It had been going so well. He thought it had, anyway.
Optimus had tried to keep his prejudice at bay. The nomadic Cybertronians who roamed The Wastes in tribes of dozens had looked exactly like the stories said; rough, dark, their optics like glowing red jewels, but he’d reserved his judgment. They were, after all, there to negotiate peace.
The tribesmech had rode up to the gates on massive zap-horses, and the gunmetal gray mech at the head of the group was mounted upon a titanium-moose stag. It was an intimidating sight, to see such a monstrous mech astride a mountain of a beast. Dismounted he was eye level with the stag, one servo sliding off its mane.
Optimus had waited at the gates, behind the armed guards and grasping for the hand of his translator. It was a moment of weakness, searching for reassurance. Drift had only patted his arm and given him a nod.
The gates opened with a deafening crack of gears and hydraulics. Optimus pushed through the guards, to see the massive mech before them. He'd come alone, but not unarmed. It took Optimus more than just stern words to ward off the elite guard.
Red optics stared at him for longer than was typically polite. Optimus tried not to let it bother him. “Please,” he said to Drift, “Tell him I want no energon shed over this.”
As Drift spoke, Optimus watched the tribesmech cycle his optics between Drift and the Prime. He answered Drift in smooth, and sharp, words that sounded more like grinding metal than a language. Optimus looked to his translator with a nervous eagerness.
“What did he say?”
“He wants to know who you are,” Drift said, his dermas pursing together and his head dipping down in reverence. Optimus thought he saw shame, but he kept his suspicions to himself. “He says you're different than the last mech he spoke with.”
Optimus looked to the imposing mech before him, and raised a hand to his chest. “Optimus Prime.” He knew that would be enough for his name. “Drift, please tell him I have taken over in the event of Zeta’s demise. I want to mend what wrongs have been done to the tribes in The Wastes.”
“Don't call it that,” Drift corrected, rather quickly. He was nervous, shifting on his pedes as he glanced back to the tribal mech before them. “He understands some Neocybex. We- They. They call it the Badlands. It's an insult to say they live in waste.”
Optimus didn't understand- he would think it a mark of pride that these noble mecha could survive in wastelands. Instead he inclined his head to the other mech, who was perhaps even larger than himself, and amended his statement.
“Tell him I wish to right the wrongs that Zeta Prime inflicted upon the Badlands.”
Drift translated, occasionally flinching at harsh words and sounds that, oddly enough, seemed aimed at Drift and not Optimus. He didn't ask his translator. He knew the mech had come from the tribal mecha, but he had integrated himself into society since then. He trusted Drift to act professional.
The mech nodded along with Drift’s translations. He stared back at Optimus with a peculiar glint, clawed servos coming to rest along his jaw. His optics, like smelting pits, were focused on Optimus, only occasionally grunting at Drift to let him know he was still listening. When he answered, he was gruff. Optimus took the time to analyze the words the mech used, piling away words and linguistics in his files. If he ever wanted to be on friendly terms with the nomadic mecha he would have to learn their language. It was only fair.
The mech looked to Optimus and nodded to him, a begrudged frown along his lips. He said a few words, pausing for Drift to translate.
“He says you are a… noble and idealistic mech. He only hopes the mech who replaces you upholds your beliefs.”
That was… ominous. Optimus shrugged away the tingling feeling it left in his tanks and he inclined his head once more. “Thank you, ah… May I ask your designation? Your name?”
The mech stared at him for a moment before pulling a fist over his spark. “Megatron. Of Tarn.”
That was a city Optimus knew well. It was an ancient legend, a place rumored to never have even existed. He reserved his judgement. Perhaps these mecha considered themselves descendants of the great city, or perhaps they had history and roots to it. He wouldn't dismiss it merely because of his own background.
“Megatron of Tarn,” Optimus said, loud enough for his guard to hear. He approached Megatron with a hand held out, waiting to seal the deal. “I am grateful for the diplomatic opportunity placed before us. Let there be peace between our lands.”
Megatron stepped forward as well, staring at the servo offered to him. He waited, before hesitantly holding his own hand open, palm up. Optimus guided their hands together, and squeezed, offering up only a smile. Megatron nodded, understanding then. He shook Optimus’ hand with confidence then, and pulled them together, his other arm wrapping around to give Optimus a hearty thump on the back with their chests together.
“He says you are a honorable mech, unlike your predecessor,” Drift translated, once Megatron had spoken and allowed distance between their frames. He looked tense again, unsettled by what he'd witnessed.
Optimus nodded and heaved a long vent of relief. “I hope there is a long and prosperous relationship between us,” he said, relaxing his armor and allowing Megatron to see him grow calm.
This time it was Megatron who offered his hand, nodding along with Drift’s translation. He cupped Optimus’s offered hand in both of his with a solemn grunt-
And the next thing Optimus knew he was over Megatron’s shoulder and being carried off towards the titanium-moose and Megatron’s posse.