The Matrix was an object of mystical power. A totem of Cybertron’s deity, a blessing to those it touched. Fear and awe followed it in equal waves, forcing respect no matter what side of the war one fought on.
Few knew how it worked, fewer still how much it affected Optimus. He held a different name before it chose him-how much had it influenced the convoy’s personality. How much had been changed by Prime’s past.
No one knew.
Well. That was a lie. Optimus knew. And through him, his command staff.
But that was only because the Matrix had a bad habit of knocking him unconscious so that Primus himself could have a chat.
“I was in the middle of something.” Optimus growls, the second he realizes whats happened. He’s long used to abruptly waking up in a space of no sight or sound. It’s difficult to explain exactly what he sees when he communicates with their God, and his mechs have long stopped asking.
Optimus in turn, has stopped mentioning the...weirder...aspects of his conversations with the deity and the past Primes.
Some mechs take Primus’s growing interest in Optimus’s love life poorly. Optimus can’t blame them, he’s not really taking it well either. Of course, he’s the one “standing” before Primus like a petulant child being called in early for dinner, but still.
It’s an odd conversation to have, with a billion-year war taking up most of his time.
“I thought Prime’s weren’t supposed to take a Conjux.” He’d asked, the first time this had all come up.
“Yes well, you can blame Galina for that,” Someone called out. “Little devil convinced everyone so they’d stop trying to sleep with her!”
If Optimus focused he would be able to tell who it was, in the same mystical way that he knew who was here and who wasn’t. He didn’t want to focus though, and so ignored the speaker.
“A Prime can do what he pleases in his own life.” Primus said, before the banter could turn into an argument and derail the entire conversation. “We know you grow weary of this conversation while our people die. Just remember, our pressing of this matter is tied to the war.”
“You keep saying that. You don’t say how.” He’s trying to keep his tone civil, he is. He swears. It’s just not quite working.
“You’ll know when you encounter your sparkmate.”
Optimus glares. No one can see him do it, but they all know he is. “So you’ve chosen someone for me?”
“No, but I am who I am, child. I know who is destined for you. You are here today because you are letting your circumstances blind you, keeping you from reaching him.”
“And what do you suggest I do? Take a day and flirt with all the Autobots?”
“Who said your intended was an Autobot?” Crowed another voice.
“You wouldn’t.” Optimus nearly jerked back, face frowning.
“All Cybertronians are my children, regardless of the badge they wear on their chest.” Primus answered. “How did you expect an Autobot Conjux to aid the war effort?”
“Please tell me it’s not Megatron.” Was all Optimus could think to say. “ Anyone but Megatron.”
They had a history after all. One Optimus did not want to delve into.
“Of course not.” Primus said. “But close. Now go, your command staff is worried.”
And of course he got no choice in leaving, just as he had no choice in coming. No sooner than the words were spoken than Optimus was falling, lights and sounds rushing back, shifting until they formed into Ratchet’s concerned face.
“You back with us?” He asked.
Ratchet did not believe in Primus. He did believe someone had made a machine capable of storing memories of past lives, as a sort of advanced AI, and it was those programs speaking to Optimus. He of course, had no proof, in the same way Optimus had no real, physical proof he was speaking to the god of their race, but they each believed their own versions strongly and loved each other enough not to argue about it. Most days, anyway.
So, usually, when Optimus awoke to Ratchet peering over him he toned things down a bit and gave an edited version of what had transpired.
Usually was not always.
Optimus had had enough today though, between problems with the Decepticons, problems between the Ark’s crew, and problems with Primus trying to hijack his personal life.
So when Jazz asked; “What’d they tell you boss? They’ve been pulling you out a lot recently.” Optimus answered honestly.
“Apparently, I need to date a Decepticon to end the war.” He snapped. He regretted it instantly, in the resounding silence that statement left.
This was not the way Optimus wanted to spend his evening.
Or any evening, ever.
“Not Megatron, but close.” Wheeljack mused, looking at the list of pictures Prowl had projected onto the table. Each one could be tapped to display a short profile. A dating profile. That Jazz had made.
They were scarily accurate and often full of more information that Optimus had ever needed, or wanted to know.
“Is this what Spec Ops does for fun?” Ironhide had asked at the start of this unpleasantness, only to quickly regret his answer when he realized just how detailed each profile was.
“Do I want to know how you managed to get everyone’s kinks?” Wheeljack asked, whistling as he scrolled through Starscream’s profile.
Jazz had pointed to Red Alert and responded with an entirely too delighted “It was a group effort!” Which had set the exact tone for this nonsense and now, an hour in, Optimus wished desperately that he’d followed Ratchet when the mech had stormed out, upon discovering what exactly the “emergency meeting” was about.
“It’s Soundwave.” Prowl said in the present, returning Optimus to the argument that they kept circling back to.
Soundwave vs Starscream.
Both options made Optimus’s processor spin unpleasantly.
“Close doesn’t mean high command necessarily.” Wheeljack continued, staring at the handful of other profiles displayed.
Jazz made a rude noise. “Course it does, mech. How would anybody but high command change the tide of war if they hooked up with the Boss?” His fingers flicked lazily down the various profiles, once again showing off the “compatibility ratings.” “It’s gotta be a mech the rest will follow if he defects, or makes an announcement to bid for peace.”
“Are we suggesting mechs would follow Starscream if he defected?” Wheeljack said.
“No, but they’ll follow if he’s backed by the Autobot army.” Jazz replied. Optimus would normally trust his judgement, but considering he was currently championing Starscream against Prowl’s insistence on Soundwave, he was a touch hesitant.
Sort of like how he was hesitant about this entire ordeal.
“You're gonna have to take them both on a date then.” Jazz continued, after arguing his point a bit more and getting absolutely nowhere. “S’ only option.”
“Fine.” Optimus said, just wanting this meeting to end. “Soundwave first then.” He knew he wasn’t getting out of this, knew he was going to have to go through with the madness. If that was the case, then no one could fault him for making his own plans.
He knew neither mech was his supposed bondmate. But Soundwave could potentially help find the actual mech and that, Optimus would take a chance on.
“Set it up, Jazz.” He commanded, and ignored the smug grin his Third shot his Second.
Optimus had a weird relationship to the Decepticons. As a figurehead and Autobot leader, he was positively despised.
As a Prime?
There was a reason Megatron had claimed he was the only one who could kill Optimus, and half the Autobot army was fairly certain it was because your average ‘Con just wasn’t comfortable doing it. Hating him certainly, but killing? Wounding, even?
Not a line many were willing to cross.
So Megatron removed that option from his army, making it a personal vendetta--which, at this point, it most certainly was. But it also allowed those who were uncomfortable hurting the Prime an out, one that was gladly taken.
The result was that, if you got certain mechs alone with him, they weren’t at all sure what they were supposed to do. Call for backup and send alerts and go through procedure yes, but physically, while they waited for all that to happen?
They had nothing. They did nothing.
Soundwave, surprisingly, was one of those mechs. A fact Optimus was currently taking ruthless advantage of.
“Read my mind.” Optimus demanded.
“No.” Soundwave repeated, as he had been, continuing to back away as Optimus advanced. They were going in literal circles because of it and if that wasn’t a metaphor for Optimus entire fragging life nothing would be.
“I was given a mission by Primus.” Optimus snarled, sounding rather rabid and not caring an ounce. “I know damn well you aren't the mech he wants, but you can help so-- read. My. Mind.”
Soundwave flinched at the name of their god, but continued moving backwards. They were running out of time--Optimus knew the telepath had called in backup the second he’d realized he’d fallen in a trap.
The refusal was softer this time, more of a whisper and a headshake. The Con’s field trembled against his and, sensing weakness, Optimus played his trump card.
When the war had begun Optimus had made two things clear to both sides. He was fighting for what was right--and that he would never use his status or duties as Prime to win the war. The Autobots and his position as its leader was separated from his position as Prime. As such, any mech, no matter their alignments, who came to him for religious reasons would be heard and honored, even if they did not join the Autobots. Religious events would still be held and given appropriate respects.
Few believed it at first and many more had tried to use it to gain an advantage against the Autobots, but all had quickly realized that in this, Optimus was serious.
He refused to kill, refused to let his own command kill on more than one occasion but for mechs who disobeyed the orders of peace when he acted as Prime? Those who disrespected the position, and made it difficult for others to let the Prime hold them?
Megatron never allowed attacks on the Prime’s team directly during recognized religious holidays for certain reasons, and Optimus’s unusual trigger finger was absolutely the leading reason.
So when he pinned Soundwave with a stare and his field, when he spoke the words in a voice of absolute command, when he acted not as an Autobot but as a Prime , Soundwave knew to listen.
“I am not asking you as the Leader of the Autobots, Soundwave.” He said, field lashing out and catching the others in it. “I am commanding you as your Prime. Read. My. Mind.”
He didn’t need to see Soundwave’s face to know the mechs optics had blown wide. Didn’t need to feel the shock in his field as Soundwave jerked to a stop.
Just smiled in victory when the first, hesitant trendle of power licked at his processor. Soundwave was fast, impersonal. He could make the process uncomfortable, could make it hurt but he did neither. Instead he found the information, the memories Optimus presented to him, took the information offered and looked only briefly beyond it to ensure it truly wasn’t connected to any kind of Autobot war effort.
The mech withdrew as gently as he entered, shuddering as he pulled his mind back from his Prime’s.
They stared each other down for a moment before the carrier bowed his head.
“Soundwave: Understands.” He said softly. “Will help.”
“Good.” Optimus said, relief in his voice. “Thank you.”
Finally, maybe, they could actually go somewhere with this.
“It’s not Starscream.” He added, before he could forget.
“Acknowledged.” Soundwave said and, despite the fact that he’d withdrawn entirely, Optimus got the oddest impression the mech agreed.
“Thank you.” He repeated, then sent the coordinates to a small, unclaimed energon reserve over an open channel. “Take care of yourself and your own.” He said formally, knowing Soundwave would understand that the reserve was meant as a token of gratitude--and that the Autobots would not harm anyone who took from it.
Not of course, that that meant Soundwave believed that, but they’d gotten this far and Optimus knew Megatron was starving half his crew.
He turned and walked out of the clearing he’d cornered the mech in. Soundwave watched him go, both knowing Optimus was safe turning his back to him.
They both left with trendles of hope that they had a way for this fragging war to end, even if Soundwave was rather shaky about it.
“It’s not him.” Optimus announced to the room, eliciting a response of half groans and half smug smirks. “But he’s going to help.”
“Is it wise to trust him?” Prowl asked, because he’d long ago mastered the ability to be disappointed, frustrated and annoyed without letting it show.
“No, but we don’t have any other choice.”
“Well.” Ironhide sighed through his vents, staring at the profiles once again projected on the table. “If it’s not Soundwave or Starscream--" Because Optimus had shot Starscream down so hard, oh yes he had--"--then who is it?”
“I don’t know.” Optimus said, seating down at the head of the table with his own sigh.
Something told him he didn’t really want to know, either.
“Soundwave sent his options.” Jazz announced, a day later.
“Already?” Ironhide said, surprised. “That mech is scary efficient.”
“He is.” Prowl agreed, then turned slightly to eye his Prime. “Are you certain it’s not--”
“Yes.” Optimus said and whoops, was he snarling again? He needed to stop doing that, it was out of character.
“Thundercracker is his first option.” Jazz read, displaying the profile Soundwave had created and Red Alert picked clean to insure it was safe.
“Point of stability for the army, Second in command of the seekers.” Jazz continued, looking at Soundwave’s reasoning.
“Has shown interest in defecting?” Wheeljack interrupted, twisting to face Jazz. “Is that true?”
The saboteur nodded, scrolling through the rest of the profile as he did so. “Yeah. Hasn’t done much about it though.”
“Doesn’t he hate grounders?” Ironhide asked, thinking back on the numerous insults the seeker had hurled at his ground-troops (particularly, the Twins.) More than one had been some kind of slur.
“That’s listed as the main weakness.” Prowl pointed out, arms crossed thoughtfully. “Clearly Soundwave thinks he could overcome that, though.”
“I dunno, most of the ‘Con’s have the fliers.” Wheeljack said, and Prime interrupted before that could devolve into its own argument.
“Onslaught?” Ironhide read off, as the profiles switched out. “You’re kidding me.”
“Well respected within the Decepticon army, former Commander, known and trusted, dislikes Megatron and outspoken about it.” Prowl read this time, as the profile rolled past.
“Weakness; Bruticus and loyalty programming.”
“He’s out.” Wheeljack said, staring at the picture of the mech.
“Indeed.” Optimus sighed. No doubt Soundwave thought the Matrix--and possibly Ratchet--could overcome the loyalty programming but the gestalt? There was no way they were going to be able to separate him, and if they didn’t, that meant he came as a package deal.
Considering that package deal contained Vortex, Onslaught was absolutely out.
He didn’t have to ask for the profile after that. An all too familiar gold seeker popped up, and Prowl didn’t even get out his name before Optimus had veto’d him.
“No.” He said, to raised optic ridges around the table.
“Sunstorm’s devoted to Primus, and is fairly high up the Decepticon command chain on Cybertron.” Prowl said, frowning as Optimus shook his head. “His only weakness is that he doesn’t quite have the pull we’d want to put an end to the war.”
“I am well aware of Sunstorm’s devotion.” He said with a shudder. Sunstorm was one of the few who had no problems separating his titles, and contacted Optimus so often over the designated comm line that the Autobot leader would’ve thought he was trying to pull something, if it weren’tfor that devotion. “We would not get along as bondmates.” Another shudder.
“Any other options?” He asked, hopefully. ‘Please let there be other options.’
“One, boss.” Jazz said. He looked up, field suddenly smug. “It’s got an apology in front of it though.”
“An apology?” He repeated, frowning. Who would Soundwave feel the need to apologize for sending? Unless….
Optimus sat up, suddenly wary, and found he had every reason to be when Starscream’s faceplates graced the center of the table.
“No.” He didn’t moan it, he didn’t, no one heard him say it like that, nope.
“His profile’s almost identical to ours.” Jazz said, field getting smugger by the second. “Sorry boss.”
“It would be worth considering him for that alone.” Prowl said, as he looked through the many “strengths” Soundwave had listed, strengths which Jazz and Red Alert had listed themselves. The weaknesses were equal in length, but each was countered by a strength, and the sheer fact that, if it weren’t for Megatron, the seeker’s actions would have ended the war long before now. It was only the tyrants ego and narcissism that had stopped Starscream--and, as a result, allowed the Autobots room to come out on top. Nevermind that he was outspoken about saving Cybertron and their species, and was the main reason The nemesis had functional energon-makers at all.
Starscream was well versed in the problems they faced, had the political and intellectual smarts to help fix them, held the title of Second in Command honorably by Decepticon means, and would be respected if backed by someone who wasn’t an abusive egomaniac.
“Sorry kid, I’m with them.” Ironhide said, hand on his chin. “Screamer’s a nightmare, but he’s the nightmare that fits the best.”
“Are we agreed then?” Red Alert asked tentatively, all optics turning to their leader.
Optimus put his head in his hands. “Yes.” He said a moment later, defeated.
Somewhere, above him, a group of past Primes were laughing.