You can know everything there is to know about your own little world all your life. And at the switch of a circuit, you learn you’re part of something bigger than you ever imagined.
You learn things that never once crossed your mind before. Some sad. Some enlightening. Some simple… and some that confound even the wisest of thinkers.
I had never dreamed of the fate that was placed before me. How could I? I never aspired to be a hero or protector. I was only a dock worker. All I did was oversee supplies in a warehouse. Not the most glamorous or exciting job anyone would want for a lifelong career. Still, it’s a necessity to any society. You have scientists, political figures, star gladiators. But without someone to supply your basic needs, scratching a living would be much more difficult, to say the least. With no energy, there can be no life.
It’s an important line of work, though certainly not everyone’s choice for a dream job. Labor in a warehouse doesn’t attract much public recognition, after all. Despite its humble nature, though, it’s still a friendly atmosphere where everyone knows each other. Good friends to laugh with, a lovely girlfriend, adequate pay… you don’t even have to worry about formalities with your boss. It’s a pretty simple life. Even if any problems ever broke out in the city, the Guardian robots would be there to handle it. All we had to worry about was our own business. They had their job, we had ours. Whatever happened outside our lives wasn’t of our concern.
At least it wasn’t our concern… until a visitor came by and invited us to a party outside. If you consider “being dragged in” as an invitation, and an agonizing saga of violence is your idea of a party.
Many of us in the warehouse had heard so much about these new robots who were just entering our territory. We thought they were the most fascinating beings we ever saw. They looked powerful. They exuded charisma. And they could fly. On their own power. Nobody we personally knew could do that. We had heard rumors that these newcomers had attacked cities in other parts of Cybertron. But I, like many others, didn’t pay it any attention. Even if it did happen, it would have been so far away. It didn’t affect any of us in our Guardian-protected borders. We didn’t care; we just thought simply seeing them flying over our city for the first time was enough of a thrill.
I know what you’re thinking: complete strangers, no idea of who they are, and you’re so enthralled with them because they could fly? I won’t lie to you; as important as work at the warehouse is, it’s pretty mundane. I’m sure there would be life forms on other worlds, living lives just as simple; once they caught sight of an object coursing across the sky, they’d stop what they’re doing and just watch. It’s captivating to see: a mysterious skill to practice, and eventually master.
So imagine our thoughts when we spotted these flying robots. They had to be something special. Just watching them was incredible. But to actually meet one of them? It would be almost as sublime as meeting Primus Himself.
One unexpected visit later… and I almost did.
One astrominute, I’m conducting a tour for Megatron through our storehouses.
The next astrominute… the last thing I see is Megatron’s right arm aiming his weapon directly at my chest… and his left fist arrogantly clenched and posed against his hip.
Within a switch of a circuit, there was this bolt blazing at me at blinding speed. Before I could think to react -
I don’t know how long I was unconscious. But when I reactivated, everything had changed. Including me. Especially me. I remembered who I was before. I remembered my friends. My old job. My girlfriend. And I remembered the mistake I made in naively placing my trust in a charismatic stranger.
Now, nothing was the same as it was mere moments before. Megatron had used me to gain access to my warehouse, and use it as a stepping stone for his Decepticons to overtake Cybertron. Ariel was badly wounded. My old workplace was plundered and leveled. My other friends and co-workers were snared in the path of Megatron’s war machine. Many were critically damaged, others were beyond repair or recovery. The prognosis of the survivors was unknown.
And hitting me most directly of all, Orion Pax was gone. My older, smaller structure was rebuilt into a new stronger body, with reinforced armor and improved mobility. I had been given a laser rifle, a clear indication of where my new path would lead me. And as soon as I revived, and realized that something else was different, I searched for the nearest mirrored surface I could find. Then I looked for a clearer one. And another. I ran a diagnostic to see if my sensors were malfunctioning. No errors. Finally, I found the Autobot in charge of this place, and consulted with him. He told me nothing was wrong.
You change one detail… and all of life changes.
Not only was I different physically, but my mind and my spark had evolved with new revelations. Duty replaced my innocence. I had new responsibilities, daunting ones that could crush the psyche of any robot: Autobot, Decepticon or neutral. Now, instead of managing inanimate resources in a warehouse, I had a growing number of Autobots to supervise and protect; scourged by Megatron’s terror and worried for their safety and lives, looking to me as the savior and guardian of Cybertron's free civilizations.
The first of our new defenders. The Leader of the Autobots. Optimus Prime. That’s what they called me. This turn in my career forever changed my life and those of others, as well as the state of our planet. It was also a job I never wanted, but one where we could die if I failed.
And Ariel - she did say she’d heard of a Decepticon attack elsewhere shortly before they struck us. Dismissing her simply because it was outside our city limits proved foolish. Like me, saving her life also meant reconstructing her into a more durable body. Also with a new purpose and identity - no longer Ariel, but now Elita One - we both realized that all these changes went further than we could imagine affecting our relationship… our lives… our entire planet, beyond what was once our “own little world.”
As the Decepticon threat spread, we Autobots - scientists, technicians, and workers in other civilian vocations - were also forced to change careers if we were to survive. Peaceful by nature, however few among us had combat training, it was rudimentary; we had no ready-made facility to develop our military skills. We had to learn everything the hard way. Our spies gathered fragments of information on enemy weapons and battle tactics, which we hoped to extrapolate into innovating our own force. Optical magnifiers were repurposed as telescopic sights, precision cutters were replaced with energon blades, research computers yielded to strategic programs, and laboratories were refurbished into command centres.
We were dragged into conflict against an organized regime devoid of mercy, and the raw materials at our disposal were survival instinct, combat improvisation, and pure courage. And as we Autobots faced an enemy seeking to exterminate us, they looked to me for guidance, comfort, and security. As for Elita, she surprised many with her quick grasp on strategy and combat tactics of multiple disciplines, learning them so effectively that she earned a high rank as a commanding officer - a stark difference from the warehouse.
But as the war dragged on, its horrors changed some of us in ways we didn’t expect. With our lives occupied by the war, no time for rest or recreation - one moment with our guard down could mean death - even the most peaceful being would be forced to kill just to stay alive. This made some believe we weren’t ruthless or aggressive enough in the face of a foe completely lacking in mercy. While some left to form their own splinter cells, I disagreed with their opinions that we had to destroy the Decepticons to defeat them, unless all other options were ruled out. I wanted to avoid losing our very selves and becoming like the enemy we were fighting. It pained me to hear of the gruesome tactics that these independent guerrillas employed - the only way to tell them apart from the Decepticons was the Autobot symbols still branded on their armor.
There was another unforeseen side effect of the war that also changed us. We walked a thin paradoxical line, swearing to protect innocent lives from the Decepticons, but being forced to take the life of those attacking us - a contradiction to our ideals of preserving sentient life. The more pacifistic among us were unwilling to accept that dilemma; some would remain neutral to try avoiding the war, while others would flee Cybertron outright to other worlds to start a new life all over.
In both cases, though I was dismayed by their departures reducing the numbers we needed, I could not dictate that they stay with us and fight. I believed in the sanctity of freedom, which also meant their freedom to decide to leave… and to rejoin us if they so choose. I confess, part of me wanted to leave the war as well, but not out of fear or cowardice. I still remembered my old life before the war spread throughout Cybertron, and wished Elita and I could return to that simpler life away from it. But casting aside the mantle of responsibility that I had taken on would be selfish. How “carefree” would running away to a peaceful, sheltered life truly be, if countless imperiled lives would weigh on my conscience for the rest of my own lifetime?
I knew full well this was greater and farther-reaching than any individual, including me with the burdensome position of importance I had borne. For the sake of others, even if they could not all be saved, I had to be the Autobots’ proverbial beacon of hope in times of deepest despair against Decepticon tyranny. I also had to serve as an example of the noblest of our ideals, however improbable it may be, to avoid slipping into the amorality of our opposition. For them, I had to be a hero.
A hero who wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t met Megatron.
One must wonder what could have been. If Megatron targeted a different storage yard, might one of its workers be the bearer of this responsibility, instead of me? If I hadn’t been working at that precise time, could another presumably non-descript co-worker of mine have become Autobot Leader instead of me? And if so, where would I be now? Where would Ariel be now? Or in a terrifying thought, what if no one survived the Decepticons’ raids, leaving Cybertron completely open for Megatron’s visions of domination? What a bizarre turn on the paths of fate that lay before me - the robot I once admired would kill me, yet fate decided I would be born anew from his murderous act. I wonder if Megatron ever became aware of this irony.
Years would pass… in the hundreds… the thousands… the millions. In the war’s wake, numerous regional regimes and territorial republics on both sides had fallen, risen, and fallen again. Innumerable citizens, Autobot and Decepticon alike, had simply - and inevitably - fallen. And the extent of the damage suffered by our wounded world became so critical, that the energy resources once abundant in our former Golden Age - the same kind of resources I oversaw back then - were now gone, like the hopes of many who wished the war could just be over. A more cynical individual might suggest the only way it would end was if everyone went inoperative from this lack of resources; not an option I would even consider. But with Cybertron drained of the energy that we all depended on for life, continuing the war efforts would be an exercise in futility… for both sides. Like so many command decisions during the war itself, the burden of this difficult choice - and another drastic change - came to me.
We would leave home. Not out of cowardice. Not out of pacifism. Not to resume life elsewhere while leaving our world to die. The aim of our departure would not be to abandon Cybertron, but to find a means - I hope - to revitalize it.
That word again: hope. I don’t know how long I can still place my faith in it, with many other Autobots counting on me to lead them out of their unending feeling of doom, and having no way of knowing where and when that guiding light will appear to disperse that darkness. And when I leave Cybertron for the vast unknown, the void I leave here could also weaken the hope of the Autobots here who depend on my leadership. I believe Elita could command in my absence, but how would she feel about being separated from me, with no way of knowing how long I could be away?
Once again, now on a greater scale, I face something far greater than our own world.
Nonetheless, wherever our path will go, whether by fate or choice, I must lead on so we can emerge from this crisis, restore Cybertron, turn the tide of the war, and put an end to the Decepticons’ goals of conquest. I am aware that I didn’t add “whatever it takes”, or “by any means necessary.” Though it may stack the odds against us, I remain steadfast to not destroy our enemy, and to avoid slipping into malice. Should the Decepticons ever be open to discuss a peaceful resolution - and if they are sincere about it, instead of presenting a bluff - I will accept it. I fervently hope that someday, somehow, this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away, and we can bind up our homeworld’s wounds.
And yet, reality could instead deal me a scenario putting my beliefs to the greatest test. A battle could pit me against Megatron himself in a final confrontation. Battered nearly to exhaustion in a duel trading strikes and blasts for an eternity, I would finally have my nemesis down for the finish. All it would take to end this never-ending conflict is one mere pull on the trigger of my laser rifle…
Would that violate what I stand for? Despite eons of destruction Megatron had inflicted on Cybertron and much of its populace, can I show mercy to the same one who ended my former life? Should I extend to Megatron the same right that I would unhesitatingly give to a fellow Autobot? Obviously the Decepticons, Megatron least of all, would have no qualms about eliminating a weakened foe on sight - perhaps my hope for peaceful resolution would be improbable.
Something bigger than I imagined. Greater and farther-reaching than any individual… including myself. The well-being of multitudes should outweigh that of one. But having long served as an example to others, do I have the right to be the executioner, even for a tyrant to whom mercy and compassion are totally foreign concepts? Could I sincerely absolve my own conscience of one singular act - one detail - that could taint my beliefs with hypocrisy, however necessary for the welfare of all?
A cause, and the consequences of which, greater than myself.
Megatron killed me. And made me.
What would I do?