It was an odd crew that stood together in the ship’s bridge. The crew of the Orion stood together in stony silence, waiting for their new captain. Prowl discreetly checked his internal chronometer, while Bumblebee groaned out loud and slumped against a wall. Bulkhead gave him a sympathetic look, while Ratchet outright glared.
"We wouldn't have to wait for a new captain if you two didn't scare off the last one," grunted the old medic.
"Hey, we didn't do anything, he was promoted," replied Bumblebee, shrugging.
"Actually, he said he quit the last time we saw him. There’s a hint in there,” corrected Bulkhead, staring in the direction of the bridge.
"Bulk, you're supposed to support me..." whined Bumblebee. He dropped into a crouch and rocked back and forth on his pedes.
Before their conversation went anywhere else, the short alarm that signified the ship’s hatch opening. "Here comes the new boss bot..." groaned Bumblebee. He flipped onto the deck and spun around in his seat. He spun to face the empty captain’s chair, staring up at it. “That last guy was super strict. I’m glad he left, aren’t you, Bulk?” He was met with silence. Bumblebee rolled his optics and spun to face the bridge, just in time to see the new captain come to a stop at the entrance of the Orion.
A strangled noise escaped Bumblebee’s mouth. They all stared at the new captain, who returned their gaze with an empty look. A thousand thoughts ran through each of their minds as they gaped at him. He was tall and lean, a clear frame built for fighting. His height easily cleared that of Bulkhead’s, who had always been the tallest out of all of them. But his face caught their attention the most; instead of a normal look, his entire face had been replaced with a black glass screen and a single blue optic shone out from the desolate darkness. Bumblebee’s optics trailed down to the bot’s hands, which were a cruel mimicry of claws. They extended, almost eerily, from his wrists. The only bot Bumblebee had ever seen with an appearance like that was Shockwave, and only in datapad pictures.
Ratchet had a look of pure horror as he pulled up the information packet on his HUD. The mysterious newcomer’s name was Optimus, and he had the rank of Prime. He stared from the picture on his screen to the person in front of him. His processor whirled as he remembered pictures of Decepticons and Autobots alike, their faces and hands removed. But that was in the old days, right after the war, where it had been hard to keep the fragile peace.
Why the frag did they submit him to empurata? A Prime, no less!
He had no words. Empurata was painful, no doubt, but it was only given to the worst of criminals right after the war. It was peacetime now; what had this young bot done to warrant such a punishment?
Prowl was just as stunned as Ratchet. This was the first time he had seen an empurata in real life, and he did not expect to see one as a Prime.
Let alone the new captain! He thought, narrowing his optics at the newcomer. It was common Autobot knowledge that empurata was given to serious criminals. But his Autobot beliefs clashed with those of his cyberninja training, which told him to forgive. He remembered Yoketron telling him that every single bot had redeemable qualities. He simply stared on, the conflicting views waging a mental battle inside his processor.
It was Bulkhead who roused them out of their trance. He commed Bumblebee.
::Come on, Bee! We can’t just stare at him like that! Maybe you should say something, like something nice!::
"Ca...Can they do that?” stuttered Bumblebee aloud. Everyone, including Optimus, jumped and turned to look at the smallest member. “Are they allowed to make him a captain?" He pointed to their new Prime, who had silently moved to his command chair and was currently working. He looked up at Bumblebee, and for a second, their optics met. If Bumblebee had not known better, he would have thought that the gaze was tired-looking. He shrugged off the feeling. Empuratas were known for not having any emotion whatsoever.
Ratchet seemed to know what he was thinking because he walked up behind Bumblebee and slapped him on the helm. "Watch yourself, kid. That’s our new captain, and he outranks you. Be polite."
Bulkhead fell in step with the two as they walked to their respective stations on the control center’s deck. He looked up nervously at Optimus, who returned the look with a curious-looking head tilt. Bulkhead shuffled nervously and looked down at his pedes.
"But...wh-why is he a.."
"He's just an empurata, and that makes no difference." Ratchet snapped. After the war ended, he had done empurata on many. He remembered the High Council saying that empurata was for terrible murderers, but he recalled bots getting their faces removed just for theft. After all, less than forty percent of empuratas had been murderers.
"But, he's a criminal!" shouted Bumblebee. Optimus’ helm jolted up at the sudden sound and he slumped over at the remark. There was a burst of static and the newest member of the crew spoke for the first time since boarding the ship.
It was remarkably clear for someone who had just been insulted and it was evident how much distress he was in. He quickly rose from his seat and hurried towards Orion's quarters, Prowl silently trailing behind. Prowl frowned as he quietly walked. There was always a chance for using stealth, and he would take this chance to learn more about their new Prime.
Optimus Prime sat down on the edge of his berth and stared at the blank wall. It was dramatically different from the room he had back at the Academy; that one was decorated with gifts from friends. His old room was much more welcoming than this one too. There was a desk and a pile of datapads in one corner; there was always the occasional pile of energon cubes sitting on his desk, ready for a usual visit from Sentinel and Elita One, who were down the hall. A sigh escaped his vocalizer as he fell backwards onto the berth and lay there, staring at the grey ceiling. He closed his optic and pulled up a happier memory file, one of the few good moments that happened after the empurata had been done on him.
Optimus Prime, disgraced Academy washout and current message-carrier walked down the Autobot halls of Metroplex to turn in a late report. The entire way there, from his small office to the delivery location, he was given harsh glares, rude whispers, and the general disdain that was forwarded towards empuratas. He inwardly sighed in relief; it was one of the last reports he would be delivering. After a few more, he would be moving to a spacebridge repair team. He was looking forward to it, because four other bots were easier to deal with than an entire base full.
Even though Optimus was used to the scorn, he was not prepared when a bot grabbed him by his exposed neck cabling and pulled him down. His HUD fritzed and several warnings appeared in front of his optics, detailing where he had been damaged when he hit the ground. Beyond all the errors, he could faintly make out a short, stocky figure in his vision, reprimanding a taller one. When his sight began to clear, the one who pulled him down huffed off on anger at what the short one said. He turned to thank the shorter one, only to realize it was Longarm Prime.
Optimus quickly saluted him.
"I am sorry for causing disruption in your hall, Longarm Prime, sir," he said automatically. It was easier to apologize, especially when it was obvious that you were the one that caused a scene. Admitting mistakes was good; it always helped the Autobot cause and lessened the work that higher-ranking officers had to do.
Surprisingly, Longarm Prime just laughed and offered a servo, helping Optimus up.
"No, I’m sorry for my soldiers. I thought they knew better, but evidently, I was wrong. I will give them a talk. And you don’t have to address me as ‘sir,’ we’re the same rank.”
“No, there is no need." Optimus shook his head in refusal. He certainly did not want to cause trouble with them more than he already has by existing.
"No no, everyone needs to learn that you too, are a living mech." Longarm said while looking at Optimus. He offered him a smile, and Optimus Prime felt just a little bit happier inside.
If Optimus could smile, he would have. Instead, his one optic curved upwards, signifying his happiness. The warm feeling soon disappeared inside him, leaving nothing but the cold emptiness empuratas were cursed with. He looked at the ceiling and thought of his new crew. Ratchet seemed nice, as if he genuinely cared about each of the bots. He was confused about Prowl’s personality, but he was no doubt more secluded than the others. Bumblebee certainly had a loud mouth and voiced his opinions quite freely; whether it was be dangerous or comforting, Optimus was not sure. But Bulkhead seemed nicer. He had a large frame and a shy voice, but seemed to give off the aura of quiet comfort. All of them seemed nicer than the bots inside Metroplex. He gave a semi-happy hum and shut his optic. Perhaps this would be bearable.
Meanwhile, Prowl stepped back from pressing his audio receptor against the door of the berthroom. The ship’s quarters were not known for being particularly soundproof; in fact, it was almost the opposite.
So the Prime does have emotions, even through the controversy. He slunk off, a thousand thoughts clouding his processor. He is more mysterious than I thought.
As soon as the two were out of audio range, Ratchet slapped Bumblebee again, "Empurata doesn’t mean they're a criminal, and it especially does not mean they murdered someone."
"Then what did he do to deserve that?" asked Bulkhead worriedly. Nobot had to ask what “that” meant.
"Again, most who’ve had empurata done on them,” Ratchet paused for a klik. “They don't deserve it." He sighed and they all stared at the seat where their old captain had once sat, now replaced with an empurata-turned-Prime. Ratchet waved a servo around.
“Time to get Orion ready. We don’t need to be lagging around, and we’ll be getting a repair mission soon.”