiosity.

Then, the Prime opened his intake...and began to sing.

"The Well is in the Deep, shining softly blue.

Go to sleep, my sparkling, I'll watch over you.

The mountains and the plains, the stars lighting our sky.

Beauty from the rains, beauty from on high.

Listen to the Songs, my sparkling, the voices of history.

For we have Wandered long, searching for mystery.

My precious one, with your optics full of wonder.

Do not hide in fear at the sound of thunder.

Wars rage between Primus Below and Unicron Above.

But I will keep you safe, surrounded by my love.

The Well is in the Deep, shining softly blue

Go to sleep, my sparkling, let the Songs sing to you."

Songbird was mesmerized, sitting perfectly and completely still and absolutely silent.

It was such a simple thing, a mech singing to their sparkling to lull them into recharge. Save for the fact was Janus Prime and Primes had not sung in…vorns, hundreds of vorns. As Cybertronians, there were those who possessed many types of singing voices, from deep and compelling to soft and moving, yet it was the Primes who have the most beautiful singing voices. Without exception, the voice of a Prime was a priceless treasure to hear.

There were recordings of almost every single Prime singing, from the first Thirteen, to the Prime who was before the one once called 'Sentinel' came into power. Those records existed in the Gallery at Iacon and very few were allowed to hear them play. According to historic data, when there were many, the Primes used to gather and sing. No one knew for what purpose, or if it was a celebration or simply a ceremony of sorts, but that act had fallen out of practice some time ago.

None knew the exact reasons for the deeply emotional resonance a Prime's voice had when they sang, only that it was so. Although, despite the knowledge that Primes were made to sing so beautifully, none from the last two reigns had done so.

Songbird remained as she was, content to take in the undeniable privilege of hearing a Prime sing for the first time in many vorns. Janus' voice was deep, impossibly vast and she could feel it as it seemed to reverberate through her. It didn't matter that he was only singing an old sparkling lullaby, one that Songbird herself had been sung to in her sparklinghood, simply hearing Janus sing it gave the song a weight and depth, a life that could not be replicated by any other means.

She closed her optics, her audials focused solely on his voice, and barely dared to vent. She would swear that she could heard a melody to his words, as if they were standing in a great theater and hearing a Prime perform. A basic four-beat rhythm, a steady deep tempo, harmonic and longing in a way Songbird couldn't put into words when sung by the Prime, yet it was so beautiful.

As his voice faded off on the last note, the echoes of it seemed to bounce off the caverns, thrumming through her very spark. When the sound died out completely and the melody ceased, she felt a keen sense of loss, but her optics remain closed as she stayed in the moment of remembrance and the emotions, both that the singing had invoked and those that spilled over from Janus. It made her want keen for the sheer longing, wistfulness and the bare touches of a long-forgotten sorrow.

"Good Lunar Cycle Songbird," Janus' voice broke the silence, easing the heavy silence that had fallen.

"Good Lunar Cycle Janus Prime" she answered softly.


Janus is the first to rise the next Solar Cycle, barely a klik past it's beginning, his systems having been set to alert him at the first signs of danger. It had been unnecessary thankfully, but Janus knew better than to fall into recharge without someone on watch out in the wilds on Cybertron. He glanced down, his optics warming at the sight of his little one curled against his chassis directly over his spark, one of Janus' servos shielding him even in sleep. He was still asleep and there was no need to wake him, especially considering the earliness of the cycle.

Janus sat up carefully, his servo cradling Ironwill as he opened his sparkling chamber. Once it was opened enough, he set Ironwill inside, using his now free servos to prepare the sparkling's breakfast. It was only as he was finishing up with the bottle of sparkling-grade energon that Songbird woke from recharge, sitting herself up and glancing around.

"Good Solar Cycle Songbird."

Her helm whipped around to face Janus' voice, optics wide before she relaxed, replying promptly with,

"Good Solar Cycle Janus Prime."

She took a moment to scan her surroundings, pausing before she asked, "Where are we going next?"

Janus hummed, his optics dimming in thought even has he carefully coaxed Ironwill into wakefulness, dangling the energon in front of his face. He smiled at the delighted clicks and chirps he made as he lunged for the cube, making little grabby motions. When the little one was sucking greedily and happily devouring his energon, the Prime turned his attention back to Songbird.

"We're in the Sonic Canyons now, but our next stop will be Tarn."

Songbird tilted her head, visualizing a map based on their current location before asking in curiosity.

"Back towards Simfur?"

"Yes," Janus nodded, keeping a watchful optics on Ironwill before taking a moment to gaze at her, "We bypassed several caches to come here, to this one, because we needed a key, which was hidden here, for those. There is one in particular that we're aiming towards."

Songbird hummed her understanding despite the vagueness of his answer as he reached out a servo and held out an energon cube for her cumsumption. She hesitated a moment, before taking it, picking it up with delicate digits. She peered suspiciously at the little blue cube before raising it to her dermas and sipping cautiously at the energon. She paused at the unexpected flavor before happily downing the rest.

"Thank you, Janus Prime," she said seriously.

He nodded solemnly, a smile tugging at his face plates as he drank his own cube and kept a careful watch on his sparkling. Draining the last of his breakfast, he surged to his pedes, keeping a firm hold on Ironwill as he squeaked and warbled in excitement at being lifted up high so quickly. Janus pivoted and strolled to the exit, stopping on he reached the arches.

"Songbird?"

At the sound of his voice, the High Priestess shot ot her feet and immediately positioned herself at his heel struts.

"I am ready to depart as soon as you please, Janus Prime."

"Is there anything you wish to take with us?"

She appeared surprised by his offer, hesitating only a moment to glance around and waved a servo towards her optics.

"Nothing material, perhaps some stills? There is incredible historical significance to this site. I know that you lived through many vorns and this is perhaps a place you were responsible for, but to me, I have not lived as long as you and history fascinates me," Songbird explained, her voice steady and clear even as her gaze drifted downwards as she spoke.

Janus turned to stare in surprise at the femme. Being barely a day in Earth-terms of awareness as a Cybertronian, having a split personality of both Sam, the Human and Janus the Cybertronian Prime, not to mention the lingering energy of the AllSpark, time and places held no meaning towards him. To a degree. He felt emotions keenly in certain places and the past was not simply just the past due to his unique perspective.

It was confusing to say the least, with the familiarity of this place and the ease in which he did and spoke about events thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years ago with a sharp clarity that he almost expected. Some instances, it was as if he had lived through all that he could remember from the AllSpark itself. To Sam, it was...concerning and he forcibly kept his thoughts away from the massive emotional trauma that clarity brought. For Janus, who was both of Cybertron and of Earth, held memories of nearly everything, there were places in his processors he did not go.

The knowledge on the surface was enough and the answers to his questions came willingly and with ease. He did not have to search through the blank spaces for them. Still, he could recall how historians were amazed and astounded by pieces of broken pottery, the older they were. So he inclined his head, giving Songbird permission to document her discovery.

Songbird lit up with joy, her optics lifting from her pedes, as she inclined her head "Thank you." She turned to the cache Janus had brought her too, happily capturing stills of the different things inside from various angles.

Janus waited patiently tracking her movements as she flitted around pausing from moment to moment as she would randomly stop and peer in utter fascination at one thing or another. She made sure to take careful stills of the place where the weapons had hung, close-ups of the medical portion of the chamber and at the spare parts. She paid close attention to the sparkling baseforms that were halfway hidden by a large shelf stacked with datapads and other needs for a sparkling and any repairs they may need.

The sight alone seemed to depress her and for an instant Janus could see a medic desperately trying to save the life of a sparked-femme while her sparkbonded was despairingly keening at her side. The femme's pedes were mangled beyond belief, energon pouring from fuel-lines at a crippling rate even as her midsection plating was pulled back to expose internal damage. The face of the medic was desperate as he worked to repair her injuries, but it didn't look good. He vented sharply, shuttering his optics and shoving that random little pop up behind his mental barriers and forcefully wrenched his attention to his own sparkling, safe and secure in his hold.

He vented, deep and even as he struggled for a klik to work around the surprisingly powerful emotions tied with the visual image. When he managed to wrestle them to the back of his processor, he returned to watching Songbird finish up taking her stills, while keeping part of his attention on Ironwill. The sparkling was happily amusing himself by rolling around in the sparkling hold as much as he could. It made Janus smile at the innocence that Ironwill had and the simple things he did to entertain himself.

Songbird finished up with her stills and moved back to Janus' side, thanking him again before she transformed, idling as she waited for Janus to join her so they could safely exit the not-so-hidden cache before heading towards Tarn. For it to be necessary for one to go out of their way just to pick up a 'key' to access a cache meant that there had to be something very important in the one they were journeying towards. She kept her curiosity at bay, as her Prime did not appear to be in a speaking mood at the moment. There was a heaviness about him, not of any identifiable emotion, but it was there all the same.

She was quiet though, as Janus transformed, Ironwill whirring as he suddenly found himself in the seat of his Caretaker's altmode. It was a short trip out of the cave and the little one was quickly taken in by the scenery moving as Janus' began the long trek, heading for Tarn.


Songbird comes to a halt as Janus does, transforming at the same moment as her Prime. Unlike last time where he had gone straight up to the entrance, they stopped a ways away from the underground cavern. Songbird had barely taken a step before Janus turned to face her, his optics serious and steady on her as spoke.

"Follow in my pedesteps, as close as you can manage. The perimeter was trapped as well as the cache itself, and I don't want you to get hurt if you accidently set off one of our defense mechanisms."

Songbird stilled, her optics wide as she looked around at the seemingly innocent surroundings. She could see nothing, but she immediately moved to stand in the wake of her Prime, following his pedes as close as she could.

"Why was the perimeter so protected?" she voiced the curiosity in such a way as not to think about what sort of traps she could trigger with a single careless step.

"There used to be a city down there," Janus said softly, nodding towards the underground entrance, "that formed around the cache. It was formed during warring times, and so the perimeter was defended with some of the more dangerous traps in an attempt to keep the people that called the underground city home safe from invaders. Both foreign and domestic. The cache was trapped as well, of course, but this is one of the more dangerous caches to venture inside because of the perimeter traps."

Songbird lifted her optics to Janus for an instant, only just glimpsing the melancholy on his face plates before she brought them back to where she was placing her pedes.

"An entire City?"

She was awed at the idea, wondering at the sheer magnitude of the work to be done to have a whole City, actually underground. Some believed that to go underground was sacred, that only those chosen should enter beneath the plates. That in the olden days, they had actually built a city. Underground. It was astounding.

"Yes," Janus answered, seemingly oblivious to the uniqueness of a city being built under the plates, "they came to the mech that formed the cache, hoping for something. Desperate or simply curious. Many bots came."

Janus wasn't sure where the information he had came from, but he knew it to be true as he spoke without pause. The words fell from his dermas, flowing easily from some distant part of his processors.

"The Prime that formed this particular cache was known to be very old and very kind, a helper of the people no matter their backgrounds. Perhaps it was his intention or perhaps not, but in helping these mechs and femmes without expecting payment, he earned quite a bit of loyalty. When he formed the Cache and hid such an important weapon inside of it, some of those Cybertronians came to him, and they formed places to live around it, in an attempt to add security to his armory."

Janus flicked his optics back at Songbird to make sure she was keeping up with his pace before he took another step and continued, "When the Prime failed to get the people to move, he chose to trap the perimeter in an effort to protect those who chose to defend something of his out of loyalty."

Janus' servo darted back, stopping Songbird as she became distracted for an instant, fascinated by the lost history he shared with such ease.

"Be careful." he commanded her with an edge of steel in his voice, before he began to move forward again.

Songbird kept her optics on her pedes after that, feeling like a disobedient sparkling, as she carefully followed after her Prime.

"I am sorry," she apologized swiftly.

Janus vented a soft sigh of relief as they approached the actual entrance underground. He turned his attention briefly back to the femme, a gentle touch with his energy field to causing her to lift her optics.

"It is alright. We're almost to the safe-zone," he said, his tone encouraging, before turning back to start steadfastly into safety.

It was an area where, when there were bots living in the city, the sparklings could play without fear, protected by their defenses, yet far enough away as to not trigger them. Yet, long ago when everyone had left, he knew there would be no traps in the small section of space. There would have been a hope for some to return, even if it was those who had only heard stories of this place.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the rest of the city. Janus knew that as the bots moved out from this underground city, they would have set up defences as they left. The city itself was a literal minefield of unexpected and barely anticipated danger all around them.

Janus had some knowledge of the devices set up in the city, but not all of them, and he found himself a little impressed with what his sensors were picking up. He was picking up each and every trap, all of them being encoded to transmit a signal over a secure transmissions line for returning bots, though he wasn't sure how he was picking up on it like he was meant to.

He came to a stop in the very center of the sparkling play area, pivoting to Songbird as she came up by his side, handing over Ironwill.

"Do not leave this area," he ordered, trancing the area which remained safe with a digit, outlining the borders slowly, "the rest of the city is trapped heavily beyond this point, a single misstep you could set off explosions at the very least. Do not let Ironwill out of servo range."

Songbird nodded sharply, dipping her helm in assent.

"As you command, Prime."

A queer emotion twinged in his field, but Janus was already turning then to Ironwill, dipping his helm down to press their forehelms together lightly, projecting love and a stern order to obey.

"Do not leave Songbird's side little one," he said gravely, "There are dangers beyond this area I cannot protect you from should you wander."

Ironwill clicked, understanding from the feelings and tone of his caretaker just how serious he was about what he was saying.

"Good," Janus spoke firmly.

The Prime turned away from Songbird and Ironwill, shifting and rearranging his armor for a moment as he took in their surroundings with a careful optic. He knew the cache was further in the underground city, against the back wall and to his left. He was also very aware of exactly how many obstacles he would have to clear to get to the cache. Truly the security that made this place so secure was now a hinderance to him. There was a joke in there somewhere, he figured.

Still, Janus took two quick steps, leaping from his place in the safe-zone, flipping quickly and cleanly to land on an extended servo and push himself over his pedes landing for an instant on the ground. He stilled himself, knowing there were pressure sensitive explosives throughout the ground and it didn't take very much weight for one to detonate.

Unlike the Earth equivalents, which would explode as soon as something triggered it via releasing the pressure, the Cybertronian version had a little trick to it.

Most bots weren't quick or agile enough to use the trick, and so wouldn't set the failsafe into the explosives, and if they were fast enough to manage the trick, they weren't aware of the pattern needed since each set of the explosive laid down had a different pattern that had to be 'tapped' to work as an emergency shutdown.

It wasn't just a matter of knowing where the explosives were, but knowing which pattern they would need to be touched, how long the pressure had to be applied, and which of the explosives would just explode when they were tapped. That wasn't even taking the countdown that started the moment the pattern was started into account, the entire correct sequence having to be pressed before it reached zero or the whole field would explode.

Janus knew the pattern in front of him. The information was all but demanding his attention from his processors.

He knew the place he had placed a servo was free of any explosive at all, and the place his pedes had landed had started the countdown as he 'tapped' two explosives at once for an instant before moving again. It almost looked like a breakdance routine, as two, three and four explosives needed to be pressed at once, some longer than others, forcing Janus to balance on one servo in some places. It vaguely reminded him of Twister, a game he as Sam had only played once.

Two kliks later, Janus was standing outside the minefield of explosives, venting a little harder than normal, having shut down the explosives. He didn't look back as he immediately lunged to the building on his right, scaling the side to pull himself up to the balcony to avoid the collection of traps lining the alley below him. He known at least three of them are lethal if triggered, and would rather not offline. When he reached the end of the balcony, he stepped up in the railing, stretching out to grab the equivalent of a cybertronian streetlight, a reinforced bar shaped to be visually pleasing, crafted to support the acrobats performing routines like what Janus was preparing to launch into.

Sam felt like a gymnast as he snagged his servos around the bar, spinning twice around it. The bar creaked worryingly, but it held under his weight as it was supposed to, and on the third rotation, Janus released his hold on the bar, flying a sizeable distance. He landed on the building to his left, catching himself on another streetlamps, slowing his momentum by allowing himself to spin until he came to a halt. Servo over servo, Janus worked his way to the base of the streetlamp and slid to the ground.

His next steps took him on a zigzagging pattern, avoiding the multiple tripwires, and pressure plates along the way, things that would set off projectile weapons from the walls, explosives, and various other things Janus had absolutely no desire to deal with.

He emerged from the cluster of homes into the central courtyard of the city. It was open with nothing to hide behind, a welcoming place for socializing...except Janus knew the entire thing was trapped in such intricate steps, it was truly amazing. He vented deeply, holding it in parody of a breath for a moment, before he darted across the open space, his pedes gliding across the ground, evenly distributing pressure, as to trick the plates to avoid registering weight. He expertly avoided the multiple traps, and every one of the pressure-explosives in his path. It was designed so that because Janus had no shutdown codes it was necessary to avoid them completely, lest he trip even one.

As he approached the next set of once-homes, he is quick to take a rolling leap through the alleyway as the faintest hint of sound reaches his audio receptors. He feels the displaced air as the projectiles whizz past his form, but none touch his frame thanks to his swift reaction time. He rolls back to his pedes, surging onwards, knowing this next challenge is nothing but a test of speed and reflexes with no actual way to avoid the activation of the traps.

He can't hesitate for even an astrosecond or he'll get caught and there will be no recovery, Janus knows. His stride is ground eating and his optics on a constant swivel as he dips, ducks, rolls, skids and climbs his way through the obstacles. He is fluid, bending, twisting and practically dancing as he continues to the prize that awaits at the end. By the time he makes it to the back wall of the underground cavern, and quickly presses a series of hidden panels to shut down the entire trap field inside the cavern, he's venting hard, trying to help his cooling fans as they work to bring his core temperature back down.

Janus leans against the wall for a moment, not moving, before he presses his servo flat to the wall, digging the tips of his digits into the wall. He feels as his digits slip into the right place, and he twists his entire arm, up to his shoulder plates, to the left a half turn. The wall clicks, aged machines flaring to life, and Janus turns his servo, digits still gripping the hidden locking mechanism, three-quarters to the right, a quarter turn left and then a full turn to the left again before he presses down.

The locking mechanism clicks and Janus releases his hold as the lock seems to spin and collapse into itself, coming apart to reveal what a hole sized correctly enough for a his arm. Janus reaches in without fear, stretching until his digits encounter a wall, where he finds another concealed lock. Unlike the last one, this device requires something else to work it. Janus easily brings the talons he had taken from the last cache out of his subspace. He twists his servo until his palm faces up and slides the talons into the next lock, twisting it to the right one half turn and then left for a quarter turn before pressing down on it. Once he feels it slot into place, he pulls his arm back out of the hole, and watches as the wall seems to split open, revealing the cache Janus had remembered was there.

This one has a small amount of first aid supplies, various throwing weapons, and a large selection of what Janus recognizes as the cybertronian equivalent of furs, usually used to create nests in the wandering days as a replacement for berths. Before they left, the former residents must have taken most of the supplies, although they recognized the need for that weapon to remain lost.

It's that which holds Janus' attention. The Prime's focus is on the sword mounted to the back wall and for an instant Janus swears he could remember holding it once long before. It takes up a great deal of space, so very ancient, radiating its own presence.

"The Matrix Blade…"

Janus approached cautiously, extending his servo towards the hilt and stilling before he actually touched it. He knows better than to touch anything with the title of 'Matrix' without permission, regardless if he holds the Matrix of Leadership in his spark. As if it could have sensed his thoughts, there's an instant where Janus can feel the weight of an ancient gaze turned onto him, the pressure that pulsed from the sword, and he knows he is being judged.

For a moment, Sam rises to the front, furious and seething and deeply annoyed. The interfering behaviors of higher beings associated with Cybertronians seem to concentrate on him. In all his lives.

He can feel the Matrix of Leadership he holds stir and stretch, waking from sleep and reaching for the sword. Janus is still as the weapon seems to spark to life, shaking the mega-vorns of inactivity off in an instant, shining brightly with power. A sense of welcome-acceptance projects itself into his mind.

Janus completes the motion he began, wrapping his servo around the hilt of the Matrix Blade, pulling it in one smooth movement from the wall. It's a heavy blade. He can feel it weighing on him. Not in the sense of weight as in physical, but in it's importance and significance, it's a burden to be carried. The Allspark knowledge in his processor stirs, and Janus stills.

This is a blade that has seen beginnings and endings, a blade meant for things of importance, not one to be used as a lesser sword would be. A destiny, an oath, a vow, life and death in harmony, intentions and spirit. It all spirals across his awareness. Janus dips his helm in acknowledgement, lifting the sword up to his back so that the hilt is on the opposite shoulder as the Rhisling Sword would be, should it be worn at the same time. Once it magnetizes into place, he activates his subspacing protocols and puts the sword away. He spends a klik checking to make sure everything had worked as it should, double checking nothing gets in the way when he's using the Rhisling Sword as well.

Once everything is subspaced and properly put away, Janus turns away from the cache and rolls his shoulders before he heads back towards Songbird and Ironwill, pondering which of the caches they should visit next. There are many and each holds their own treasures and priceless artifacts from history. They hold no significance to him, but to Songbird who listens to the history of her planet with such a light in her optics. They mean something to her. Would mean something to Optimus who has spent so long before he was a Prime as an archivist...and Janus had promised to share the histories with Optimus and his pack. It would harm nothing to gather as much as he could in the timeframe he had given to Jazz.

Janus' dermas lift in a smile as he approaches the sparkling play area to find Songbird playing a servo-game with Ironwill, who is diligently staying at her side as Janus had asked. He projects praise-pride-adoration along his bond to the sparkling, and is rewarded as the little one's optics snap up and straight to him with a happy coo.

He brushed gratitude-accomplishment over Songbird's emotive field as he approached.

"I have finished with the cache here," he spoke calmly as he liberated his sparkling from Songbird's arms when the little one reached for Janus with his tiny servos, "And as it is early still, I thought we could continue on to our next destination, a city called Uraya."

Songbird easily nodded her agreement, gently releasing Ironwill to her Prime.

Janus took the lead, opening his spark chambers to allow Ironwill to curl up in his warmth. He takes a moment to glance at Songbird, to ascertain her position and to subtly encourage her, before stepping forward. He kept his stride even and short, allowing her to keep close as he lead the way out of the underground city. Songbird was a step behind him, taking stills of the city as they walked, excitement and awe vivbrating off her frame. Janus cannot help but smile softly, keeping his pace slow and steady to allow Songbird to do so.

He clears the exit first, some lingering urge of caution present in his processors even as his optics continue scanning the area in time with his scanners. Regardless how advanced his sensors were, he knew better than to rely on them entirely. He kept Songbird in his peripheral vision even as she continued to take her stills of the underground city. He is careful to trace his path out of the city exactly as he had come in, staying near the entrance so Songbird will see him immediately without any need to wander. The killswitch he had triggered only shut down the traps in the city itself, leaving all the perimeter traps intact and just as dangerous, varied, and lethal as they had been when he came in.

He leaves his sparkling chamber partially open as he waits, playing servo-games with Ironwill as his own little servos dart out in random attempts to catch Janus' own. Normally, it would amuse him, lead him to relax and enjoy the moment. Unfortunately, the situation is much too dangerous for Janus to allow himself to lower his guard. It takes a few breems for Songbird to come out of the cavern, her optics alight with the joy of a new discovery, and gratitude on her dermas. Janus does not wait to hear them, already beginning to lead the way out, towards Uraya, listening as Songbird shares what she has seen.

He understands her need to rant about it. He remembers the times as Sam when he had, what Miles had dubbed a 'geek out', over some show, or celebrity. Of course, this was back before his life had become some sci-fi action flick and he had been too busy freaking out over 'why me's and 'Oh, God, I don't wanna die's' to worry about still (hopefully) fictional things, or people not in his immediate circle. He ignores the grief and the part of him that misses the people who don't exist and won't for a very long time, forcibly turning his attention from his memories.

And then Songbird gasps, the sound almost obscuring a soft noise, the volume just being loud enough to reach Janus' audidials. There is no time, there are warnings screaming in his head and he doesn't need to stop and analyse the situation, he already knows.

Janus' frame is moving even as his processor locks onto the sound, running calculations to determine where exactly it originated from, even as a long-ago memory telling him exactly what pressure-plate Songbird has just accidently triggered. He braces himself, moving without hesitation even though he knows, knows this is going to hurt, but because it's Songbird and he's not going to let anyone die when he can do something.

Everything that happens next is frame-by-frame for Janus, even as barely three astroseconds pass, and everything is happening so fast. It's less conscious thought and more instinct, but there's a sound beating a steady beat in his processors and his decision is already made.

One.

His sparkling chamber is opening, and a servo is reaching for Ironwill even as the other snatches Songbird by the scruff-bar. He uses every last ounce of strength he has and whirls on his heel, knowing he only has astroseconds, not enough time to get himself out of the way, and he throws Songbird even as he shoves a panicking sparkling into her arms, urging his sparkling chamber to shut as soon Ironwill is clear. There is no hesitation, he has no regrets, even if this kills him, but for a moment, there is a stillness and he can see.

Two.

Songbird is tumbling behind him, curled protectively around the Ironwill and making no attempts to brace herself through the crash landing- he had thrown her harder than he meant to in his attempt to get her clear of the area of effect- and Janus knows he's too slow even as the trap finishes triggering. Ironwill is panicking, afraid and confused, but his optics are shielded by Songbird's frame so that he won't see.

The stillness ends, the calm in the storm passes and time moves on.

Three.

There's a flash of high-intensity light, searing the delicate wires in his optics, forcing them to reboot and Janus is staggering back from the area of origin, his armor rattling despite coiled lines and pulled in plates.

He doesn't have the time. It's instinctive as he slams down on the bond he shares with Ironwill as fully as he can without damage while he can still manage it, dimming the connection between himself and Songbird as much as he can while he's at it. He would not cause them indirect suffering through his own.

His sparkling chamber- so very close to his spark- is still partially open when the cloud of dense fog-like acid hits him, just as he had known it would. His optics have rebooted so he can see clearly, and there is nothing that he can do that he has not already done. He simply watches as the acid hits his frame.

It is agony.

Janus couldn't have stopped the wail of pain if he had tried as the acid burns wires, melting exposed parts of his frame, fusing bits and pieces together that should not be, slipping into sensitive places and continuing to burn away even as the cloud of acid disperses, its purpose fulfilled. There are voices in his head in the first instances, of people, both Cybertronians and humans and some he can put faces and names and some are like dust in the wind. His processors are overloading and he cannot think.

Janus dropped like an asteroid, landing heavily on his knees, his pedes losing all feeling and collapsing under him, involuntary keens tearing their way out of his throat. He folds over himself, servos hovering over his chassis with an intense urge to cradle the worst of his wounds, the only thing stopping him being the dim knowledge that touching the acid would only spread the burning agony to his servos. His vents are fast and stuttered, deep and short, choked as he tries to 'breathe through the pain', his entire frame shuttering.

Ironwill is keening, loud and terrified, panicking that his Caretaker had shut him out. He is horrified that Caretaker was curled over himself and screaming, that the femme Caretaker entrusted him to when he could not be there was hurt, and that he had no idea what had happened.

And still, Janus chokes on his screams even as Songbird scrambled up to her pedes, staggering at the pain before forcibly shoving it aside. She can barely think past the sound of Janus's pain, the unending wail ripping itself from his intake. Songbird was not trained for any of this, she has no idea what she can do, but she knows that she's the only one who can do something. Since she had no knowledge of the danger in the immediate vicinity, she makes sure to carefully kneel next to her Prime, even as he shudders and shakes and screams.

"Ironwill," she speaks and the designation barely catches the sparkling's attention so she repeats it until he turns to warble fearfully at her.

"Don't let go," she tells him, guiding his frame to her shoulder plates, "You cannot touch the ground, so don't let go."

She hates herself in that moment looking at his energon-stained face and the terror engulfing his frame, but she can't spare any more time to comfort him. Songbird reaches into her subspace for the med-kit Janus has given her barely a cycle ago and cracks it open. She doesn't have a chance to do anything beyond that before Janus gives one last wail of agony and goes still.

With panic and desperation slamming into her spark, her servos shot forward to roll her Prime onto his back plate, even as she upturned the kit, looking for something to stop the spread of acid. The site of Janus's chestplates, his spark chamber, the way the designs are erased from his frame at the point of impact, makes her vents cease working. A keen works it way up her throat, but she doesn't allow herself to falter. She frantically searches for something to nullify the acid that continues to eat through her Prime frame and when her digits brush again a canister with the symbol of acid crossed over with the glyph for 'used against', she nearly cries.

It takes a moment, a moment too long as she skims the instructions, turning the nozzle, only to rip it off and upend the entirety of the container onto Janus's chestplates. She makes sure that the liquid goes in all the places the acid touched, but before she empties the bottle, her Prime jackknifes into a sitting position.

The sound that leaves his dermas is haunting, resonating with aguish and painpainpain. Songbird automatically extends her arms to place her servos against his shoulder plates, but Janus flinched away from her, curling into his chest, in a futile attempt of protection. The sizzling bite of acid eating through metal is thankfully absent, so she knows that no more damage is being caused. Beyond what has already occurred.

Songbird isn't a medic, she doesn't know anything about acid injuries, beyond that of the natural acid that falls occasionally, yet that would only harm if one stood in a constant flow for many vorns. But when her Prime's digits start pulling at his frame in the burned, twisted and warped places, even she knows that's a bad idea.

"Janus, Janus stop!"

Her only response is another wail, a keen of hurt before he forcefully stifled it. Songbird can only stare in horror as her Prime clamps down on his screams, stills and turns his optics to her. What kind of agony has he experienced that he is still able to retain higher levels of processor function? She doesn't want to know, doesn't even want to think about it, because this would have offlined her in a very unpleasant way, this would have ended her and Janus is regaining his functions willfully and by force.

"I-injur-ed?"

The word is barely recognizable, as Janus almost skips the first sound and grits out the second only to draw out the third, but Songbird already knows the first question he's going to ask. So she steels herself and instead of yelling at him, she as calmly as she can manage, answers him.

"I am fine, Janus Prime," she whispers, pausing a moment to let the sparkling warble his own assurance, "we are both fine."

There was a moment's stillness before Janus partially relaxes and Songbird's spark aches because she can't feel anything from him, not from the bond, not even from his energy field. Nothing. It was a void to her own field and she couldn't stifle a low, long keen as she stared at him.

He dragged his gaze up, his attempts to speak beyond the one word halting and painful, so she stops him.

"Janus, there is nothing and no one here who can help you. I don't know what to do."

Those last words slip out from her dermas, but they're true and there's nothing she can do about that, not when she knows, there's nothing to be done.

Primus, please.

She doesn't phrase a request of anything, simply a wordless plea. She doesn't know what to do, but she stops and starts in surprise because Janus is reaching up his arm, a single digit extended and before she can move, he jabbed it right between her optics with astonishing force. Barely a nano-klik later and information is downloading into her processors.

It's the layout of the still activated traps beyond this point. It's a map to the nearest city, it's paths and trails, roads and instructions. It's an order and a demand and she doesn't keep back her keens, grabbing Janus's servo with her own even as Ironwill crawls down to worriedly place his own tiny servo against both theirs.

There is a surprising strength as Janus pushes against them, even as his arm goes limp and he slumps over. Songbird catches him as best she can even with the height difference and stands to her pedes to pull him away from the splattered remains of the acid. Gently and with care, but she still catches involuntary motions of pain before they reach a small area of safety.

He is heavy, so heavy there is no chance of her lifting him and carrying the mech any length of distance. Not with her shorter frame, not with her strength. It's impossible and there's only one option and if he's going to survive there's nothing else she can do-

She lowered his body to the ground, her servos hovering over the horrific damage and his limp frame, before squaring her shoulder plates and standing to her pedes once more. She turned on her heel struts, clamping her intake shut as she marched away from the fallen form of her Prime. Ironwill chirped, warbles and keened in distress, in confusion, attempting to throw himself away from her reaching for his Caretaker, but Songbird pulled him up in front of her face plates.

"We're going to get help. I need you to be brave and come with me," she said, determination and desperate pleading in her tones.

The sparkling stared at her in silence, before slumping down, wailing softly and shaking in her grasp. Songbird placed him into her sparkling hold. It was small- she was almost too small herself to have one- but Ironwill was so young, he was tiny, and he would fit for the duration of their travel- leaving the darkness of a once shining city. She picked up her pace once the map Janus had given her showed a clear path. She lunged into the air, coming down shifting and changing into her alt-mode, engaging her force field to the highest setting, maximized for speed as she shot off back towards Simfur, thanking Primus that Tarn was so close.


Jazz was curious at the departure of the old/new Prime. The Prime who was very old, ancient even, but that no one knew, therefore he was new.

He was a mystery, and Jazz had never been able to resist those. He stuck close to Simfur for two reasons alone, the first being that Optimus needed him. His Prime was new to being the Leader of Cybertron, for all that he had shadowed the once-Sentinel. At this moment, Optimus was the top. The one the others looked to, and Jazz was his eyes and ears amongst the people. The one that they would not see, and so would be honest around.

The second reason was the Vow the New-Old-Prime had given to him, his voice ringing with power and promise. He would come back- so Jazz would stay in Simfur, he would wait, and he would learn when the Prime returned.

That didn't mean that he wouldn't ask around, prod conversations towards the Prime in an effort to gather information without leaving Simfur. That he wouldn't pay attention to every swell and turn in the people, searching, listening to their whispers, following the trails, the hints that lead to the big picture.

This careful attention he paid to the people, meant that he was the first to hear the whispers rippling inwards from the outskirts. That he was the one to hear of a femme, frantic and injured, rushing through the city.

A femme that sounded very much like Janus Prime's High Priestess.

So of course Jazz had to go looking.


When the horizon broke with the mass of buildings, beautiful works of glimmering art and the looming walls that encircled the city, Songbird nearly keened in relief. She put on a burst of speed, ignoring the burn in her tanks and the pain in her spark at the thought of Janus suffering alone in an abandoned city. Long forgotten to history and maybe even any living memory save for Janus's. If Songbird didn't find someone to help her, if she didn't find someone trustworthy Janus would die.

She wasn't going to allow that, surely Primus would guide her, Janus was beloved, Janus was Prime. She had to have faith.

She barreled into Simfur, transforming with such speed her injuries protested and she stumbled and almost fell. Luckily she caught herself, ignoring the attention her actions and appearance gained, forcing herself to break out into a sprint.

She staggered the first couple of steps before sheer momentum kept her going. Her optics lifted to stare towards the heart of the city, towards the Temple. She prayed Bumblebee was there, for he could lead her to Optimus.

Optimus would help her.


Jazz stilled, optics fixed on the femme. It was Songbird, that he was certain of. Those sigils marking her as a High Priestess were hard to miss and she wasn't doing a thing to hide them. It didn't take but a nano-klik more to figure out why.

She was frantic, injured, and panicking. Her servo was pressed over her chassis protectively, her frame dented, broken, scratched. Energon was leaking from her fuel lines, the dark blue liquid dripping down her cables.

Multiple high impacts wit somethin' sturdy. Sizes ah th' impacts are many, and varied. Torn lines, energon on 'er frame...No Prime.

Som'thin' happened. An attack?

Jazz moves quickly through the crowd, easily finding his way to the Priestess' side. That fact that she didn't notice his presence, regardless of his somewhat small size, speaks volumes on how far she's come in her condition.

"Songbird! Wha' happened?"

Songbird whips around, the relief nearly overwhelming her as she cries out, her emotions field overwhelming in its relief, terror and despair, all jumbled up and agitated.

"Jazz! Jazz, oh thank Primus, please. I need your help, he's hurt and I couldn't carry him, I was too weak, I had to abandon him there and I don't know how much time he has left, but I don't know what I'm doing he needs help!"

It takes Jazz a klik to figure out what she's saying, the high speed babble rushes out of her so quickly, her words shoving into one another. The constant barrage of strong emotion takes a bit to push past too, so he pauses and takes in everything he can see, the words Songbird has just spoken and all the current information he has.

His optics widen when the pieces click and he understands. What in Primus' name could have injured Janus Prime, who had stood on even ground with Sentinel, so badly that he could not even walk? Jazz may not be the medic in their little family, but that speaks to him of severe wounds, paralysing and borderline fatal.

"Where is he? His status?"

His words are sharp, enunciated fully as he tenses, his attention narrowing down to the femme in front of him even as he pulls up his communication lines. As of his last known position and intent, Ratchet should be in the presence of Prime and Megatron, going over some policy changes Optimus had wanted to push through due to the sudden positive opinion of himself. He wouldn't answer the first ping, but he should on the second.

"We were near Tarn," Songbird begins, her words still desperate and hurried, but they're clearly heard now, "There were traps, defenses for the city, and I was careless I made a mistake, I triggered one and Janus saved me and Ironwill. There wasn't enough time to save all three of us so he chose to sacrifice himself. There was acid and he was screaming, and he has spark damage Jazz."

Jazz curses vehemently, his choices sharp and varied as he whirls away from the High Priestess, the femme following sharply on his heel struts, despite the wounds to her person. He would slow his pace, but time is going by and he's still on the first ping on Ratchet's comms and it's going to be another klik before he can place another one. He pulls up another screen, aiming for Ironhide, knowing the weapon's master would be training Bumblebee sometime this solar cycle.

"Ironhide," the mech's voice is brisk and precise as he answers the ping to Jazz's eternal relief.

Jazz speaks quickly, knowing time is of the essence "Ah need ya ta go ta th' nearest gate an' head towards Tarn. We have work tha' needs doin'. Ah'll meet ya on th' way and explain."

Before he disconnects, he gives one last request.

"Bring 'Bee."

His pedes skid under him as he darts around a corner. Ratchet isn't picking up his pings, which leaves Jazz to his own devices. If Ratchet can't come to Janus, Jazz will bring Janus to Ratchet...and to do that he needs a larger mech than himself- like Ironhide.

He needs to get to Tarn.

Songbird scrambles after the smaller mech, her injuries screaming at her, but her determination is unwavering. Janus's life is depending on her action, on her ability to get him to a medic, either directly or indirectly. She will not fail him. Ironwill is still in her hold, safe and still chirping for her attention, worried and insistent. The terrified sounds touch her spark, but there's nothing she can do that she's not already doing, so she forces herself to ignore him for the moment.

When the mech suddenly veers away from his original destination, headed towards the gates, she knows he's headed for Tarn. She also knows her injuries would slow her down too much to go with him, not when Janus was so injured, not when every astrosecond counted.

"Jazz!" she shouts, her voice strong and demanding even as she rushes after him, barely avoiding crashing into him as he just barely stops.

"Take these, and whatever you do- be careful."

She clasps a servo to his shoulder, establishing a temporary link to send him the files Janus had given her, the ones that showed the safest path from their current location, and laid out the entire perimeter including every trap within it. She takes a moment to mark the place she had placed Janus before cutting the connection. Her knee joints threaten to give out, but she locks them in place and stares at the mech she barely knows. She is trusting him, placing the life of her Prime into his servos.

Jazz accepts the files, one part of his processor intensely impressed with sheer scope and variety of the traps marked out on the map, while the rest of his processor is already working out the best way to get himself and Ironhide though the traps, and then how they will get out with a critically injured mech of Janus' size without tripping any of the dangers around them. His optics meet Songbird's straight on, his voice powerful and full of a determined promise as he speaks,

"We will bring 'im back."


Bumblebee manages to dodge a sweep from Ironhide's legs, but the backservo connects and he slams into the ground with a small cry of pain. His optics shutter, taking in the distinctly unimpressed stare that Ironhide is giving him from so far away. He instantly knows that the weapons' master and his current teacher read that thought right from his processors because the mech's dermas stretch into a grin. Then, with deliberate slowness, he reaches, reaches all the way down to hold out a servo, his digits wiggling enticingly.

"Come on, little mechling, don't pout. You'll get the hang of this...in a vorn or two."

The barely teasing comment was ruined by the menacing stance that came to Ironhide naturally. Still, Bumblebee shot a discreet glare at his instructor as he accepted his servo and allowed himself to be pulled onto his pedes. He winced at the brief spike of pain that accompanied his rough ascent, but quickly locked down his energy field so that it didn't project his current emotions.

Going by the sideways look Ironhide shot him, he probably managed it, but his facial plates were too expressive. He vented gustily before taking up his stance once more, only to stop as his instructor seemed to be distanced from his instructing.

"Ironhide."

Bee is tempted to lunge at his distracted teacher, and for a nano-klik he almost does. But Ironhide straightens and the ease and what could be called gentleness the mech had displayed in their training lessons is instantly wiped away and replaced with the serious visage of a warrior on a mission.

Although he is disappointed, because he had been both looking forward to and dreading his time with Ironhide, he knows that when the mech adopts that look, there is a situation that needs to be taken care of. However, it's only when that expression shifts just the tiniest bit, perhaps in surprise, that Bumblebee thinks that maybe this one emergency is different from the rest.

There's a beat in his head, strong and unwavering. It's been with him almost the entire solar cycle and he's kept steadily ignoring it. Yet when Ironhide turns to him, his optics bright and his face grim, Bee feels as if his balance stabilizers have been tampered with.

There's is something wrong. He suddenly knows this, with startling clarity and every reaction, every minute distraction that has put him off this cycle, clicks in his processors. He doesn't wait for Ironhide's explanation, although going by the short conversation, it was more of a set of directions, he's turning and moving and sprinting for the exit.

"We have to hurry!"

Time passes, is passing, will pass. Cycle after cycle and the world spins on. Cybertronians live and die and still time passes on and Bee can suddenly feel every fleeting moment and he cannot control his venting because there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed before something breaks and shatters.

Regardless of Ironhide's advanced experience or his height, Bumblebee is smaller and faster. There are paths he can go that only a bot his size can get through. Jazz had shown him and there is no hesitation in his steps when he uses them, completely ignoring his teacher, only to shout out,

"I'll meet you there!"

He doesn't listen to any reply that may have been given because he knows that Songbird is waiting at the end of his journey. She's in distress, the Song tells him so. The sparkling of the Prime is there, he can sense him, but the Prime, the Prime is missing, and the beats in his processor drown out all the noise around him. He can hear the Singing and the Song and a phantom pain ghosts gently over his spark.

He doesn't dare stop even as Jazz pops up on his sensors, only leaping over a much too slow bot, using them as a springboard to gain enough height to grab onto the building in his path and scramble up it. He doesn't know the sight he must make, running through Simfur like Unicron is on his heels, his sigils blueblueblue and a processor devoted to the beat only he can hear.

Its with a jarring lurch that he comes to a stop, his jump from the rooftop of some building putting an abrupt end to his travel. He can see it now. The Song was Singing and he can see why, he knows the reasons and the causes and as the femme's knees give out, he's right there to catch her and ease her down.

Songbird is injured. Not heavily, not presently life-threatening, but they are of some concern, especially considering they've been agitated and made worse than those originally inflicted. There are spots of acid burns on her knees, which is why they gave out. The running had deepened the holes the acid had made into her frame, but it appeared that the worst injury she had was the damage to her back and side plating.

Then Jazz is there, reaching for him and all of a sudden, sound crashes in on his world. The hum and buzz of city life, the commotions and conversations of the curious Cybertronians around them and Bumblebee almost flinches from the volume. But Jazz is there and he's demanding an answer to his questions.

"What?"

"Where is Ironhide?" Jazz repeats the question, ignoring the pulsing blue of Bee's sigils.

"I took a shortcut," Bee explained, most of his attention focused on the exhausted femme in his arms, "He shouldn't be far behind."

Songbird's servos shoot up to her spark chamber and for a horrifying moment, both Jazz and Bee wonder if the spark-damage dealt to Janus Prime had also affected the High Priestess. Their worry was eased, for at the click-clack of parts and plates shifting and moving that signaled the opening of a spark-chamber, they both relaxed and discreetly averted their gaze. Ironwill was scooped out and placed on Songbird's lap as the femme vented heavily and choked back a barely audible keen. The sparkling was scrambling about, jerking his helm this way and that, searching, no doubt, for his Caretaker.

Bumblebee, knowing exactly where this was going to lead, gently grabbed Ironwill and brought him closer to the brilliant blue of his own spark and the still shining sigils. The sparkling didn't bursts into shrieks and wails, but he remained agitated, although to a lesser degree as he felt the familiar power of the AllSpark. When the little one twisted his helm to stare up into Bee's optics, stumbling out a questioning chirp that ended with a waver in his tones.

There was power running through him, and there was nothing and everything and he gently placed a single digit on Ironwill's helm and spoke with a rasp of other.

"Fear not, little one," Bee whispers as loud as a shout, "your Caretaker is an (to-hold-the-sky-upon-your-shoulders) Atlas. The weight he carries is heavy enough to crush him, but still he stands, with untold strength. Even as enemies and forgotten memories alike seek to destroy him, Janus Prime will fight until he has won, no matter the cost."

Ironwill is calm now. Gazing at him with acceptance and the beginnings of understanding. He is young, a sparkling yes, but so very perceptive. But Bumblebee is not just speaking as himself, he is relaying the words that shine from his spark, from his sigils, from the AllSpark which gave him life.

The mission to calm the sparkling down is complete, but now Bee can feel the beginnings of panic stirring because he's never done this before. Dear Primus, the AllSpark is stretching out and Singing and the Song is endless always a beginning, never ending and any other time, any other cycle, but this is a moment in his life where he can't. He's a Sensitive, more so than any sparkling documented that has been sparked since Primus-knows.

He can feel it, the barest traces that guided him so easily, the trickle that became a stream, a river and an ocean in the distance. Always and forever, endings that are simply beginnings in disguise, time passing, the world turning, and life going on and it's beautiful. It's not to last, there is work to be done and right now he has to care for Ironwill and Songbird, waiting until Janus Prime is returned to Simfur.

That was the moment that Ironhide showed up.


Jazz stares at Bee in something like reverence, as he had been for an instant and an eternity, been more.

"Get 'er ta Ratchet."

Jazz issues the command, switching mental gears even as he turns towards the gates. He knows Ratchet is busy- something had prevented him from answering the second ping Jazz had sent- but he gives the command anyway. He'll leave it to Bee.

Ironhide stares at Bumblebee for a moment as well, optics scanning over the injured femme and the sparkling she holds, before he rushes after the small silver mech that had called him.

"Status?" he barks the question, frame tense and ready as he tries to figure out what could possibly have happened to cause the absence of Janus Prime.

Ironhide may have been wary, cautious about the Prime, but he had always been able to identify protectors. Those bots who would stand in front of their own, who would not bend or break before them, who were vicious in the defense of their people. It was part of what made him wary of Janus Prime. Those who were protectors had no care for the status of those who threatened their own- they would face any and all of them down without regret and handle the consequences after they were sure of the status of their own. Ironhide had had a feeling about Janus on sight, and when he had faced down Sentinel without hesitation on behalf of his he had proven it.

So the fact he was not here, not with the femme the Prime considered his, was a warning sign in and of itself. The only reason Ironhide could come up with that would prevent Janus Prime from being with Songbird while she was injured and carrying his sparkling was that he couldn't be.

Jazz and Ironhide peel away from the gates barreling towards Tarn, as he answers the weapons' specialist.

"Janus Prime chose ta protect th' femme an' th' sparklin' when she triggered a trap an' he had ta chose. Songbird was injured, but th' Prime took th' brunt of th' acid to protect th' other two. Songbird reported spark damage. He's down, an' she couldn't carry 'im. Ratchet isn't answerin' meh, so we gotta brin' 'im ta Ratchet."

"Unicron above me." Ironhide breathes.

Acid to the spark?

Ironhide pours on the speed, knowing they had not an astrosecond to spare.


Janus is drifting.

Run Sam! We'll cover you!

Memories stir, and voices call, voices that couldn't be with him.

You hold the key to Earth's survival.

And all the while, there is agony.

Janus! Have you seen-

I love you.

Janus, I swear to Primus, I will tie you down with my whip. Don't think I won't!

Voices he doesn't know, and yet his spark aches. Throbs in his chassis in a way that has nothing to do with physical pain.

Where did you put my boomerang Janus?

His voice, exasperated yet amused, scolding people he can't place.

What made the cavern seem like a good place to practice with unstable chemicals? I thought we discussed this the last time.

Flashes of places he recognizes and still more that he doesn't.

Green trees, stretching around him.

The ocean bright and large, reaching into the horizon.

A metallic cavern, a nest of soft almost velvet metal that acted as cybertronian furs taking up the center of it, much too large for just one mech.

The Lookout.

Metal mountains stretching above his frame.

An aerial view of Cybertron, plains of metal stretching before him, the sounds of thrusters in his ears, mixing with his whoops of utter glee.

When you get trapped, cornered with no way to escape, it's better to have multiple weapons on hand Sam.

Janus are you ready to practice?

You left me no choice, brother.

Janus, hurry up! The Gathering, the Song is going to start!

Janus, we'll be fine, go ahead.

I love you, Sam, I love you.

Leave us! Janus, go! Go!

No...no sacrifice, no vic...tory, right...Janus…?

Emotions stir, pain, loss, regret, determination...

The unrelenting agony of the acid throbs, a strange familiarity in the pain even as it threatened to push him over the edge that he clings to with sheer stubborn will. He. Will not. Fail.

"Janus!"

For a klik, Janus is sure it's another voice in echoing in his helm, another memory, a ghost of an enemy, a friend, of a bot that should be dust in starlight, stirred from their rest.

And then a servo clamps onto his shoulder, hauling him from the ground. Every memory of unwanted servos settling on his frame surges forward, vivid and present in his processors, and he can't move.

Janus doesn't register the gentle way in which he is handled. It doesn't register that he knows these bots, only that he is hurt, he is alone, laying out in the open, and somebody is touching him. He is helpless and defenseless, his servos are empty, he is injured and he knows this. But he does not accept it.

A snarl pulls itself from his vocalizer, dermas pulled back in a feral warning as he twists himself free of the hold. He ignores the way his chassis burns, the way his processor screams at him to shut down into stasis, but he refuses and forces his frame to obey his demands. A servo lashes out, much quicker than should be possible with his injuries, slamming full force into Ironhide's chassis. The large mech staggers back and Janus is quick to follow through, dipping down and slinging a pede at Ironhide's ankles.

He crashes onto his back-plates, his reactions slow and mostly defensive, but Janus is lunging forward, the talons equipped from subspace and pulled back, ready to sink them without mercy into the mech below him.

"Janus, no! Primus mech, stop! It's fine, it's okay! You're fi-safe, you're safe we're not gonna hurt you! Songbird sent us! We're going to get you to a medic!"

Jazz rushes to speak, accent absent as he darts around Ironhide's fallen form to stop Janus from completing the kill-strike he had been in the process of taking. He had been completely blindsided by the amount of strength and speed the severely wounded Prime had exerted through pure will alone. Jazz is uncertain if he could get Janus down. He knows that if the mech was in good health he would stand no chance in a faceplate-to-faceplate fight, but he's injured. Maybe, Jazz could take him, on a slim chance and by the grace of Primus, but without further hurting him?

No chance. Fortunately, the situation doesn't come to that. Janus stills, the tips of his fancy-looking talons just barely scraping Ironhide's vulnerable throat cables.

"Son- Song...bird?"

He barely gets the designation out, but it's important so he forces himself, despite the pain, in defiance of all the warning glyphs flashing across his vision. He turns, and it is only then that he realizes who it is that stands in front of him.

Jazz. The bot is the same silver as the one he had once known, for such a brief time. He's shorter, much shorter than even Bumblebee, especially compared to his current height. He's got the same visor and although his frame style is different, more Cybertronian, less Earthian design. But it's undoubtedly Jazz.

So he focuses, demanding his sight to clarify and his optics drift down right into a very familiar face. Ironhide, it's Ironhide, whole and alive, his spark just barely seen through the cracks of his armor and oh, he could weep. Look what he's done. He wrenches himself backwards, subspacing the talons and hissing with pain as his chassis pulls. His frame sways, betraying his weakness, but his thoughts are filled with the dying words of his once-friend.

"S-Sorry. Didn't...rec...ognize," he bites out.

He doesn't have much time. He's pushed it too far, there's no more strength he can draw from anywhere. He can't force it any longer. His optics shutter, and he tilts sideways.

Ironhide's servo is quick to stop his descent, his voice rumbling with a comforting tone in an attempt to reassure.

"Easy," the weapon's master soothes, pushing himself up to compensate for the difference between height.

Sam recognizes it for the tone Ironhide had used when a mech came back from an mission particularly injured. It's been so long, but he can remember. That's the tone that Ironhide uses to communicate 'you're safe. Relax. We've got you'. Janus cannot help his reaction and he relaxes in response, a choked off keen escaping him as the cybertronian equivalent of adrenaline fades and the agony of his wounds becomes more pronounced.

His vision is fading. He can't keep control of his functions, they're unresponsive... he can't move his limbs.


Ironhide expects the Prime to be in stasis by the time they get to him. He's exceedingly careful to follow exactly in Jazz's pede-steps, not wanting to set any other traps off. Fortunately it wasn't long before they came upon the area marked on the map Jazz was transfered, his optics landing on and fixating on the still form of the Prime.

Part of his processor is listening as Jazz finally gets through to Ratchet, following their conversation. The rest is focused on their surroundings and on the probably stasis-locked Prime.

Rachet! Thank Primus, finally!

Jazz. What on Cybertron did you need to ping me 36 times for? I was in the middle of an important meeting. Ratchet sounded exasperated over the comm, but there was an edge of both worry and irritation.

Songbird came back ta th' city injured- Bee should beh lookin' fer ya actually- but she reported Janus Prime had suffered severe injuries an' was unable ta be moved by 'er.

You should see this.

Ironhide joins in the conversation with his usual abruptness, staring at the unresponsive crumpled form of the Prime as they approached his frame. Ironhide reaches out, gently setting a servo in preparation to move his form to get a better look at his injuries. He can see the impact radius just a few steps away, as well as the drag marks. There is a heavy scent in this vicinity that pushes his vents up another notch.

He's not responding to touch, we think he has spark damage Ratchet. I don't- Ironhide cuts himself off, completely shocked and appalled as the Prime who had been so silent and still suddenly explodes into rapid motion.

The open-servo strike connects solidly with his chassis, and Ironhide staggers back, his servo that had pulled the Prime up to his pedes instantly releasing him. Janus takes complete advantage of his shock, a pede lashing out at his ankles and Ironhide goes down hard. He wouldn't expect any bot to be online, much less capable of an attack after taking acid to such a vulnerable place, and as such he was not prepared for one.

As the Prime lunges to follow up on his takedown, Ironhide is lifting his servos, knowing he will be too slow, respect and admiration blooming to life at the warrior that resides in this mech, even as he vaguely worries of the Prime's state. There is no deathblow though, because Jazz is there.

The silver mech's voice is echoing oddly to Ironhide's audials as he hears him physically and over the comm line, still transmitting to Ratchet. Reassurances and denials of hostility are falling from his dermas as quickly as he can speak them, his familiar accent absent in his urgency. But, it's only when the name of the Prime's High Priestess is spoken that he sees the fog of adrenaline and battle clear from Janus Prime's optics.

Ironhide is a little bit awed as the mech immediately stills his momentum despite his injuries, feeling as the blades that are just barely grazing his throat cables freeze in their current position before slowly retreating. He calms himself by analysing what the brief glimpses of the weapon attached to the Prime's servos are. Cat's Claws are typically used by turbo-cats and these are not the right size, so the bewildering alternative…

Seeker's Talons?

Weapon identified, but his attention returns to Janus when the Prime's voice stutters and jerks over the femme's designation as he turns to Jazz. He recognizes the opportunity Jazz has made and relaxes his body as much as he can in this situation. He is confident that Jazz is capable of talking the mech down now that he has the bot's focus.

Ironhide keeps himself still now that the Prime has stopped, not wanting to trigger a defensive response with any sudden movement. He watches the frame pinning him to the ground sway, and despite that weakness the talons at his throat don't waver even the slightest. Ironhide carefully meets white-tinged optics as the Prime looks down at him, and to his relief he sees the moment Janus Prime realizes who it is that he has beneath him.

Ironhide finds himself suddenly released as the talons at his throat are subspaced and Janus jerks his frame off and away from him with surprising speed. He sits up even as the Prime forces an offer of apology, and his servo darts out a second time, stopping Janus from falling as his frame begins to collapse backwards.

"Easy," he rumbles the command without thought as he supports the Prime's body.

He finds his respect for this mech has grown in leaps and bounds, beyond what his actions concerning Optimus had demanded. This is a protector, a mech who had sacrificed himself for those he considered his own without hesitating, who had been horribly injured and still pushed himself up, fought to survive against unknown threats. A mech, that upon realizing he was not in danger but the opposite, had stilled his instinctive reaction and apologized despite speaking being extremely difficult and clearly painful.

And the only sign of the agony he was surely drowning in- especially as he had pushed himself to fight despite the horrific damage- is a hastily stifled choked off keen.

Ironhide is gentle as he possibly can as he slowly pushes the Prime back to his pedes, even as he gathers his own underneath him and rises. Jazz is already by his side and assists his own efforts to keep Janus upright, the Prime no longer able to support himself. Taking a moment to visually check to assure himself that Jazz, despite his compact size, he will be able to bear the weight as Ironhide steps back to transform in preparation to haul the mech back to Simfur.

"Easy Prime," Jazz murmurs, his voice soft, comforting, "We'll get ya ta Ratchet. Everythin' will beh fine. Ah bet he won't even throw ah wrench at ya or anythin', ya lucky bot."

Jazz helps the injured Prime over to Ironhide, easing his form down and settling him in Ironhide's alt mode. Ironhide immediately begins to secure the Prime, careful of his injuries as he makes sure Janus won't tumble or fall and hurt himself more on the journey back to Simfur.

Ah don' know if he'll make it back. We can' go as fast as we did, an' so much time has passed...his injuries are no' like anythin' Ah've ever seen.

He'll hold. Regardless of that acid, he took me down. Granted, I was caught off guard, but that takes willpower and a desire to keep living no matter what.

Chapter Text

TIME MEASUREMENTS:

Astrosecond: .5 seconds

Nano-klik: 1 second

Klik: 1 minute

Breem: 8 minutes

Cycle: 1 hour 15minutes

Solar-Cycle: One day (20 hours)

Lunar-Cycle: One night (20 hours)

Deca-cycle: 4 weeks (one month)

Mega-cycle: 96 hours (four days)

Meta-cycle: 12 months (one year)

Stellar Cycle: 6 months

Vorn: 83 years

Mega-vorn: 83,000 years (1000 vorns)

60 mega-vorns: 4,980,000 years


 

Ratchet wasn't one for dramatics.

Granted, his displays of strong emotion, such as worry, concern or irritation were shown through...somewhat excessive force. Be it blunt physical or verbal force, Ratchet was skilled in expressing his emotions without actually revealing which one he was expressing.

He was a medic, he knew how to put a bot back together just as surely as he could take one apart. While the wrenches and various other objects he threw at his Prime and the group that Janus Prime had called a pack did damage, it was barely worth mentioning. Dents, dings and scratches occurred naturally, and if some were carefully inflicted to cause maximum pain with little damage…? Well, he was a professional.

Ratchet was a politician who was a medic. Or perhaps he was a medic who happened to be a politician? Either way, Ratchet didn't like dramatics, disliked causing them, and being dragged into them even more.

It was supposed to be 'tradition' when the new ruling Prime first claimed their status that he or she looked over all the policies of their predecessor and talked over the changes they wanted to make with a select group of bots. It was considered matters of state, and as such, all comms were to be shut down in communication black out for those that sat in on the meetings.

Ratchet had been chosen to sit in on the meeting for his steady logic in matters of state, his ability to find solutions and cut through the chaos of court, for his mostly neutral views, despite leaning towards Optimus' choices. While he was glad to be there to help pave the way for a better Cybertron, Ratchet was not happy about being forced to shut down his comm.

"I am a medic," he argued sharply with the guards standing outside the room that made sure all comms were shut down and locked with a temporary code that they would hold onto so no one inside could turn their comms back on after going inside, "In the case of an emergency, I will not be cut off from any alert."

"Our apologies, but we cannot allow anyone inside that does not allow us to lockdown their comms. It is a matter of security."

Ratchet argues, but in the end he agrees. His voice is needed in that room, his rational calm needed to help lay the foundations Optimus wishes to put into place, so he allows his comms to be shut down and locked even as he ensures everyone knows he disagrees with the edict.

Vehemently.


 

Cycles after Ratchet retreats into the conference room with the others, he is glad to be leaving. He is anxious and worried, wanting his comms unlocked, and to be out of the building. He has a bad feeling, knows there's something even as his digits twitch to grab ahold of a wrench. He needs to leave, to find the source of his unease. Optimus and Megatron are steps behind him, each sending subtle glances his way. He knows they worry, as his normally calm manner had frayed to a visible degree as time had passed, but he cannot offer any reassurances because his spark twists with an unnamed worry.

As his comms boot up, unlocking and loading to full function once again, Ratchet exits the building, his stride eating up the distance with haste.

And then he stills, his spark dropping into his pedes and his vents stalling for an instant.

Primus below, there are thirty six missed pings, all of them originating from Jazz, and progressively growing in attempts until he's received a ping for every klik starting as of two breems ago .

"Slag it all!"

His voice is harsh and furious even as he hurriedly begins to ping Jazz back, whirling to face Optimus and Megatron, snarling his next words with conviction.

"I will not lockdown my comms ever again Optimus, no matter who demands it of me! Politician I may be, but I am a medic, first and foremost! I knew I should have refused such unnecessary political posturing!"

Optimus and Megatron cease their subtleties, snapping to attention, straightening and narrowing their optics. They know Ratchet well, are aware of his moods and habits, and they easily recognize that this exclamation is born from worry, from fear. There is uncertainty felt from him, the hatred born of not knowing.

"What has happened?"

Optimus' voice is even and steady, edging towards command, but calm in the midst of the storm of Ratchet's anger and fear as he speaks.

"I am trying to find out," the medic fairly growls back.

Ratchet isn't yelling anymore, his voice is tight and his frame tense as he waits anxiously for Jazz to pick up. It doesn't take long, barely a nano-second, but the moment Jazz answers, Ratchet closes his optics with short-lived relief, keeping his voice steady as he replies. He knows from experience that in situations of high stress, everyone fairs better if the one in charge is calm. If he is calm and in control, he can work efficiently to fix the problem. So that's what Jazz hears when the comm is connected. A steady voice.

He straightens at the rapid-fire report Jazz delivers, striding forward with purpose now that he has someone to help, somewhere to go. His Prime and Lord High Protector stay on his heels, following after him without interruptions, frowning sharply as they listen in to the conversation on their own channels.

Ironhide's voice is steady, but deeply worried as he begins his own report of what little they can ascertain of Janus Prime's current condition. Ratchet, Megatron and Optimus all still, their back-struts snapping straight and their armor rattling as spark damage is mentioned, even as Megatron snarls soundlessly, digits curling as his servos fist. He is the one among them that has seen many different types or spark damage, both physical...and mental. Ratchet runs through his entire repertoire of curses. Spark damage was dangerous and unpredictable. It could be crippling, or fatal and need immediate treatment, but one never knew until examined.

In every case Ratchet had dealt with, which was a great number, the damaged bot had dropped into stasis lock in an attempt to save their spark from further damage and to block out the excruciating pain. It is for that reason, that Ratchet is completely floored as Jazz's frantic voice comes over the comm, accentless and rushing as he tries to calm the Prime who is somehow still fighting despite his injury.

Fighting and winning from the sounds from both Jazz and Ironhide's lines. But when the Prime speaks, oh, how his own spark aches at the wrecked mess that he heards. Clearly, Janus Prime had not gone into stasis-lock. The High Priestess femme that accompanied him was forced to leave him behind to get help.

Ratchet cannot help but wonder, how long did the Prime scream before his systems couldn't take the sensory overload and automatically shut down as much as they could without actually entering stasis-lock?

Unfortunately he already knows some of that answer, and he would beg Primus to take the knowledge from him if it wasn't needed to aid the repair of the damage to the Prime's vocal cords.


 

Megatron absolutely loathes the events that are happening far from him and out of his control.

Spark damage? To a Prime of Janus' caliber? What the frag?!

There is not much than can cause such debilitating injuries, but Megatron has seen every dirty trick, every twist and clever move, all the brilliant ideas and cruel choices born in the chaos and desperation of the Pits. If one wishes to cause harm, one will generally find a way.

It's only when Ironhide mentions those two words, 'spark damage' that Megatron begins to suspect there was more than an enemy attack that could cause such injuries.

Keep this line open!

Ratchet is shouting even as he answers another ping, from Bumblebee.

Ratchet, where are you?! I have Songbird and Janus Prime's sparkling and she's injured!

A stream of curses leaves the medics intake, before he replies, increasing his pace.

Take her to my home, you know the way!

I'm already at your home! Your housekeeper let me in when she saw me!

I'll be there soon, how badly is she injured? The sparkling?

From what I can tell, mostly impact damage and a bit of acid burns. Nothing serious at the moment, but she traveled all the way from somewhere near Tarn to here in her condition. Ironwill isn't hurt at all- physically. anyway.

Keep her conscious, but let her relax some. Don't let her slip into recharge, understood?

Understood, Ratchet.

Megatron's spark eased a fraction when Bumblebee confirmed his safety and the superficial if painful injuries the newly appointed High Priestess sustained, but there wasn't much information regarding Janus Prime. Other than the two worst words any medic has to hear. Still. Only time would tell at this point.

The High Lord Protector glanced over to check on the state of Optimus, pulling on their brother-bond to be sure of his emotions. Optimus was worried, afraid and yet, there was a calmness to him. A belief that everything would not end in tragedy.

He himself had seen more tragedy in the meta-cycles spent in the Pits than most beings would see in their entire lives. Regardless of the lack of information, Janus Prime was of a strength of his own. Spark damage and still managing to take down Ironhide? Those with pasts like his and conviction such as Janus' didn't just lay down and die, no matter what was inflicted on them.


 

They're barely crossing the halfway point to Simfur when Janus Prime regains his functions. Ironhide might have noticed after a breem or so, Jazz sooner, but they were both alerted to the fact simultaneously when the Prime violently jerked and attempted to rip off the straps securing him. Ironhide instantly braked to a stop, the Prime screaming in pain even as he continued to pull and twist his frame in an endeavor to escape.

Jazz immediately updates Ratchet, listing all the movements Janus is executing and the medic orders Ironhide to let the mech go. Ironhide immediately releases the locks that secure the straps and retracts them back into their place.

The instant the binds were gone, Janus was on his pedes, kicking out and managing to land another hit on Ironhide, sending him sprawling in mid-transformation. The weapon's master expertly used the momentum to stay upright, breaking into a jog to reach the Prime even as the mech swayed and wavered and eventually collapsed painfully to the ground.

Thankfully, Jazz had stayed back, knowing that at the moment, Janus was beyond listening and due to his stature he wouldn't be much help. So the silver mech stayed a short distance away, still giving updates, as Ironhide approached the fallen Prime with caution. To his relief, the Prime looked up at him, his bright blueblueblue optics, meeting his own red with such emotion emanating from his damaged field, that he was forced to control the urge to flinch.

Yet when the Prime reached up imploringly even as his digits trembled, Ironhide could not deny him and knelt down to clasp his servo to the other's. He could not speak, with the damage he had avoided looking at beyond the initial confirmation so prominently displayed in the starlight. While he was no medic, he was very much a soldier and never, in all his meta-cycles, had he seen such extensive wounds.

However, his silence was filled by the wrecked voice and rasping tones of Janus himself. The Prime's optics were distant and dim as he stared up at the mech.

"(to-endure-as-a-blade-in-war) Warblade, you're here," the mech whispered with such overwhelming grief and shining joy.

Jazz jerks in shock behind him even as there's several sharp gasps from the other end of the comms and Ironhide himself falters and his intake gapes open. There was no time for any other responses as the Prime made no sign that he had seen their reactions and required no confirmation of identity.

"I could not find you, you were not by my side. Where did you go?"

Janus Prime speaks like his world was ending-had ended-and at the very sight and thought of Warblade it had stilled, frozen before the end. The designation of a mech from their legends and known by every bot living, no matter their social status, falling with such joy and familiarity from the dermas of anyone, much less this Prime, is startling.

There was no wondering or guessing as to if the Prime's spark was damaged. There was no doubt now, seeing as Janus had lost all control in reigning in his feelings and especially considering his energy field was warped and dripping with such old, old memories and immense emotions of grief, sorrow, anguish and longing. Cybertronians, one to another could transfer data that included maps, stills and even recordings of their memories. They would be altered true, but when one could see visuals generated from the energy field typically used to project emotions?

That was only possible when all the shielding was let down, when a mech or femme was the most vulnerable to mental intrusions, and went against subroutines. The sheer amount of mutilation caused by the acid must be enormous. It was beyond concerning and even though Ironhide held his doubts and worries about this Prime, he had no desire to see him laid so bare before his optics.

Beyond the shock of hearing the designation of a well-remembered mech from another age falling from Janus Prime's dermas, it's astounding because of his opinion towards the mech who most only knew as a famous poet. The mech known as (to-endure-as-a-blade-in-war) Warblade had been a soldier in service to a Prime during a truly dangerous and treacherous time in their history.

Wars and devastating battles had raged, although none knew who the enemy had been, many historian speculated that the conflict was against another species who sought to conquer their world. Some said it was territorial disputes that spiraled out of control. Others said it was the enemy that had wanted to take resources from Cybertron. The records from that time were mostly lost, save for the majority of Warblade's works.

Why they survived was actually a tragic tale. The mech's rusted frame was found surrounded on all sides by an unknown species of feline-like were obviously intelligent, as the archaeologists had found implants in the remains alongside what could be armor that engulfed their heads providing oxygen.

The beings were relatively small compared to most Cybertronians, topping seventeen feet and most thought it was strange for a mech, obviously a warrior-type, to be felled by them, no matter the numbers. However, it was discovered that the feline creatures were probably extremely fast and agile, devoting their skills to hunting other species, of varying varieties. Their armor was skin, or rather fur-tight, and decorated with 'trophies' of previous hunts, as was speculated.

The most startling find was horrifying in the fact that their claws naturally secreted a type of acid that rapidly affected Cybertronian metals in terrifying ways. Some metals would absorb it, slowly allowing the liquid to eat through the affected area over time. The material that made up most of a bot's insides, including the spark chamber, however, that was swiftly disintegrated and eventually crumbled in very little time.

Of course, that turned a new light onto a warrior who could decimate, at their last count, almost thirty of these beings before succumbing to his wounds. It wasn't until an astonishingly intact datapad was found on his remains that the story was revealed.

The datapad contained the private thoughts, opinions and dreams of a mech known as Warblade. The beginning started with a young mechling who was taken into training for a task that a passing High Priest had proclaimed to be his destiny. The Will of the AllSpark, that Priest had called it. His designation was not originally (to-endure-as-a-blade-in-war) Warblade, as when the mech was placed on a battlefield with only an old blade to defend himself with, he chose that name.

Despite his disadvantages, the mech won many victories against his enemies. His writings were full of descriptions of the costs and consequences of his every decision. Battles were won, yes, but the intelligence of enemy movements reported by scouts and spies and the effort required from the soldiers, were all necessary and they were bought and paid for in lives.

It was during this hellish experience as a commander that a famous poem was written, not with any great skill or outstanding brilliance, but honest in it's anguish and despair.

To what do I owe thee, Victory?

What price must I pay to keep thee, Freedom?

Be it in the lives of mine brothers and mine sisters?

Or of never-wilts and could-have-beens?

Primus grant them mercy, the dead who linger by mine side.

I deserve it not, for by mine words did they go.

Of honor and bonds I did speak, given as reasons to fight.

To their deaths, I lead them, yet never mine own.

The price of Victory, the cost of Freedom.

It was a meta-cycle after writing that, when Warblade's life drastically changed upon meeting an unnamed Prime who fought with his troops on the battlefield without care for his own life. The Prime was mentioned frequently throughout his memoirs, but never described and never named, despite that Warblade wrote of him in great detail amid the death, the horrors and his realizations.

To thee I call lord and master, Declared and Proclaimed,

on the battlefield we met.

I could not have known, dare not dreamt,

of one such as thee.

To fight with such sorrow and drowning grief,

Yet with longing and hope unending.

Thou art a mystery, Blessed and Chosen by Primus,

By mine side thou stand, thine blade in servo, thy gaze ahead.

Thou glances not to the right nor to the left,

Simply forward, at the enemy, at our end.

Rhisling, shining star in thine grasp

Serve thy master well.

For Cybertron and for our sparks does he risk his own.

The first poem written and perhaps even dedicated to the unnamed Prime, spoke of how a single unattended Prime threw himself into the war. How he fought and undoubtedly saved the lives of many soldiers, both directly and indirectly. Although there are several mentions of Primes fighting in war and battles, never were they by themselves. Always there were comrades, brothers or sisters, guards to keep them safe, even if the Prime in question fought alone. There are many mentions of a single Prime, one who went out with no one by his side and fought, who was unfortunately never named in any written or recorded record, but despite these various mentions, the works of Warblade are by far the most extensive collection.

A mystery, I proclaimed thee, surely as you were once Proclaimed.

Truly, I do not understand thine actions.

With kindness and compassion, weaknesses in this war,

Did thou speak without hesitation.

Thou knelt in the ruins and grime,

By the wounded and dying's side.

Songs did thee Sing, of long forgotten times.

Of beginnings and ends, past and future.

Thou spoke and Sang with a soft voice.

This is war, such things should have no place among the soldiers.

Yet there is not one who sits away from thine light.

Not even I.

For a mech who had been trained for war from a very young age, had been a soldier in a never-ending war, the kindness of this Prime was a foreign thing. Confusion and bewildered longing are clearly heard with every word spoken, as well as the resigned acceptance and bitterness when Warblade speaks of the war. Later passages speak of the guilt and the sorrow he holds for surviving for so long while so many around him perish. One in particular describes some of the moment when the mech declares his intent to protect the lone Prime, among other things.

The dead dwell at mine side, yet thine…

There is no place for thou there.

Primus guide thee, Primus aid thee, Primus with thee.

I plead not for mine spark, give it to Unicron should thou desire!

Of thy Prime, let him live, even should mine spark suffer and die.

Mine loyalty, he demands not, yet I give it freely

Nor mine axe, nor mine life, though I offer those too.

He speaks of life and of Freedom beyond this war.

I am there, he says with certainty, burning blue.

Freedom is a right, he tells me when even the stars dim.

War and death is carved on mine frame, mine destiny forevermore.

Yet this Prime at mine side, Primus willing,

For him,

I wilt

follow.

The meta-cycles that followed lead to a victory, solely by the questionable actions of the unnamed Prime. The following written works, are not the poetry Warblade is remembered for, but a chronicle of the horrors and atrocities of war. The staggering amount of brutal deaths and torture that is doled out on both sides is all honestly put into words. Some information is locked, codes untouched and left due to some form of respect, but most of it is there.

His designation was (to-shoot-with-skill-and-experience) Trickshot, and he was barely out of sparklinghood. He was like me though. He chose his designation and answered to no one. No one save for the Prime. He is gentle with the youngling, soft with his words, with his touches. This is war and we are soldiers, to endure and die for the Primes, for the sparklings. That one is a sparkling no longer.

This one was talented, Gifted, but a soldier now all the same. The cycle would come, I knew. I would have to watch as the Prime shattered and mourned for the young one as he did for us all. It was only a matter of time before the youngling would make a mistake. There was no doubt, no question. The Prime would suffer, we all knew. We tried our best, but this was war and there were armies to fight.

It was only a matter of time. When the cycle came, we all knew. But, it was unexpected, his actions. We didn't understand. How could we? Peace meant nothing to us, beyond the quiet moments spent mourning or in recharge before battle. He did not keen, no wail left his dermas and he did not fall to his knees.
He only took his sword, that shining star, and turned towards enemy lines. He did not speak beyond a parting answer to our cries, our desperate pleas.

"If I should name a weakness," he whispered as loud as a scream, "It would be I love freely even when I know it will scar my spark. And if I should name a strength, is it that love will drive me to the impossible."
He ordered us to stay. We obeyed.
Later, when our Prime had returned, there would be those who told tales of the terrifying things he did for love. Some meant it as a cautionary tale for getting too attached. Others tried to spin it in a positive light, how love conquers all.

None of us told our sparklings anything beyond that phrase in the cycles of peace we would live to see.
A forgiving, compassionate and kind mech he was, our Prime never hesitated to deliver death to his enemies. We heard the explosions first. Some of us who possessed enhanced senses beyond the norm...they spoke of the screaming in that other language. None of us spoke it, but they said our feared enemy was begging and pleading. Unmistakable in any language.

We followed orders and relayed them even when another battle-group came upon us. Our Prime had ordered us. We would obey. The lunar-cycle ended and began again before our Prime returned to us. Trickshot was cradled in his arms, wounded, but alive.

His frame was dripping, his battle-mask obscured his features, but he was not the Prime we knew as he walked into our camp. His sigils glowed with such light, his blade a star illuminating him from behind. It was as if Primus himself had come to reap vengeance on those who would take a life he had given from him.
He gave the youngling to the medic and walked off, no emotions and no words of comfort, of reassurance. Save for one action, I would believe him to be an entirely different being.

He stopped by my side and placed a servo on my shoulder plate. I could not move. The weight of his servo was unimaginable and I would have faltered, collapsed and fallen to the ground had I not seen his face. So I bore the weight and stood as tall as I could manage and he spoke my name.

"The war is won, and you will know peace."

He left that lunar-cycle and did not return until the next solar-cycle. He was...off for a time after those events. He returned to a more normal state after Trickshot recovered. Then, the whispers began. It was not us, not we who loyally followed the Prime, who told of his doings. It was our comrades from another battle-group. Some were in awe at his actions, others felt justice was done...and some were horrified and afraid. The hunters departed, those that were left to command and give orders, so there were celebrations. It wasn't until I was submitting my forms in order to follow and to serve my Prime as he pleased that I discovered the entire story.
It was an old ally, who worked as a spy. He was chosen by the same High Priest as I was and there was an unspoken and unrealized bond between us.

"In two cycles, that Prime slaughtered over five thousand, six hundred hunters and destroyed approximately twenty eight of their battle ships." He paused for a moment to let me compute that before he continued.
"Of the still intact bodies we recovered, all of them shows signs of torture. There were over a hundred bodies found, scattered over the plains where the enemy had invaded."

I accepted this. I had done terrible things in this war, as well. Not to this extent, I knew. I had killed many hunters, over the meta-cycles, yes. In the hundreds with ease. But our Prime's count would number in the tens of thousands with this.

Still, I will follow him. I care not for his guilt, his shame that brands him as it does my own self when he returns. I do not mind the wounds and dents I receive when I wake him from the terrors that haunt his recharge. I cannot bare his screams, nor his keens. If my pain will bring an end, so be it.
Trickshot follows us. I have seen several familiar frames. They gather around, follow at a distance, run into him at random times. They are like me. They follow him too.

Warblade's Chronicles covered much after his choice, including the return of the hunters many vorns later, and his last battle with the species that would eventually result in his death. Before that time, there were many poems of the positive things Warblade found in his life by his Prime's side. Sparklings and younglings joined their group and although Warblade did not sire any of his own, mech and femmes from his old battle-group would visit with theirs.

Of all his poems, his writings, his dreams and fears, the one most remembered by Cybertronians...is his dying words.

And Ironhide stood in that moment in time, staring down at this Prime, who is so injured, who speaks such a designation with such grief, such longing, suddenly understands.

That last poem had been argued over from the moment it had been read. Standing here, with an unknown Prime who appeared from out of nowhere, who spoke of a mech long dead with such familiarity, Ironhide recognizes what that last poem written by Warblade had been. A goodbye. A vow to the one who held his reason to live.

And Ironhide has no words.

But Janus isn't done speaking. The servo still holding on to his releases and reaches up to gently cup Ironhide's faceplate, startling him in it's tenderness. His voice is soft, ruined from overuse, and his emotions are a riot, some indecipherable, yet others crystal clear. His words are rough and somewhat broken, but Ironhide bears witness and hears them in place of the long dead who cannot hear at all.

"I promised you, Warblade. As you did to me. By your side, there is no place for me. But by mine, there is a place you belong to. Please, I did not ask for loyalty, nor for you life, but you gave them anyway. Please, stay with me. Not out of obligation, but because you claim me as I have you."

There is such a look of desperation marring his face, that Ironhide is speechless. He is not young, not by far, he has seen many things and he stands atop of the acclaimed weapon masters. Ironhide is the best, a Champion. There are cycles when he can beat Optimus, times when he can lay even Megatron out on the ground. Yet, in the face of this mech, in front of this Prime, he feels like a sparkling. Such words of devotion and Ironhide knows the ending, knows what comes next and Primus.

No one speaks. Not Jazz, not Ratchet, Optimus is silent, Megatron says nothing and Ironhide wildly wonders what on Cybertron is he supposed to say?!

In the end, he can't. There are no words, no reassurances, there is nothing he can say. So he just leans forward to press his forehelm to Janus'. He can't promise that- Warblade has passed- but he can't tell that to the Prime laid out possibly dying beside him either. Not like this. And as the Prime allows his optics to close, leaning his own forehelm to press back against Ironhide, he relaxes into him.

"Come Prime," Ironhide's voice is as soft as he can force it as he speaks, "We need to get you to a medic now."

Janus opens his optics, dim with pain and yet still so brightly blue, his mouth-plates tugging into a tiny smirk as he agrees with exhaustion clouding his voice,

"(One-who-compresses-life-energon) Tourniquet is going to be angry about this. It's better we get to him quickly before he ties all of us to the ceiling with his whip and leaves us there to "contemplate our life choices"."

Ironhide doesn't have time to formulate a response when the Prime starts in realization. There's a pause as the mech tries to figure out what's wrong before the Prime works himself up, but Janus just continues with some form of growing panic as he turns his helm to the left and the right.

"Where- where is (soaring-with-flames-of-blue-underwing) Azurewing?"

Shooting a look at Jazz, confusion and desperate hope clearly visible in his gaze Ironhide non-verbally asks if the silver mech knows that designation. Unfortunately Jazz did not know who Azurewing was any more than Ironhide. He jerked his helm in a gesture and the other mech immediately turns away, whispering furiously into the open comm link.

Has anyone heard anything about a mech named Azurewing who lived during the same time period as Warblade?!

It takes a breathless klik before Optimus answers him.

I read of him, in some of Alpha Triton's records, when I was still called Orion. There was much debate about the validity of the records, as the Unknown Prime is mentioned since the very beginnings of our recorded history...Azurewing was a Seeker, and the Unknown Prime's Lord High Protector, or at least, an unnamed Prime. But that fact alone caused more doubts about the validity of the records, as even then it was rare for a mech not sparked with wings to earn the respect of a Seeker. There were always those who believed those with wings should not interact with those without. Because of this, there were those that objected to Azurewing's choice, because his Prime was not a Seeker, but Azurewing was loyal and determined, as was his Trine. They were faithful to their Prime, and followed him across our world.

Optimus pauses a moment, awe and shock mixing in his spark as he voices his next thought. If Janus Prime is asking for Azurewing, speaking of Warblade with such familiarity, there is a good chance he is either simply an unnamed Prime, or the Unknown Prime himself. Regardless, Azurewing only followed one Prime in his lifetime.

Megatron is the one to interrupt the moment, his voice sharp and commanding as he speaks to Ironhide.

Tell him his Lord Protector is securing the route to the medic.

His optics drill sharply into Optimus, tugging harshly on their bond in reprimand. Wordlessly reminding Optimus, of all bots, what it would be like for a Prime so injured and weakened to not known where their Lord Protector was. The fact that Azurewing is dead, his remains either rusted beyond recognition or floating in the darkness of space, pulls at Megatron's own spark.

Ironhide obeys the command immediately, not wanting the Prime to harm himself further if he took too long in answering.

"Azurewing and his Trine are securing the route to our medic Janus Prime," he replies formally, with an edge of soldier in his voice.

Ironhide nearly vents in relief when Janus relaxes a bit, his voice fond as he rasps,

"J-just like...that...killjoy…won't let me...ride along unless... it's an e-emergency…hah."

"You'll be riding along with me, Janus Prime," the mech says, so very relieved as the Prime nods in agreement, allowing his frame to rest against the weapon's master.

Ironhide is as careful and gentle as he can manage when he scoops up the taller mech and begins the process of getting the Prime strapped in for transport a second time, motioning Jazz over with a servo as he does.

Janus goes willingly, not protesting any servos on his frame as Jazz helps him settle down and Ironhide securely straps him in again. It's worrying as the Prime's helm lolls to the side, but even then, he's not slipping into stasis-lock or forced recharge. There's still a level of consciousness and Jazz relays his observations to Ratchet, keeping the disbelief from his voice. Still, everyone on the line is thankful when the bots resume their trek to Simfur.


 

Janus is drifting, not quite offline despite the pain that burns and throbs with every beat of his spark. He is aware that they are moving, that he is being brought to a medic, but not much else pierces to his processor. He vaguely recalls a moment when he was speaking to a familiar bot, that no matter how hard he concentrates, slips away from him. Names and faces that he knows, but can't hold onto as they slip through his mind like fog.

Those thoughts are quickly put away as he's carefully released from his secure position. Janus doesn't struggle against the servos pulling him out into the open and cautiously toting his form inside a building. He is aware of being placed on a berth, a vaguely familiar- so achingly familiar he knows this voice- bot yelling commands, and then there are servos on his shoulders.

Servos he doesn't recognize. Servos that do not belong to Tourniquet- who is that why does he know that name- and therefore should not be touching him while he is vulnerable.

Janus jerks sideways, crashing to his servos and knees with a broken snarl, ignoring the sharp curses around him, and the pulse of agony he causes himself in order to scramble backwards and away from the mech in front of him. He braces his form against the wall behind him, knowing he will not be able to support his weight in a fight without it. He catalogues the weapons he has in his subspace, he distinctly remembers what he placed in the space, but there are other weapons, other supplies and things he's never seen, but that's not important.

There is a form in front of him, speaking his designation, but his audio receptors aren't picking anything up and his optics refuse to focus beyond making out a blurry shape shorter than himself and colored white and blue. A distant part of him insists there is something important about that particular shade of light blue and white as a color combination on a bot, but the rest of him is focused on survival.

His legs threaten to fold underneath him, the wall the only thing that supports him, and the shape in front of him takes and aborted step forward, their tone sharp and demanding-there's a distinct urge to duck when that tone is used by that familiar voice. Janus has no idea what they're saying, instinctively reaching up and

back, pulling the Rhisling Sword from subspace and holding it steady, as a very visible threat and warning. He is not strong enough to swing it, but he'll hold it and stabbing people works just as well.

"Janus Prime! You sit your aft down on that berth right now before I knock you into it with a wrench!"

The demand has the opposite effect that Ratchet is used to, as the Prime's snarl deepens and his armor, broken and melted as it is, attempts to bristle threateningly all the same. Ratchet startles at the response, knowing the Prime should not move his armor that way, that he should have collapsed long ago, and that he needs the Prime to be still and let him work.

So he switches gears and goes for another approach.

"Prime, please! Sit down before you fall down."

And then Janus stills, his optics shuttering, and the tip of his sword slowly lowering as something in the back of his processor stirs.

There's only one medic Sam knew that threatened people with wrenches, a mech he had never heard utter a 'please' when voicing medical demands.

Ratchet.

The Rhisling Sword lowers another inch, Janus staring hard at the blurred from standing in front of him. "R-rat-chet?"

"Primus frag it Prime! Yes, (one-who-is-perceived-to-prevent-deterioration) Ratchet! Now sit down and let me work on your spark before you extinguish it through sheer stupidity!"

Janus barely holds back a keen. It's Ratchet.

Ratchet, who kept Jazz's body in the back of his med-bay, hoping against hope one day an AllSpark shard would find it's way into their possession. Ratchet, who yelled and shouted verbal abuse day in and day out at everyone, from Optimus to Bumblebee in an attempt to dissuade them from ignoring their injuries. Ratchet, who would sit in his medbay in the quiet looking as if the weight of the world sat on his shoulders.

When supplies of energon dropped into low levels, Ratchet was the one who found a way to synthesize more, to stretch what they already had. Sam had suspected that Sunstreaker and Sideswipe had gotten into fights and dealt each other easily fixable wounds for Ratchet to repair without issues. Granted, the twins would never admit that on pain of death, but Sam sometimes saw things other missed. Not that he ever mentioned those things to anyone, not even Bee.

But the look Ratchet would sometimes get on his face, something like hopelessness and despair. Those were the days he yelled at Optimus. Those were the worst days.

The mech standing before him was so different. He was so free, unburdened. He couldn't help the keen as his injuries pulled and one of his knees gave out. Ratchet instantly lunged for him and Sam- Janus- whoever he is in his processors, lets him, subspacing the Rhisling Sword as the medic rushes to his side.

A sentence falls from his dermas, he's barely aware of the words leaving his intake, but they're significant and they need to be said.

"Where is (one-who-compresses-life-energon) Tourniquet?"

Distinctly, whoever the hell he is now, he realizes there's something that can't be said, shouldn't be known so he stops. Makes a decision that the sheer amount of emotion that stems from that one designation is too much for him to even begin to deal with at the moment. So he boxes up those maybe-memories, packing in those shattering emotions and hides it in the corner of his mind.

There is silence in the stillness caused by his question, but he can see another blurry figure stepping up so he interrupts anything anyone is going to say.

"No," he (JanusSamOther) whispers distinctly, so far away, "no, he's not here."

He sags against the wall, feeling empty and hollow and doesn't protest when Ratchet moves closer and reaches out with the intention to touch him. He can't find it in him to care anymore.

Ratchet busies himself with taking out a solvent, gently coaxing Janus to lean against the wall completely, reaching into his own subspace for sterile cloths he's going to use to clean the mess he is about to make dissolving the acid that clings to the Prime's frame. There are holes and abrasions spreading from the point of impact, the spark chamber, over the chest and shoulder plates. It appears that Janus had his battlemask down at the moment of impact, so there is very limited damage to his facial plates.

He frowns as he realizes the spark chamber was partially open when it was hit. The damage is going to be extensive, he knows that even without examination. It's purely a desire to pull Janus' away from his thoughts and distract the mech, that has Ratchet beginning to explain what he is doing. He holds out a container in front of his optics for a moment.

"This solvent will dissolve the corroded acid, removing some of the corrosion itself so that I can pull the broken plates away and get to the damage underneath."

He feels as Janus tenses underneath his servos, hazy optics focusing sharply on him for a moment as something other slithers through their depths before as he asks, softly, almost hesitant, not quite pleading.

"Do you need to get under the armor?"

Ratchet stills, little warnings going off in his helm as he wonders why Janus would even think to ask the question with such an obvious answer. He doesn't like the reasons he can think of. The chest plates are too damaged to properly examine, but there is suggestions of old scars...nevertheless…

"That is correct, Janus Prime. I must look at the damage dealt to your frame and spark chamber so that I may repair it."

Janus is still as a mountain under his servos, his gaze surprisingly sharp and piercing for barely being lucid almost a kilk ago. It's only when his gaze focuses that Ratchet feels for a moment that he is being judged. Weighed. He knows this moment is important, so he gives the mech his attention, meeting Janus' optics with his own.

For just an instant, Ratchet could swear the blue in his optics brightened and deepened into burning stars and endings and beginnings, eternity in a moment and infinity in an instant. Ratchet is motionless in the face of power such as this, but Janus closes his optics, slumping against his servos in utter exhaustion as he breaks the connection that had held him so still.

"As you will, (one-who-is-perceived-to-prevent-deterioration) Ratchet," Janus agrees, resignation and reluctance clear in his voice, in the little of body language Ratchet can read, before adding quietly, "keep calm, will you?"

The Prime's attitude is all but screaming that he doesn't want to do this, doesn't want him to see, even though he's a medic. It's deeply concerning and for an instant, Ratchet wonders if he is prepared to see whatever it is that hides beneath this ancient Prime's armor. Wars, battles, and enemies that did not survive while this Prime did. Scars that tell a story he has perhaps, never read before? Regardless, he is a medic, it is his duty and if Janus doesn't receive proper care, he'll die.

So he nods once, steeling himself as best he can as he begins to pour the solvent over the affected area, carefully catching the excess with the cloths he holds in his servo, wiping away at the damage. The sigils once so prominently displayed are burned away, the once gleaming black, rich blue and shining silver of his colors are dulled and eaten away. The dull gray of his baseform is plainly seen especially with all the damage done.

Before he can go further, Janus twitches and speaks, his words carefully measured and steel-edged.

"Where is Ironwill? Songbird?"

Ratchet recognizes the fact that should his answer...displease Janus Prime, he will not be remaining still.

"I have already treated her injuries. Ironwill was unharmed. High Priestess Songbird was sedated, Ironwill went into recharge by her side," he explains, watchful optics pinned on Janus' frame as he relaxes almost imperceptibly.

He feels the moment the armor gives under his gentle treatment, shifting just so, and he stills, lifting his optics to the exhausted form of the Prime under his servos. Janus meets his gaze, his optics dim compared to the burning stars that had pinned him in place just a klik before.

He is gentle, exceedingly careful as he pulls the broken armor free of the mech's chassis, pivoting to set the armor aside before turning his attention to the exposed protoform. His sees what Janus had wished to hide, his processors compute angles and force, size and type before it actually registers what he is looking at.

Ratchet has seen many things. He has seen injuries that do not require his expertise, ones that only a medic could repair. He's held small, clasped fuel lines in his servos, the only thing that stood between a bot and permanent offlining, as he kept the life-energon in their frames. He is intimately familiar with his servos being buried in the internal workings of many a bot, he's taken taken some beings apart and put more still back together.

But he has seen nothing like this.

He wants to scream. Some distant, functional part of him points all that the wounds are healed, but he cannot acknowledge that right now. There's an urge to scream with the horror of it, the unfairness, the despair, the disbelief and he wonders if this is what he feels, how could Janus…? But he remembers, he remembers the promise Janus has asked for just astroseconds before, and he chokes it back. Calm. He needs to be calm.

They're at his back, watching him. Optimus, Ironhide, Jazz with Megatron lurking near the front wall. The High Priestess Songbird and the Prim- Janus' sparkling are sedated in the room next door with Bumblebee while Barricade and Prowl stand guard outside.

His processor is frozen, for an instant he feels nothing.

He had not been prepared for this. Nothing could have ever prepared him for this! How can he keep calm?!

How is Janus Prime alive?

The answer is obvious, it's that he shouldn't be.

The keen of shocked despair is completely involuntary, his servos twitching with the desire to fix the damage in front of him without thought, his processor still frozen on the story told by the multitude of scars on Janus Prime's frame. Through and through of blades, Blessed Primus Below, burns, shrapnel scars, deliberate and precise lines, acid-marks and other numerous scratches and dents he cannot identify the cause for. To be quite honest, if he wasn't absolutely sure Janus would be dead, he would say something exploded in his spark chamber.

That is also not even touching on the acid damage he had just recently taken. Even though the sudden surge of emotion, Ratchet is automatically cataloguing and recording every injury, automatically moving to repair what he can. He's a medic of acclaim, highly talented and seasoned and yet this is so far from anything he's ever seen, ever even heard of, Primus.

Ratchet is aware, distantly, that none of the others have seen the damage yet. The bots in the room with them are respectful enough to avert their optics, and even if they were not, Ratchet's frame would block their sightline of the damage he can see.

Unicron above, Ratchet hasn't even removed any other armor. If Janus' spark and the area around it is so damaged...what did the rest of him look like?

Ratchet sways, a low keen choking its way out of his dermas, a servo lifting. It's shaking, a distant part of Ratchet knows. His servos have not shaken like this since his very first major surgery so many, many vorns ago.

"P-Primus," the name is hushed, despite the obvious exclamation of shock, but his voice sounds like a scream in the thick silence.

"Ratchet?" Optimus is the first that dares to break the moment, frightened by what he can feel echoing down the bond he shared with the medic as his Prime. Ratchet is a mech that felt deeply, powerfully. His emotions are a living thing, as deep as the Well. Optimus has feared the solar cycle that Ratchet feels nothing from the moment he realized this was the case. And whatever it is that Ratchet is seeing, it had caused that moment.

For an instant, Ratchet had blanked, his living thriving feelings going still and silent, like the last vent of a mech, and Optimus' had frozen, his optics jerking towards the medic and Janus Prime.

So he sees the moment Ratchet reaches forward, he can see the subtle tremors traveling through the medic's frame, and he feels his tanks churn with apprehension about what it is that Ratchet is staring so fixedly at.

He speaks Ratchet's designation anyway, knowing what questions he is implying with it, and bracing himself to bear that weight so that Ratchet will not bear it alone.

Ratchet hears Optimus speak, but he cannot pull his optics away from the sight in front of him, continuing his forward motion as he lightly, so very lightly, like handling a sparkling in its first cycles of life, brushes his digits over some of the scars, like they will shatter apart at his touch.

They remain, carved into the still and watching form of Janus Prime, marks of his survival, of his will to live. Of how many desperately wanted this mech dead. Ratchet's optics lift slowly to meet the ancient blue of the Prime, digits still pressing lightly against some of the older scars. In his optics Ratchet can see the cycles of life, and of death, eternity and an instant, everything that was and everything that could be. The weight of a being who has seen so much time pass and for a moment, Ratchet understands why it is that this mech is called (beginnings-and-endings-past-and-future-of gateways) Janus.

"What...what did they do to you?" Ratchet rasps the question, staring into the mech's optics, "How are you even alive?"

Janus shutters his optics, staring at Ratchet for a moment, before he answers the mech, his tone sardonic and weary.

"Sometimes, I'm not even sure," he rasps with just the faintest edges of bitter amusement.

But he is tired, so tired, carrying the weight of everything across his shoulders like a mantle. The memories that curl through his processors like smoke, present and real yet so far from his grasp and understanding. But still, at the devastation on Ratchet's face, he summons up a happy memory, of Earth, as Sam of Mikaela. His girlfriend who cared about the then-grumpy old medic, who encouraged his relationship with the Autobots.

"No sacrifice, no victory. I was willing to pay the price so that others had no need to."

And Optimus is moving, unable to remain standing back in the face of the mournful keen that escapes Ratchet, as he wonders what could cause the medic' loss of control, enough to sound so horrified over. He knows it is disrespectful, but he can feel Ratchet flailing, reaching for something to steady himself against, and he finds himself unable to stay away. He takes a single step, his worry growing as Ratchet doesn't even acknowledge him, before he begins to approach slowly but with purpose.

He crouches beside his old friend, who was bent over to his knees beside the Prime, almost as if he was kneeling before he leaned forward. His servo wraps around Ratchet's neck, exerting only the bare minimum amount of pressure and the medic goes willingly as Optimus presses his forehelm against his in a gesture of comfort. Ratchet keens again in response, soft and low and pained. It is then that Optimus turns his attentions to Janus, allowing his friend to lean against his frame, to use him as the grounding presence the medic needs.

His vents catch and stutter, optics widening with horrified awe as he finally sees what it is that had stopped Ratchet in his tracks. Understanding blooms, heavy and painful in its intensity. Optimus cannot help but stare, kliks passing unnoticed as his processor struggles to accept what it is he is seeing. Beyond the unbelievable number, the variety of scars, most of them lethal or very nearly, was staggering.

Slowly, he lifts his optics to meet those of Janus.

He thinks on this mech who knew so much history, who had shared so willingly with Optimus and those he called his own. A mech who had scoffed in the face of what was, making it 'what could be'.

He stares at the Prime who had looked at him and seen someone worth Declaring. He stares at the weary but powerfully determined spark shining in the Prime's optics.

At this mech who had chosen to do what was right, not what was easy both in standing up to Sentinel and in handing over the power he could have had to Optimus, in the way he had chosen to save Songbird and Ironwill when the credits were down and he had to chose...and he wonders.

How many times has someone tried to stop him? How many were so terrified of what he represented they rejected his presence entirely?

Looking at the scars on the small portion of exposed baseform, Optimus thinks the number was large.

And deep in his spark, Optimus feels the first stirrings of anger, tempered by disbelief- how could someone do this?

Anger grows to rage, rage to fury, and fury crystallizes into Will.

Megatron tugs at their bond, trying to pull his attention inwards, trying to ask what had stirred Optimus to rage, trying to soothe the turbulent emotions, but Optimus' anger remains, inevitable and unmovable.

The ex-Gladiator had never felt such a blade-sharp fury in Optimus before. His spark-brother was one of a steady temperament, order to his chaos, a born leader who knew how to make decisions even in the midst of upheaval. He was a mech with control of his emotions.

Megatron was not expecting the calm star that his brother embodied to become a supernova, bright and fierce and burning. He was not expecting the moment his brother shifted, but he is very aware of the moment Optimus becomes the 'sword' over the 'shield'.

He feels the desire to fight in his brother, the urge to step in front of those who have had no one to stand in front of them. He is no longer the nurturer, the shield, happy in defending his own, but a blade, sharp and singing as it cleaves towards its target.

Only Optimus has no target to attack, and instead Megatron can feel the sharp desires settling in his spark like a vow.

He creeps forward, pedes lightly falling, but steady, as he approaches.

"Cybertron below me…"

Gladiator fighting was a dirty, dangerous business. Every underhanded trick was used, every cheap shot, every moment sharped to kill your opponent and remain standing. Megatron had reigned over this dark pit, its reigning King, its Champion, for more vorns than he cared to count.

He had watched bots fight, and fall, some rising some not. He's witnessed mechs and femmes alike turn against each other, vicious in their desire to entertain the crowd well enough to avoid punishment while surviving their opponent. He had been present for the twisted fights between femmes who were forced to fight for their sparklings, when those femmes were desperate and willing to do anything for their sparkling's survival.

He had seen the pitfire in bot's optics as they stood across from him in the Ring, knowing who he was, but determined all the same. Be it for others, for themselves, for glory and fame, for loved ones, he had seen them all. Some won and others lost, some lived and others died. A vicious cycle, but one he endured all the same.

In all the vorns of watching the worst of Cybertron thrive and corrupt those around him, Megatron had seen nothing like this.

Janus is silent as he the bots in the room begin to gather around him, pulled close by the shocked despair and rage of their own. He watches as Ratchet leans heavily against Optimus the way he once had long before, when Ironhide brought him the frame of a fallen Jazz. He hears the keens, is aware of the storm that lights in Optimus' optics as he stares down at the marks Janus carries. He hears Megatron's shocked whisper, is aware of Jazz, and Ironhide approaching. He doesn't glance up to see their reactions, he already knows what they'll be.

He leans his helm back against the wall and speaks, trying to ease the tension in the room when he tells the group.

"Those that caused these injuries are all dead anyway. I am certain I got them all," he affirms at the vague sense of truth sliding through his thoughts and he does not think of those secrets he hides even from himself.

He is unaware that his words only succeed in stirring the feelings of the others, intensifying them as he continues, an absent truth spilling from his dermas, though he is not sure why he is so certain of it. He does not think about it.

"I wasn't expecting to survive any of them very long after receiving most them in the first place, so there was no point in going to a medic. Especially since often, a medic wasn't available."

Janus jerks in place as the tension in the room spikes at this quietly voiced truth, hissing softly as his wound is pulled, when Ratchet- who had been repairing the damage even as he keened- tightened his servos just a smidge too much, a wordless noise of mourning-horror-denial escaping him.

Janus feels very much like that moment so long ago when Sam had teetered on the edge of a building, staring into the red optics of what he was sure would be his death, certain everything was about to end. He stands on the edge of something now, unaware if someone will be there to catch him when he tilts backwards and off the ledge as Optimus from the Future-That-Never-Will-Be had once caught his human self.

The door to the room opens abruptly, all optics turning towards it as Prowl, Barricade, Bumblebee and Soundwave push their way in. Bumblebee was speaking for all of them, not bothering to stop even as everyone's attention came to rest on him.

"Optimus, what happened? I could feel your anger halfway across the temple, and Soundwave said he felt Megatron's horror, what on Cybertron? Prowl and Barricade were hovering like nervous sparklings outside the door, so don't tell me no...thing...happened…"

Bumblebee's voice slowed to a stop as he approached close enough to see what held the other's' attentions so thoroughly. The gapping spark chambers on open display were naturally the first thing the four Cybertronians saw when they cleared the entrance. Bee immediately turned his backplate and shuttered his optics.

"My apologies, Janus Prime," the Sensitive bites out in trembling tones, "It was not m-

"Bumblebee," Janus interrupted, pulling winces from the newcomers at the sound of his voice, "Your designation is Bumblebee, is it not?"

The Prime did not give the youngling time to answer before his gaze swung up and pinned the two Enforcers and Soundwave with an overwhelmingly blue fathomless stare. Both Prowl and Barricade straighten to attention at the look, snapping their optics to gaze front and center. Soundwave, however, found himself taking a small step back. This action instantly drew Janus Prime's complete focus to him and Megatron took an instinctive step forward, breaking their line of sight.

"Megatron, protective action is deemed unnecessary. I was merely surprised…"

Soundwave sidestepped the mech and quickly knelt by Janus's side. The two engaged in a staring contest, the Prime excluding an air of power and timeless strength, despite Ratchet working on his chassis while quietly keening. The telepathic Cybertronian paused a moment before bowing his head, his dermas stretching in preparation to speak.

He was interrupted though.

"My past is not to be revealed simply to satisfy your curiosity, child," Janus rumbled out, his optics drilling into the bot's helm, "Regardless of the integrity of my mental shields, or rather their glaring lack, I am a Prime. I hold secrets that would drive you into insanity."

Janus fairly hissed the last word, a servo shooting out, despite Ratchet's protests, clamping onto Soundwave's shoulder plate with astonishing force. The mech used the telepath as support to leverage himself to a crouch as to tower over the still kneeling bot even as most of the beings in the room surged forward as if to prevent the Prime from moving, to their failure.

"If you dare to intrude on my memories," he snarled, "I will step aside and let you see into the heart of me."

Sam paid no heed to the pain, brushing aside the protests of the medic still continuing to repair his injuries, even as the English word fell heavily from his dermas. He leaned forward, his digits lifting Soundwave's helm to glare straight into his blue/blue optics. In the background, Megatron stepped up, lethal grace in his movements, crossing his arms across his chestplates in a silent warning.

Sam ignored him, he was the same size and armed as well. He had faced an insane Megatron as a human, he had defied the Fallen. There was nothing that could scare him any longer and Soundwave had no right. There was a feather light brushes of retreating digits across his processors and Janus barred his dermas before making a decision.

"Look, child. Look and see," he ordered.

There was a moment of hesitation before Janus tightened his grip and Soundwave obeyed. For a klik, the two were frozen, even as Optimus and Megatron stood watch over them, wary and concerned at the happenings they were not privy to. The moment was shattered when the telepath broke optics-contact with a low cry, jerking his head in an attempt to dislodge the Prime's grip on his chin. It was unsuccessful, but Janus visibly softened as he gazed at Soundwave as the mech shuddered and trembled in his grip.

"I understand, apologies, Janus Prime," the mech said lowly, regret thick in his tones as his gaze fixed on the ground.

"No," Janus answered, agony and grief layering his vocals, "no, you do not understand and I pray that you never will."

He released Soundwave and shifted back, aggravating his injuries. With a hastily choked off keen, Janus slumped back against the wall as he released his hold on the mech, allowing him to back away. Soundwave lingered though, although Megatron quickly stepped forward and in front of Soundwave a second time, his optics narrowed and focused as he analyzed Janus Prime. His armor didn't bristle, but his stance was very much that of a protector, warning everyone around him that he was ready and able to leap into motion at the slightest signs of a threat to his bots.


 

Soundwave was surrounded by such an ancient and distinctly neutral power the instant he stepped through the door into the med-bay. It filled the room and it was emanating from the tall mech who was sitting on the floor against the back wall. Ratchet was crouched in front of him, obviously tending to the...spark damage?

The only sign of his wince at the sound of the mech's voice was the subtle shifting on his pedes. And then those bluesoblue optics turn to him, and Soundwave reacts without thought as he is pinned into place by the endless power in those optics.

He takes a step back, feeling very much like he has been weighed and found wanting. And then Megatron is in front of him, and the connection is broken.

It is then that Soundwave finds his curiosity stirs, stepping around his Lord and meeting those blue optics head on, more prepared this time for the ancient vastness he finds even as he slides into distracted thoughts.

The brief glimpse of the Prime's mind offered only a well of pain and darkened memory banks, save for a small amount. They were vast things, visualized as they were, but many were blocked and locked away far from prying optics. Still, he managed to lift recent events, such as those leading up to Janus Prime's wounds before that gaze returns to him, only edged with intent.

Soundwave had spent vorns upon vorns in the Pits Megatron had saved him from, telepathic and treated as an oddity. His Cassettes had been the chains that bound him to the Gladiator rings, and yet they had also been the beings that held him aloft in the darkness and chaos. He could not die in the Ring, not when they needed him.

He continued on that way until he worked his way up to the top, and found himself placed across from Megatron himself. The Champion of the Ring. Soundwave had lost the fight against him, found himself crouched defensively over his Cassettes, sure that was the last cycle he would ever see, and determined that if he was going to die, it would be before even one of his Cassettes did.

Instead, Megatron had called out Champion's Choice. The King of the Ring had chosen to spare him, and his Cassettes. He had agreed to the twenty matches he would have to win against some of the best, one right after another, to keep Soundwave as 'his' victory trophy.

Soundwave had been floored when Megatron went out, fought against all twenty opponents, won each match, and then allowed Soundwave what free reign he could, helping him support his Cassettes in the Ring as much as the mech could.

Soundwave had sworn eternal loyalty to him for that alone. Finding out Megatron was fighting to change the caste system had only solidified the decision.

In all the time that Soundwave had spent in the Rings, looking in on the processors of some of the darkest Cybertronian lives there were...in all the time he had walked a step behind Megatron, aware of the burning supernova that resided in his Lord's spark, all the vorns he had stood at the shoulder of the Prime his Lord protected, watching the processors of the corrupt that tried to stop them…

Soundwave had never encountered a processor, a mech, like the one called Janus Prime.

The moment he met those optics, the instant permission was given, a door opened to him, as it had with all others. He was allowed entrance into Janus' processor from the mech himself.

Only everything after that moment was different from the brief glimpses he had gleaned. The mech had nearly nothing in the way of mental walls, and yet, the moment he looked around, there was a vast sense of power, of will that forbid him from going forward, of seeing what lurked behind the star-fire that burned brightly in the deep of Janus' mind.

Soundwave had always been a curious mech. The driving need to know, to figure out the whys the hows and all the little things that make up their vast existence very present in his spark. Yet as Janus Prime crouches in front of him, demanding that he look that he see why it was that Soundwave had been barred from seeing as he always had, the Prime's grip on his faceplates strong and demanding, he thinks that he should not have poked a sleeping predacon.

And yet, he still looks, the curiosity in him an overwhelmingly powerful force, and the demand in the Prime's voice a command not to be disobeyed.

The blue star-fire that had blocked him from seeing dims. The memory banks are still darkened and unending as far as his senses extend. His view is still shuttered, he cannot see, but as the star-fire dims and compresses in on itself, feelings pour forth.

Soundwave nearly buckles under the weight of them. There are so many, so powerful and ancient, endless… his vents stall, he its being smothered. He is nothing and no one, an existence dwarfed by time, so small and helpless in the face of a god. He cannot move, here is no thought, there is no being.

And then the Prime is there, in his own processors, a gentle shield, a powerful unbending protector as he allows Soundwave to retreat, to reform, to pull away from the star-fire that had shielded him from such a vastness, like the vastness of space itself, endless and swallowing all in its path.

His physical form jerks in the Prime's hold, wanting to pull away from the thing that had nearly smothered his mental presence, his very existence, but the Prime's hold is powerful for all that he is injured, and Soundwave moves nowhere.

When he offers his apologies, shame welling in his spark and says he understands why, his gaze is set firmly on the ground, the Prime answers him, and Soundwave has a moment of clarity.

This had been a lesson, that not all things were for him to learn. That some things should remain mysteries and wonders. This had been an elder scolding a youngling, teaching in a way that would stick, that was safe for all that Soundwave had felt as if he was being slowly crushed by this mech's very thoughts. This had been a warning.

And even as Megatron shifts a second time to shield his form, as if Soundwave is the one injured and threatened, he swears to himself that he would remember this the next time he met the optics of another Cybertronian.


 

Janus leans heavily against the wall behind him, utterly spent. He should not have moved from his place when Soundwave looked into his processor. He knows he should not have, but he had been unable to stop himself, acting as a warning and a lesson in one. An attempt to prevent what the mech before him became in the time Sam had known him.

He wasn't sure what had prompted him to be so forceful in his actions with the telepath. It wasn't his experience with him on Earth as Sam- but something had stirred as Soundwave had peered into his helm, like a book with its pages flipped too fast. The anger and how-dare-he had risen up so quickly, he was startled by the orgins of it.

Janus had only gotten the gist of it, but he had found himself acting immediately on the sharp, demanding prod from the Allspark energy in his helm, that had commanded he prevent Soundwave from making this mistake again.

If he had read the glimpses right, at some point Soundwave had done this Before, to someone less kind than him, and it had caused major, catastrophic damage not only to himself, but to those around him.

The moment Soundwave had pulled away from him, trembling and awed at what he had found, the Allspark energy that had prompted his movements, not to mention given him the strength to manage it, faded leaving him emptied and hollowed at its sudden departure to collapse back against the wall.

He scanned the faces around him, taking in expressions and body language alongside any leaking emotions in their energy fields. There is shock, awe, curiosity, those are to be expected as is the edges of anger and bristling hostility born from a protective reaction. He can hear Ratchet scolding him as he rechecks his repairs, his voice strained with the stress of his emotions.

But Janus is focused on Megatron and Soundwave the most. He is happy to see Megatron shift to shield his Second. It is a comfort to see the Lord High Protector in the mech who had once been a War Lord. It is a comfort that in this moment, and from this moment forward so long as Janus has a say in it (and he does) Megatron is as he should be. As he was meant to be.

Soundwave holds his attention because the mech stays. He had seen humans on his Once-Earth, and even Cybertronians retreat in the face things as intense as Janus knows his emotions are. He had seen people break under less, watched mechs and femmes alike flee before his presence. And despite this, despite getting an up close and personal look at some of the weight he carried, despite feeling some of that same weight settle on his shoulders and almost break him, Soundwave stands, still and watchful and not running.

This is a good group before him.

A good, powerful pack with strong bonds.

Janus vents heavily, his optics closing for a moment, and his frame slowly losing the last of its tension before he opens one optic, turning it down to Ratchet as he asks, quietly, hopeful and exhausted, "I may go to sleep now?"

Ratchet does not understand the alien word, but he understands the tone, the body language the Prime uses, the way the Prime looks at him.

"Yes Janus Prime. You may recharge."

"Good," Janus breathes, allowing himself to finally let go, going limp so that the wall is the only thing to hold him up, and allowing himself to finally give into the blackness that had hovered at the edges of his processor and optics for longer than was probably healthy.


 

Ratchet slumps with relief, almost collapsing in on himself when Janus finally allows himself to fall into recharge. The mech should never have been online in the first place with such damage done to his spark chamber. It was a miracle of Primus that Janus had managed to get his sparkling chamber mostly shut before the acid had hit. If his chamber had been open completely...Ratchet didn't want to think about that.

His servos had stopped shaking as he worked to fix the damage, but he cannot quite stop the keens that escape him, especially as he discovers new scars and poorly healed wounds in his attempts to deal with this newest injury. Ratchet has been online for many, many vorns. He had worked as a Medic during them because he wanted to help people. It had been his driving force behind being a Politician as well, but Ratchet had always been a Medic first in his spark. He cannot imagine any situations in which this many wounds would be inflicted, where there would be no medic on hand to help, where the mech in question- where Janus Prime- would simply soldier on with such horrific damage. That is not even mentioning that there are no signs of even the sloppiest of first aid. No patchwork repair, no temporary measures, nothing.

What drove the mech? What could drive any bot so intensely they would continue on with this damage, even when- from his own dermas- he had not expected to survive in the first place? Or was the reason simply because...he did not want to survive.

That level of trauma to mental processors, there is no imagining the circumstances that would lead to a Prime losing the will to do anything other than fight. A Prime was a leader, a spiritual guide as much as a protector. So what, what could possibly, drive this Prime so intensely towards a fight response when he had no pack that Ratchet was aware of, no people to protect and guide? No bot that would push him towards such an offensive and yet defensive motion?

What could drive this bot who- Ratchet was sure- was the oldest mech he had ever laid servos on? The scars left on his frame laid out a painfully sad story to Ratchet's optics. He could see exactly how young the Prime was when he received his first scar, and exactly how old that would make the bot when compared to his newest marks. This bot would have forgotten more than most bots would see in their lifetimes.

He was an ancient, scarred, damaged Warrior that continued forward and kept fighting even now, when he had almost nothing, save one sparkling and a femme barely out of younglinghood, and Ratchet is a little terrified about what lay behind that drive, what lurked behind the ancient optics of this Prime, unseen and yet just as damaging at the acid he was cleaning from his frame. A driving force. A force that kept him awake and aware enough to send for help while his spark chamber was being eaten by acid, that kept him clinging to life when lesser mechs would have offlined. That pulled him back to his pedes when he should have been in stasis lock.

The silence is heavy and stifling apart from Ratchet's occasional noises of pained grief. Sounds that, frankly, pained the others to hear. But there is nothing they can do, so Optimus breaks the silence.

"I have never seen such injuries on a mech-" that survived them, is what he's not saying.

Megatron made a soft noise of agreement "Not even in the Rings have I seen scars like those. I am not sure how that mech is even alive." he is silent for a moment, before he turns to look at Soundwave. "What did you see?" he asks, curious and wary of the reactions he had seen on both their parts.

Soundwave is silent, trying to think of words to explain all that he had seen. All the impossibilities, the wonders, the sheer vastness of the mech himself.

"He is…" Soundwave pauses, staring down at the mech now in the grips of recharge, "He is the stars pulled down and shaped by Primus himself. Ancient and forever, endless and vast...a light in the darkness of space. This mech has seen things we only know as legends and myths."

Soundwave shook his helm, incomprehensive and confusing flares from his energy field lending weight to his next words.

"I do not have the words to explain his mind. He is an open datapad, no mental shields of his own, and yet star-fire shields his memories. He is loyal, fierce...and even as he lectured me, even as I was told not to question his past...he allowed me to see. He shielded me from the contents, shielded me from most of the weight...and yet he let me shoulder some of his burden to understand. I was nearly smothered, and yet he kept me from being crushed under that weight. Sheltered my mental presence when I had nothing to ground me. What he did..it was not with intent to harm me, with an intention to be painful. He forced me to see, to understand, as a lesson. This mech is a teacher, a protector, an immovable unchanging force in the face of impossibility."

The room is silent as they absorb Soundwave's words. It is the strangest description the telepath had shared about a mech, and yet…

Staring at the still form of Janus Prime, they all think that perhaps it is one of the most accurate in depth summaries of the Prime's personality, that accurately portrayed him, they had heard so far. Along with a unique perspective on his mental state.

Perhaps the conversation would have continued, but the moment was interrupted when a loud crash echoed from the next room.

Ratchet spared only a nano-klik to be thankful the noise did not jolt Janus out of recharge as he rushed from the room and to the one next door. Sure enough, Songbird had pulled herself from the floor and back onto her pedes, determined optics fixed on the door he had just entered through. "What are you doing?" Ratchet barked sharply "your legs are not ready to support your weight for any substantial time! You should not have tried to get up!"

Songbird didn't still in her movements, continuing her determined march as she answered Ratchet, her voice like the crack of an electro-whip. "My Prime. Where is he? I can sense him- he was so tired. Ratchet where is my Prime? How is he?"

Ratchet rushes forward to take the weight of her injuries, no longer as cross as he was. He remembered a time or two of his own where he had barged in on another medic looking after his Prime and taken over the entire med bay Optimus found himself in. He couldn't deny the femme the right to fight her way to her own Prime's side when he had done-would do- the same.

"Your Prime lives. He is resting now, in the room next door."

Ratchet chokes back another keen as he remembers the scars he had just discovered. He knows that if he gets emotional talking about the Prime's injuries, Songbird will panic and nothing he did or said would help after that.

"He is...damaged, there is no doubt about that, but," Ratchet meets her optics with his own, his emotion-field swelling and pulsing with his determination and promise as he swears "I will see him recovered as he can be. I will see him tended and healed. You have nothing to worry about- Janus Prime is a stubborn mech. He will live. We got to him on time."

Ratchet is thankful he already has the femme supported with his own frame as Songbird's tense frame loosens so suddenly she nearly collapses to the floor, a whisper soft "Thank Primus" reaching his audials. Ratchet is thankful the sparkling is still sleeping, as he helps the young High Priestess back to her own berth.

Once the sparkling was up, there would be no stopping Ironwill on his quest to get on his Caretaker's chassis above his spark in an attempt to soothe this most recent terror. With his injuries, that would not be a gentle nor easy task for Janus Prime, but Ratchet is not fool enough to think for even an instant that Janus will try and stop his sparkling despite the pain having a frightened, worried sparkling on his chassis will cause him.

Ratchet takes this moment to look over the femme's injuries again, checking that her actions had not damaged her frame any more than it already was, and taking another moment to calm and soothe himself with the movements of fixing injuries that are so much simpler than the ones Janus Prime carried.


 

When Janus comes back online, he is sore and sluggish. His body feels like deadweight and for an instant he has no idea what happened or where he was. Some instinct keeps his optics closed and all signs of his awakening suppressed as he tries to think through the fog of what happened.

It takes a few kliks, but then he remembers.

The subtle nearly soundless click as Songbird triggered a trap. The knowledge that jumped to the forefront of his processor screaming 'acid fog', the lightning quick calculations he made before choosing to save his Priestess and sparkling…

Agony beyond words, centered over his spark-no not again, not like this, why was it always his spark?-and collapsing. Songbird and sending her on a frantic dash for aide…

It all comes back to him, and Janus suddenly realizes he is in Ratchet's Medbay.

It is easier to relax then, opening his optics and scanning his surroundings. Ratchet is inside the room, and he turns as one of the alerts triggers and pulls the Medic's attentions his way. Janus doesn't give the Medic a moment to speak, asking,

"Are Songbird and Ironwill alright?"

Ratchet knew the query was coming, and he finds that he is not surprised it is the very first demand, the only words, to escape the Prime's dermas upon awakening. He had made sure that he has those answers before he had even entered the room, so he gives him a short summary of what he wants,

"Yes Janus Prime. Songbird is alright, and healing well from her minor injuries. Ironwill was unharmed, and despite his worry for you, he is doing well."

He sees some of the tension in the large bot's frame bleed away, and Ratchet is glad for the releasing of stress that pulls on the Prime's injuries.

"You, on the other servo," he says and lets his voice show his disapproval as he pulls Janus' attention back to him after a klik, "Are a wreck. You will be here with me for quite a while- and no you will not be allowed to leave my Medbay until you are fully functional."

Sam knows better than to argue with Ratchet when he gets that particular tone, and especially when his armor bristles just so the way it is doing now. Granted, it had never been directed at him, exactly, because Ratchet was a Cybertronian medic. That didn't stop him from worrying about his fragile human bones and even more fragile organs, but there were human doctors for that. He still recognizes Ratchet's tells all the same.

However, Janus has a vague memory of an electo-whip with a similar demand, instinctively wanting to flinch down in an attempt to dodge something unseen. But those are some of those things that he ignores, so he nods once, making no move to argue or look like he was in any way attempting to get up.

"Very well."

Ratchet nods sharply once, turning to the doors and calling over his shoulder "I will bring you your sparkling Janus Prime. I am sure he will climb the walls should I deny him another solar cycle. Songbird is, however, in recharge, and I would like to keep it that way."

Janus settles further into his berth, willing to wait patiently as he slowly opened the bond he had slammed shut so violently in an attempt to shield his sparkling from the agony of acid. He knows the exact moment Ironwill becomes aware that he is online, hearing the frantic rush of warbles, whistles and clicks from the next room, even over the low rumble of Ratchet's voice soothing the little one.

Janus finds his dermas pull up into a grin at the sound, and his arms open in welcome as Ratchet approaches with a near vibrating sparkling in his servos.

"Easy little one. Remember what I said." Ratchet's voice is soft but stern, and Janus watches as Ironwill stills and calms, his little servos reaching forward, as gentle as the mechling could be when he finally gets in his Caretaker's lap.

When the moment is interrupted by a knock on the door, Janus reacts thoughtlessly. His grip on his sparkling firms, becomes shielding, even as his armor flares as much as it can while he lays in a berth. He only calms when Ratchet reaches back to grip his shoulder, brushing reassurance-safety-promise over his emotion-field.

There's an odd moment when a memory that isn't his jumps to the forefront, of a battlefield. It's fierce and splattered with life-energon, and he can see Ratchet, coated in life-energon that doesn't belong to him, crouched defensively in front of his patients.

He knows that no one with the intent to harm him will get past the door while Ratchet stands with him, and he finds his armor flattening in response, his grip loosening on Ironwill as he tracks Ratchet's movement across the room.

Ratchet opens the door without hesitation, and Optimus is revealed to be the mech standing on the other side. Standing beside him are two bots Janus has not met, but Sam recognizes as Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. They are just as brightly red and gold as he remembers, though they lack some of their armor as well as a few scars.

They're as disconcertingly young as the other Cybertronians had been. Not yet marked by war- and if Janus can prevent it, never to be marked by it.

As Optimus enters the room, the Gladiator Twins- and no matter how different they are to the hardened frontliners Sam remembered, he can still read in their gait and body language that they are still Gladiators even without the stories the Twins had told him on Earth- enter a few steps behind him, and a few bots Sam had never met are revealed.

He recognizes them all the same.

Elita-One. Cherry red with silver-blue accents, shorter than Optimus and yet still carrying a weight to her that brings her to the attention of others. And Elita's right hand, the sparkmate to Ironhide.

Chromia. The femme is a sapphire blue with chrome silver accents. The way she walks alone tells Janus she's a fighter. He can see the way she complimented Ironhide immediately, even before she spoke.

The last femme to enter the room behind Chromia is a smaller frame. Sam had seen her only after she had been altered by Shockwave, made into 'Triplets'. Here and now she is one whole being, untouched by the experiment that ripped her spark into three pieces. She is a bright boldly colored individual in the likeness of what Sam calls a 'classic cheshire cat' pink and purple.

Ironwill leans over his servos chirping curiously at the new faces, and instantly Janus finds he is the focus of every bot in the room.

Looked like it was Meet and Greet time.

As Optimus approached him, introductions spilling from his dermas, Janus makes a point to dip his helm in greeting, introducing himself and his sparkling politely.


 

Healing is a slow and time consuming process. Especially with wounds so serious as the ones he had taken. Perhaps the only good thing Janus can think of to come of his confinement to the Medbay is that Optimus and his pack- including two more bots by the names of Wheeljack and Bluestreak- come to visit him. It deepens and expands on their bonds, establishing a firm base of trust over time.

Trust he will need if he is to help them through the future battles.

Ratchet is just as much of a terror over his patients as Sam remembered, and he is exceedingly glad to see some things hadn't changed.

Optimus is much more talkative and curious then Sam remembered, and Janus finds that despite the difference, he feels fond of the questions Optimus finds to ask him every solar cycle. Megatron is the most different to what Sam had expected, and in this he is glad some things have changed from what he knew. The Lord High Protector looks at him strangely sometimes, like he has no idea what to make of him, but he is curious and polite, and Janus doesn't mind the chats they have.

He is glad to get to know the young and more innocent versions of the mechs and femmes he had known as Sam, even as it hurts to see them so changed. He is glad to see the innocence in their optics, for it gives him reasons to fight, reasons beyond what he knew as Sam, to shield and protect them from what is coming. Reasons to strive for the change he is determined to cause.

It is a bit surprising to Janus that over the time he spends in the Medbay healing from spark damage, he can feel some of the pain of leaving everything he had known, all the people- the family- not drain away, but heal. The gaping wound that was all he had lost is beginning to pull together at the edges.

It's still a gaping injury, but perhaps one day, for the first time in a while, Janus- Sam- thinks it could be a scar.


 

Optimus' pack had learned to be careful coming into the Medbay. They had learned that the Prime healing within its walls was an ancient warrior with the scars and reactions that came with that. They had all witnessed nightmares and flashbacks suffered by the Prime at one point or another and dealt with waking the mech from the terrors that haunted him.

Normally, it would have smarted at their pride to have an almost fatally injured Prime repeatedly overpower them in both a confused and terror-stricken state, but the things the mech had screamed out, lost in his memory banks, lingered. Commanding pleas and begging demands for so many others, repetitions of numbers and designations, even strange languages none of them had ever heard before.

Those were only the reactions of fear, the ones of rage and fury were much more violent.

Usually, the Prime could be talked down by Ratchet often calling him another designation, but there were days when Megatron or Optimus was required to restrain him. To Optimus, Janus always listened, even if he hardly spoke.

So when they come in, and found the Prime sitting up in the berth, an absent servo tracing over one of his many scars, Bumblebee doesn't hesitate, the pack having discovered that Janus reacted best if Optimus or Bumblebee were the ones to rouse him from memories.

"Are you alight Janus Prime?"

It takes a klik, but Janus' optics eventually focus on the pack before him, his voice soft, almost hesitant, as he responds.

"Yes. Yes, I am alright, it was only memories."

Looks are exchanged, worried and not missed by Janus, because that is what the bots before him were worried about.

They settle around him, silent and supportive, presences that pull Janus away from the darker memories, bringing the happier ones, ones from his versions of this pack, and the Lookout to the front.

Janus isn't sure what prompts him to speak, his voice soft, like he is sharing the secrets of the Universe with them. All he knows is that it seems right in this moment, as he turns to face the worried optics watching him and begins.

"Long ago, many, many vorns past, I visited another planet," he says, his voice warms, brightening with hints of remembrance and happiness as he continues, "It was a planet with a sentient people, so young and foolish, but brave and bright living on its surface. They were capable of love and hate, of joy and sadness...for all their differences, their organic frames, so much smaller and weaker than ours, their short lifespans...they were much like us in soul- in spark.."

Janus pauses, his optics far away in memory as the Cybertronians around him remain silent and attentive.

"Their planet was as organic as the species that called it home. It was as different from our metal planet as could be...and it was beautiful."

A touch of awe bleeds into his tones as he remembers the brilliance of his old planet.

"Their sky was a bright blue, a star, a sun, sitting in the center of their solar system, acting as their light, and life and lighting their solar cycles. They had a moon during their lunar cycle, the very ground lush and alive with greenery," another pause before he continued wistfully, "Sometimes I wish Cybertron had a sun-star of its own. The sunrise and sunset of this planet are a dearly missed sight. The warmth provided, the brightness…"

He pulled his optics back to focus on the pack in front of him "They had weather patterns there. It rained, but it was not like our rain. It was not acid rain that fell from their sky, but water. Their storms were a force of nature, clouds swirling around their sky, the light and sounds fleeting, and perhaps all the more beautiful for it." his dermas lift into a smile tinged with saudade.

"I hope one day you will be able to see it. To understand the beauty in the differences. Not even stills or video files can compare to the actual sight of a sunrise, sunset or even a storm of this planet."

Bumblebee is the one to break the almost sacred feeling silence "What was that planet called?"

Janus' voice is warm as he answers, his tones soft and almost loving "Earth. The planet's name was Earth."

The name is committed to memory banks without a shared word amongst them, each of the bots curious about the organic planet that brought such a bright expression to the Prime's faceplates.


 

If Janus had to pick one thing he wasn't too happy about thanks to the spark damage he had taken, it would be the physical therapy that came after the actual healing. The work that went into making sure everything was working properly, and the time it took to ensure it.

Three deca-cycles. Three long deca-cycles of work. He was glad for the time offering him the opportunity to bond with Optimus and his pack despite being confined to Ratchet Approved spaces.

And maybe he had been pushing himself, rushing through the exercises Ratchet had given him, but he hadn't expected Megatron to be the one to call him out on it. He had so much he had to do, so much he needed to prepare for. He had no time to stand around doing exercises.

His optics are fixed on Megatron as the Champion Gladiator tries to lecture him about taking it easy, slowing down. He listens as Megatron tries to help, sharing stories about a mech he knew from the rings, who had suffered extensive damage and survived by following the Medic's orders. He listens as Megatron goes on to explain how another mech, one who suffered a less dangerous injury, but rushed through the Medic's orders, and ended up offlining in his next fight due to complications.

"I admire your strength Janus Prime, but if you continue to rush through your therapy I am afraid you will offline yourself."

The laugh that escapes Janus is bitter, weary and resigned.

"Oh, Megatron," he sighs in tired amusement, "I should already be offline."

The room is silent, shock swelling off Megatron's emotion-field for a moment in uncomprehending shock.

"What?" His voice is almost a whisper, the edges of blank horror underneath the flat tones.

"I should not be here." Janus repeats patiently and so matter-of-factly, "I should be offline."

He knows there's something like a smile on his face, amusement in his field, but his death is an accepted part of his life and he knows he's supposed to be dead, several times over. This doesn't bother him, he's still alive after all, but Megatron looks like someone just bashed him over the helm. But as Janus studies him a bit closer, he finds that there is the smallest flares of...betrayal? Or disappointment?

And then, to his surprise, Megatron rears up, his dermas twisting into a snarl with his optics blazing red and growls.

"You would give up so easily, Janus Prime?"

Oh, that's what this is.

To Megatron, Janus is this figure of towering strength and unwavering determination with an iron will to live. A Prime, a warrior with a sparkling in his care.

Janus shakes his helm firmly, his voice powerful and fierce as he answers the Lord Protector with a single word.

"No," he denies strongly.

Janus can see as Megatron pulls back a bit, the mech's dermas loosening and his emotion field filling with confused surprise before the mech recovers and leans forward again to growl, "What?"

"I would not choose death Megatron. I could not- I have too much to do, a sparkling in my care, and a High Priestess that follows me. I have Optimus, you and your pack that are looking to me for answers and the stories, the knowledge of the past, that which has been lost. I am here, and I will stay here so long as Primus wills it."

The almost aggressive determination that had coated both Janus' words and emotional field remains, but amused remembrance manages to overwhelm it for a klik as he continues, "I may even fight Primus to remain beyond my time."

His optics narrow onto the confused form of Megatron, allowing his tone and emotional field to flood the room with his honesty as he bluntly reiterates and expands on his meaning.

"When I say 'I should not be here' it is not that I am giving up, rather a simple fact. I should be dead. I should not have survived the injuries I retained. I should be offline, but I am not. I am not offline by the Will of the Ancient Primes and Primus, by the Will of the Allspark alone."

Megatron looks and feels so disbelieving that Janus almost wants to laugh. Instead he begins to explain.

"The Original…" Sam paused a moment, wondering if he should mention that there were actually fourteen, technically, though the designations escaped his memory, "Thirteen weren't that special. They were- they are- important, both in expanding our planet, in helping us to advance as a people, and in our history. They should not be forgotten nor their roles diminished, but the Thirteen were not special in life, they were important. It is in death that the Thirteen became more.

"They left pieces of themselves throughout Cybertron, meant to be found in times of great need, a link connected to their consciousnesses in the Matrix so that in death, they could offer their guidance and council," he explained, giving no mention of their tomb on Earth as he was almost certain nothing would be there, since he held the Matrix that had once resided in their servos here and now, stored and safe in his chamber.

"In times of great upheaval, the Ancient Primes are pulled to these objects, and they watch those around them. In this, they learn about the situations, and the people in those situations." Janus paused optics dimming in memory for a klik "And they Judge. The first time I should have died, I was a youngling, not yet a Prime, but I had a Prime of my own. He was killed before his time, and I moved to save him. I died for him. Shrapnel pierced my chassis, and I passed, but the Thirteen had been pulled to one of their objects. The Matrix of Leadership, and they had been watching my pack and my Prime for many vorns. Had been watching me.

"When I passed towards the Well, they stepped in my way, stopped me. Explained to me that I had earned the right to use the Matrix for my actions in a hopeless situation. They offered me a choice, and I chose to go back. I climbed to my pedes in the middle of that battlefield, where I had already died once, and by the Will of the Thirteen had come back; I marched to my Prime, The Matrix bright and shining in my servos, and I revived him."

Janus is silent for a klik, allowing Megatron to absorb that knowledge before he continues with something like resigned acceptance layering his tones.

"It is by the Will of Primus that I stand here today. I do not remember how I arrived here, only a sense of anguished vicious fighting, agonizing pain, and the desperate need to be the last one standing. I remember I was horrifically injured, that I fell, pressed my helm to the ground, and begged for...something. I know I should have died. I know in my spark that I had suffered too much to be alive...and yet here I am. I woke up, I stood again where a lifeless frame should be."

Janus shakes his helm in weary, resigned amusement.

"The Allspark...It is by the Allspark's Will that any of this, that all of this happened. The Allspark worked and flowed between Primus and the Thirteen, connecting myself to them. Perhaps I have failed to explain this adequately, but my point remains. I should not be here. Not that I do not wish to be- I very much want to be where I am- but that it is a miracle my spark still beats at all."

He ignored the blatant emotion twisting Megatron's being as his optics dimmed and he lost himself in memories of times long past and which would never come to pass.

"I wished for ignorance and normality, which I was granted for a time," he said so wistful, his tone hoarse with longing and grief. "But as someone once said, some are created great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. When I was young and foolish, I considered myself great for the footsteps I followed and the bonds I held. When I grew older and wiser, I realized that it was not I who was anything extraordinary, but others around me who shone with their brilliance."

With fading memories of a Megatron consumed by lust for power and driven mad to the point where this one in the here and now was reduced to a bot who wouldn't hesitate to kill Optimus, his spark-brother, Janus turned his full gaze onto him.

If he were still human, still on Earth and if he had witnessed the end that he still did not know, he knew he would have wept at the look on Megatron's too human face.

He knew as Sam-the-human, when he had nightmares of Megatron, screaming and searching for him in the destruction of Mission City, Optimus never minded sitting and talking with him in the early hours of the morning. The stories he told were of a talented and powerful warrior who loved as fiercely as a burning flame and was as dangerous as a wildfire to those he labeled 'enemy'. Megatron was a Gladiator, Sam knew. He didn't know the whole story, but he knew the basics.

My brother, Optimus had said, staring at the star with longing, and a wrecked grief of such depth that Sam could not help but cry for him.

Optimus's brother who only wanted to do right by those he cared about. To put an end to the senseless violence and the social classes that judged a bot's existence by letters and bloodlines, that was the dream of Megatron, the freedom-fighter.

The bot that now sat across from, not from Sam-the-human, but Janus-the-Cybertron, who felt for him at the thought of his death. Who cared enough about him, a being he scarcely knew, that the mentions of giving up outrages him. Offends him. And that human part of himself that grows quieter with each passing cycle sobs. Because this is what the Fallen broke and shattered in Megatron. His compassion, his mercy, yes, but his spirit and his reason. That raging husk of a puppet on Earth was nothing like this being before him now- save for his power and fighting strength.

"The things you have done, Megatron, were great, none can deny. Terrible, perhaps, brutal and necessary for your survival, yes, but they were great nonetheless. You brought change and here you are, with Optimus by your side, along with those you saved for an unjust and undeserved ending." Janus tilted his head, his expression losing the nostalgia and gaining a sharp edge.

"Here you stand, having risen above your past, with your optics fixated on a brighter, shining future. And it is here, seeing the changes that you and your Prime have brought, will bring, that what I said shines the brightest. It is not in myself that I find something extraordinary, but those around me."

There was a terrible understanding in Megatron's gaze. A twisted edge of dermas and a solemnity to his expression. Not quite shame and not quite regret.

"For all the lives taken, by your servos or another's, for all that you wish the actions you took were not necessary, you do not regret and you are not ashamed, because it was worth it, for them."

And understanding of his own shines in Janus' optics as he meets Megatron's stare head on.

Chapter Text

Hello everyone! This is northpeach, and I have good news and bad news. The bad news: There will be edits. So many edits. Because of The Last Knight and because we forgot a few of the bots we wanted to mention in the beginning. Plus we now have a firmer grasp of certain people's characters.

Annd, Wolfy will explain the good news: Wolfy?

Wolf here: Ok, so. We've developed as writers, got firmer grips on the characters we want to portray, noticed a few 'missing scenes' we wanted to get into the writing but missed, and The Last Knight shifted a few major plot points of ours around and sideways so we have to rework this from the ground up.

This means you all are getting newly edited content as soon as we finish with it that will ALSO have NEW content in it as we work our way through this. So once we post the note telling you it's up please make sure to reread from the start.

Thank you and sorry for the 'false update' alarm, but it WILL be better when it goes up I promise. It already looks better, and I (and north) are excited with the potential TLK offered us with this. Hopefully you all will agree when you see it.