Beeeeep! "Hey, Op. I hope you slept in cuz you worked pretty hard and you deserve it. ANYway, I'm off-planet and won't be back for a few days. Since Magnus has mentally disappeared, you're in charge. Don't let Uncle Trion push you around. I know you won't let him, but you know, I worry for you. 'K? See you in a few days."

Optimus drained a third cup of energon as he watched Skyfire enter Metroplex air space. No telling how many days Roddi would be gone. Not that it really mattered. Besides, he needed time away. Three days ago, Kup locked Sixshot in the brig tight as a psychopath in a sarcophagus. Then just yesterday, some CDA pinhead invaded Autobot City and used the most inconceivable rhetoric to bail the gargoyle out.

Optimus' optics flared. The only way to be rid of Sixshot was to take him out a chunk at a time. But violence solved nothing, particularly anything regarding Alpha Trion and politics. The Matrix liked the idea of executing Sixshot-gruesome or not. However there were other ways and means to deal with such a nuisance. It did not have to be obvious.

Optimus underhandedly reassigned the miscreant and got him off the streets. Autobots and Humans were not the only personnel residing in the city. There were the unruly Monsterbots. Six of them, according to Kup. Optimus did not have time to get acquainted with them himself. But he heard enough horror stories to deduce they were more trouble than the Dinobots had ever been.

Rodimus said the Monsterbots escaped a series of stasis pods tucked away in the ancient tunnels of Cybertron. Galvatron once invaded the planet and released an experimental Quintesson energy monster. That, in turn, roused the Monsterbots from suspended animation. Rodimus passed the story off as a really bad event and did not go into detail.

Nevertheless, they now provided the perfect assignment for the insolent sextant blockhead.

An incoming call forced Optimus from his morning contemplation. No sooner did he pick up the receiver than someone buzzed the door for permission to enter. Optimus pressed an entrance key on his desk and in stepped Alpha Trion. Optimus chose to attend the phone call rather than greet the elder. "City Director." he answered in near-monotone. Optimus selected a digipad and scrawled across the top. "No, I'm sorry. Ultra Magnus, the City Commander handles shipping and receiving. I'm not aware of -again, I know nothing of the seating. No. Rodimus Prime is not available-I can't answer that. Thank you."

He hung up and gave Trion an expectant gaze.

The CDA member offered a slight smile. "I guess you've answered my question before I could ask it."

Optimus hesitated and swirled slightly in his chair. "Alpha Trion, have you seen or heard from Ultra Magnus?"

He shook his head. "Yesterday, perhaps."

Optimus acknowledged with a silent nod. He picked out a digipad, glanced at it, signed and set it aside then reached for another, ignoring Trion. The Autobot 'grandfather' swept his gaze across the wall of windows, taking in the magnificent view.

The Matrix stirred like a restless fish in a bowl. Trust nothing.

"Optimus," Trion's tenor voice hit the silent room. "I've recently taken liberty to examine some of your reports on the day-to-day activity here at Metroplex. I have to admit, they're really well done."

Optimus scanned through details of damage along the interior of Eastmont Roadway on the south side entrance and ordered repairs done within the following week. "I'm glad you approve of my work," he replied absently.

Trion studied him a moment more: "Why don't you just come work for me?" His voice pitched to hopeful excitement. "I'd-I'd love to have you work as head of my staff!"

Optimus authorized two vacation requests and someone's transfer from the South Gate entrance to custodian duty at the Eastern Wall. "I thought Siena was handling that," he said quietly.

Trion looked surprised. "How did you know that?"

"I've exchanged pleasantries with her."

The elder's optics glued themselves to Optimus and an air of admiration glowed from Alpha Trion. "That's remarkable. Did she tell you?"

Optimus wrote in a letter of warning to Remix about his habitual tardiness. "No, Trion. She did not need-"

"Then how do you know?" Trion's voice sharpened with suspicion. His whole form turned toward Optimus.

Optimus signed the letter and sent it electronically. He chose another pad and read a report regarding activity along the grounds around Central Command. "It doesn't take a genius to deduce that-if that's what you're suspicious about, Alpha Trion. She knows your work schedule, itinerary and your down time." Optimus lifted his optics to see Trion's unamused attitude. "She also knows who accompanies you to each meeting."

Trion slowly nodded like a cat caught with its paw in the tuna can. "You know, Optimus, maybe Rodimus is right about you."

Optimus carefully concealed his expression, staring at Trion as though he were a stranger.

Alpha Trion expected some sort of puzzled or curious look. But 'Zombized Optimus' just stared. "Well," Trion stumbled to stay on track, that is, he believes eventually you may return to that original mental acuity before your-ahhh..." Trion tried to be diplomatic.

The Matrix found Trion's verbal dilemma amusing. Optimus chose to help: "you can say it, Trion. Before my death."

"Well, I was trying to be polite. But yes, before your death. Anyway, Optimus I would still like to hire you as my personal administra-"

"Thank you, Alpha Trion. But no thank you."

Trion smiled. How about, 'let me think it over,' instead? After all, I can offer you a good number of perks."

Optimus' door chimed and he granted access. Kup stepped in with Sunstreaker and Twin Twist in tow. The security officer politely nodded to Alpha Trion as he put away his laser pistol. Optimus rose from his chair, delighted for the sudden intrusion.

Trion forced a smile. "We can discuss it later, Optimus," he announced. But Optimus did not answer.

"Kup?" Optimus greeted. "What is this?"

"A shaft-cracking, optic-tweaking irritation." the cranky security chief turned to his charges. "Sit." he snarled.

They slowly found a chair at the desk. Sunstreaker looked guilty, his optics cast off. But Twin Twist remained doggedly defiant, staring Kup square in the optics, a snarl distorted his visage.

Kup professionally ignored him. "Sorry, Optimus. Couldn't locate Ultra Magnus."

Optimus leaned over, hands palmed to his desk. "What?"

"Called all morning. Even asked the City." Kup's frown turned darker. "Otherwise, I'd be dragging these two tire-slashing yahoos off to the City Commander's office."

Optimus nodded in acknowledgment. He pressed a comline button on his desk. "Tempra, this is Optimus."

"Yes, sir?"

"Will you please locate Steeljaw and assign him to locate our missing City Commander?"

"Of course. Oh, and the finance report from Springer is in."

"Send it to me, Tempra. Thanks." Optimus settled in his chair and Kup stepped to the side to allow the director a good view of the two Autobot delinquents. "Now, then. What seems to be the problem here?"

"Had another fight between them. Almost injured two innocents. Rodimus told me to drag them back to him if they erupted into one more fight. He's not here. Magnus' missing. Didn't know if you were willing to tackle it or not."

Optimus folded his arms and nodded once. "So there was a fight. Twin Twist, do you want to tell me what happened?"

"No." the Jumpstarter sulked. "But it's not my fault."

Sunstreaker leered. "I certainly didn't start it."

"Liar." Twist snarled.

"I am NOT!" Sunstreaker squirmed in his seat, longing to punch his adversary in the snout.

"Every fight has been because you just have to strut and show everyone up. You are so fragging full of-"

"Stop!" Optimus firmly cut him off. "Sunstreaker, tell me what happened. That's an order."

Both Sunstreaker and Kup flinched. They had not heard Optimus sat that since ... since ... The Autobot warrior quickly shifted mental gears to answer: "Sides and me were patrolling the eastern side and did a little off-road racing. That's when Two-Bit-brain here came around. He decided we were upsetting his entire universe and tried to play chickenbot."

Optimus turned to the skulking Jumpstarter. "Twin Twist?"

"He's lying."

"I am NOT!" Streaker shouted. "You fragging punk!" one glare from Optimus warned Sunstreaker to settle down.

"Twin Twist, I am waiting to hear your side of the story."

Twist's hot glare settled on Streaker, but he could not meet Optimus in the optics. "I was on the eastern side, minding my own business when these two horse-and-carriage wannabe's revved on either side of me and egged me into a race. So I took them on and won and Sunstupid here got all mad cuz I bested him-"

"Oh, who's lying now, you reject waste disposal!"

"That is enough!" Optimus shot back.

"See?" Twist pointed. "I'm tellin ya, he all prissy because I won the race and now he's having to lie to stay out of trouble!"

"Optimus I am not lying, I swear." Sunstreaker pleaded, his optics focused only on his commanding officer. "We got into a bad argument and it drew the attention of a couple other Autobots. We got into a fist fight and it just got out of hand."

The next moment astonished Kup so that he found few words to describe in his report: Twin Twist snarled like a rabid animal. His fingers snapped into deadly blades and he leapt for Sunstreaker. He moved so fast, Kup would never have caught him in time to protect Sunstreaker.

But what shocked the security chief was how much faster Optimus moved. He kicked the Jumpstarter's feet out then kicked the chair in his face to prevent Twist from targeting Sunny with anything else. Then Optimus kicked Twin Twist so hard, the Jumpstarter not only slammed into the wall, but smeared a solid impression in the metal. Op was on him like a cat, hands behind his back and a restraint about his wrists.

Twin Twist snarled and growled like a robotic animal. "Go ahead," he dared. "Put me in the brig. Confine me to quarters. Alpha Trion will take care of everything."

"I'm sure he will," Optimus matched Twist's angry words. "But I won't bother confining you, Twin Twist. I know that's what you want. No, Twin Twist. I have better ideas for you."

"The 'phone' on Tempra's comline chimed.

"Metroplex central Command, City Commander's office. This is Tempra, how may I direct your call? No, I'm sorry, Commander Ultra Magnus is not available. Do you wish to speak to the city director? Yes, that would be Optimus. Yes, I know the delay is irritating. I am certain someone will-uh huh. Well... No. Rodimus Prime is on business leave-"

Tempra's optics about fell out of her head. She stood while the Central City planning chairman rattled on about unfinished projects and people waiting to move forward.

"Ultra Magnus," she whispered, "is everything-"

"Not now, Tempra." he stomped into his office.

"Sir, I have sixty-four messages and Optimus-"


The door closed in her face. She paused a fraction of a second then rushed back to her desk. "Mister O'Danue, I will have to call you back." She hung up on him and started to call Optimus when Magnus' door swished open and he stared at her, aghast.

"Tempra! What the fenestrated smelt is going on out there!?"


"Twin Twist! What the living Pitt-"

"You'll have to ask Optimus, Sir. He's-" Tempra's laser core vibrated hard as Magnus stomped off, a locomotive of anger wrought by the molten lava from hell.

Optimus finished filing construction reports to Central City's summer commission. He half listened as the news gabbed about China's recent oceanic exploits and the new 'desert pearl' discovered in the Gobi. The subject shifted to Oregon's crowded coastlines; business owners fighting ecologists with politicians playing ping-pong between them.

One of the smaller, older digipads bleeped for attention and Optimus swept it up with a glance at a poll declaring public opinion over Rodimus' current status. As of to date, according to the news, seventy-four percent of Autobots and Humans approved of Rodimus' administration with twenty-one percent stating he was not working fast enough and the least percentage believe Trion and the CDA were better qualified to lead the Autobots.

Optimus turned the veiwscreen off and scanned the digipad containing Steeljaw's report. A warning entailed unusual activity around the administration chamber construction zone. Optimus granted Steeljaw approval to investigate further. But he warned the Autobot tracker not to get caught.

The Matrix stirred. Magnus' life signatures vibrated down the hall. The city commander did not bother chiming the door. He barged in and pointed out the windows with a face distorted by fury. "WHAT THE FLAMING HELL IS THAT ALL ABOUT?!"

Optimus calmly turned round. Twin Twist dangled from a nearby building. Cuffed, gaged and shackled, he swung by a cord wrapped round his wrists and waist. The Matrix found the idea amusing and satisfying.

Optimus swivelled to face the city commander. "It's about me having to do your job."

"Don't patronize me, Optimus-"

"I wouldn't, Ultra Magnus, if all I had to do was my own job."

Magnus was about to retort when Optimus' comline bleeped. "Director," Optimus answered.

Arcee's sweet voice came over the air. "Hi, Optimus. If you see my Ultsy Magsy, would you let him know that I'll be... home... waiting for him?"

Optimus sent Magnus a stern gaze. "Yes, Arcee. I'll see to it he gets the message."

"Thank you."

She signed off and Optimus leaned back in his chair, arms crossed, his face hard. "Did you want me to forward all your messages and reports?"

"Yes," Magnus growled. "And take him down."

"No." Optimus replied simply. "You were not to be found. There was a situation. Rodimus at least has the courtesy to let me know he's leaving and when he will return-"

"With all due respect, Optimus, you are not my superior."

"No," Optimus agreed, "but the distractions in your private life force me to take your responsibilities."

"Resp-" Magnus choked, "you call that responsible?!" he pointed to Twin Twist. "That ... that is unacceptable! Once Trion gets wind of that, you'll be in such deep sludge, it won't be possible for you to climb out-not to mention a political mess for Rodimus!"

"I did what was necessary."

"WHAT?! Have you lost your fragging mind?!"

"Twin Twist and Sunstreaker have been charged with public outbursts three times this month alone. Twin Twist has repeatedly started fights with a record number of Autobots. I chose to isolate him where I can keep an optic on him at all times. Twin Twist is dangerous and cannot be trusted."

Magnus almost could not suppress his outrage. "He is also one of Trion's bodyguards!"

"And undoubtedly a spy." Optimus swiftly added.

Magnus opened his mouth again to retaliate when Optimus' door buzzed. Optimus granted entry and in stepped two Autobots bearing digipads and expectancy in their expressions. Optimus gave the city commander a 'nice try' expression. "Thank you, Ultra Magnus I will not keep you. I know you have other things to attend."

Magnus glared, turned about face and would have stormed out but kept the boiling-point argument under wraps. They'd finish the 'debate' later.

Optimus attended road conditions and traffic reports. He authorized system updates on Blaster's transmission boards and held a meeting with the Douglas County supervisor for District Two regarding bridge repairs and volunteer visits by Autobots to a collection of fifth grade classes. He set up another appointment with Dr. Sameko.

Security reports filed in from the Lunar Colony which Optimus gladly sent to Ultra Magnus while he tackled personnel details and science reports.

The day sunk into night when Optimus permitted city security to take Twin Twist inside under solitary confinement until morning. After a short break, Optimus resumed his work, watched two separate press conferences held by Alpha Trion until he checked the time again. The day slipped into 3:20 AM.

He did not want to stop working. But his processors needed to defrag. Magnus said nothing to him all day; not that Optimus expected him to.

The city director retired to his quarters. Rodimus special ordered paintings of galactic spacescapes for Optimus' quarters; images neutral in nature but beautiful. Optimus liked them because they did not depict things he might recall during the day and dream of at night.

Optimus settled into recharge mode. Let the darkness descend and the day fall quiet. But the quiet did not last. Distant whispers neither Human nor Cybertronian haunted him; sleep mocked his effort. He called for light and sat up. Part of him longed to hear a real voice; Roddi's in particular.

Four-thirty AM. Optimus debated returning to his desk. Perhaps he'd fall asleep at his chair as he did more often than he admitted to Dr. Sameko.

Pouring himself a soothing cup of hot ten-weight, Optimus rejoined his office. He left the lights off to watch the picture-perfect view. Metroplex spread before him; a complex of lights and serenity in the late springtime night. In spite of the scenery, Optimus' soul lay vacant. He should be more a complete person rather than this shadow of a personality trapped in a body. He was like a little child wearing a sweater far too big for his body. A call came from Magnus' office, sparing the depressing moment.

Magnus' tone dropped several degrees from the shouting he'd done earlier. "I-uh-I hoped you'd still be up. I-You were right. I was irresponsible. And I apologize."

"Forget it, Magnus," Optimus dismissed. "it's not that big a deal."

"Yeah, it is. I let you down. I've been negligent and I'm sorry. So, as Rodimus would say, how about a truce?" Optimus gave the visascreen a sidelong glance with weary optics. Magnus read it and realized he spoke into a room devoid of light. "Oh boy. Another sleepless one, Optimus?" The city director mutely nodded. just vaguely Optimus heard Arcee's sensuous voice summon Magnus' attention.

"Oh!" Magnus perked up. "I've received several requests to contact workers who have left for the Mars Project. Do you know whether or not the first two groups have sent or received letters or reports yet?"

Optimus looked perplexed. "No. Come to think on it,

Magnus, I've heard nothing at all. When did they start working?"

"I actually do not know myself. I thought someone on Cybertron was handling it but from what I've received, no one can get answers. There's been no communication. It's probably nothing. But I'll assign someone to look into it."

"Proceed with caution, Magnus. The whole Mars situation is too quite. No incidents, good or otherwise."

Magnus nodded, understanding Optimus' concern. "I'll keep you posted. Good night, then, Optimus." Magnus signed off and cut communication.

Optimus stared at the blank screen. His heart hung empty and lonely. Why did he feel like something was missing all the time? Well... maybe several somethings; missing parts from an engine, pieces from a puzzle. A plant missing water. Finally tired enough to rest, Optimus went back to his quarters and tried to shut down for a while. "Metroplex," he called, "music, please."


"Whatever..." the lonely Autobot paused. He lived in the wrong era, the wrong time. Everything he knew and managed to remember existed eighty years ago. "Whatever... " He was not in the mood for one of Roddi's 'get-up-and-kick-aft songs. "Whatever Rusti Witwicky might have heard. Whatever-" he choked, "whatever she might have liked."

Optimus laid down as the song filed his empty quarters.

I look in the mirror and I don't see me.

I'm not who I should be.

Someone hear me.

Something's wrong.

My life is not the right song.

You are a shadow,

a painful sweet memory.

Optimus fell to sleep before the end of the song. He dreamt of someone's gentle kiss. Another song played now, something about rain in the desert, clouds and flowers painted with sunlight. Waking but briefly, Optimus produced his treasure box and laid it beside him as though it were the person he missed.

That fragment pushed Optimus to tears but wearied with sorrow, he managed to go back to sleep.

The city director forgave himself for returning to work late that morning. Eight-thirty AM light replaced artificial luminosity. The scenery outside his beautiful view promised rain by the end of the day. Those innocent white, fluffy clouds did not fool him.

Even before his usual cup of morning 'wake-me juice' (another Rodimism) and message reports from the city, Optimus eyed the four main digipads lining his desk.

Steeljaw already submitted his findings. City activity reports waited his attention. And then he encountered another speeding ticket for Blurr. What a pain in the aft. Optimus was tired of forking out funds and reminders to the speeding Autobot. Picking up another digipad, Optimus tapped in an order for Blurr to visit his office before the end of the day.

Enough was enough.

Trion hovered outside Optimus' doors, pacing. He had not buzzed for permission to enter yet and Optimus was not in the mood to talk with him. His blue optics darkened with annoyance. What did Roddi's self-imposed baby sitter want, now?

The door buzzed and Optimus stared at it, wondering if he should be polite and accommodating or irritated. What did Trion want? Optimus supposed he'd never know if he turned the elder away. "Enter," he granted.

Trion did so, scanning the spacious office like a vermin sniffing for something to scavenge. Optimus watched him, expressionless and objective. The Matrix watched too, suspicious and attentive.

"Good morning, Optimus. I see Rodimus is not here."

Part of Optimus did not care. It was a stupid remark. The Matrix snipped a private, sarcastic comment. Either way, he said nothing.

"Have you heard from him?"

"No," Optimus evenly replied. He could not take his optics off Trion. Something nagged him.

Trion sat at the edge of Optimus' large desk and glanced at a digipad. He picked it up, read it over then returned it. Optimus sat there, frozen, reading the elder's body language, expression and lip components as they moved all so slightly. Trion took notice he was being watched and drew a nervous smile. "Well, now, did you see my interview yesterday?"

"Which one?" Optimus asked, keeping his voice under control.

Trion looked pleased. "Ah, you did, then. Good. Do you... know if Rodimus watched them? What did he say about them?"

"He was not here, Alpha Trion. He said nothing to me, if he did." Optimus almost added an apology at the end but the Matrix cut it off. No need to apologize to someone who is trespassing and snooping around.

"Hmm. Well, what did you think about it?"

The Matrix quickly picked out a digipad without even bothering to make sure it was the right one. Optimus handed it to the Autobot elder, optics not once moving from Trion's face. "I was curious, Trion, about the water trade."

Trion twitched as though he'd seen a ghost.

Caught ya! The Matrix thought. Optimus narrowed his optics just slightly. The Matrix spotted that one twitch which, as of to date, only Roddi noticed.

Trion glanced over the digipad and carefully worked to conceal any sense of fear or guilt. He was not aware the Matrix read it just as easily as seeing sunshine.

"Oh!" Trion declared. "Oh, yes of course! I see what you're asking me. Yes, of course! Well, as you know, um, Optimus, there is a water shortage on Cybertron. And here, I've tried for months to get Rodimus to set up a negotiation trade for chunks of glacier ice off the Antarctic-I mentioned all that in the interview. I thought you said you had seen it."

"It's not the glacier ice," Optimus answered in a corrective manner. "But how you're asking it to be shipped; in kryptonic tubes lined with metallic plutonium?"

"Ah, yes. Um, the canisters. I'm glad you're being so astute in keeping abreast with everything that's going on, Optimus."

Optimus frowned. "Don't overdo the praise, Trion. I'm only doing my job."

"Of course! I'm just implementing how delighted I am that you don't let anything slip by your desk. And to put your fears to rest, let me assure you the canisters are shipped here because some water is used to produce specialized batteries which function better when manufactured under the chilled conditions of the Antarctic. So you see? It's all in the light of good. But I'm glad you stay on top of it all, Optimus."

Part of Optimus grew confused. He never heard of such a thing but could not prove his suspicions. The Matrix, however, outright considered Trion a shameless liar.

They stared at one another. Trion held onto his expression, half expecting Optimus to say something. But once again, Rodimus' pet zombie did and said nothing. That always made it difficult for Trion to gauge and balance his communication. He squirmed, somewhat disconcerted over Optimus' unwavering stare.

"Optimus, you know, I keep thinking about the play we watched a few weeks ago. Do you recall the conversation we had about it?"

"Yes, but as I said, I did not see the entire play."

"Yes, that's right, I remember that now. Rather unfortunate. I've seen the musical a couple times before. Always well-performed. What exactly was it that forced you to leave?"

Optimus did not want to answer. He feared the truth might be twisted and used against him somehow. "Old memories," he finally answered.

"Oh. Oh that is sad. What uh, what exactly disturbed you?"

Optimus again hesitated to answer. He did not think Trion genuinely cared, it just hasn't been the elder's regular behavior pattern. What was he up to? Optimus decided however, that if Trion chose to exploit his answers, it did not matter if they were true or not. He cast his optics across the office and stared at the large visascreen. "The Quintessons," he answered with a measure of shame. "I remembered the Quintessons."

Trion acknowledged with a sagely nod. "Yes. A more sinister side of the drama. And true, Optimus. All the story is painfully true. And I sympathize about your dilemma with the Quintessons. What a terrible thing to happen to anyone!"

Optimus struggled to suppress memories of dark things; of the Quintessons doing things to him he'd never repeat even to Roddi. And if he did, he doubted there was vocabulary in any language strong enough to convey the horror he experienced. The Matrix flared in a quiet rage. The Quintessons regarded nothing sacred.

Trion spoke again. His pious voice lured Optimus to the present-and back to his previous suspicions. "You know, Optimus, my favorite part was when Maximus Prime and Nemesis fought. Excellent swordsmanship. Thespis always did a wonderful job portraying Maximus. But his swordsmanship... always magnificent. Oh. I'm sorry. Did you see that?"

"No. I could not-"

"Yes, of course. I understand. It must have been upsetting. Well, I could fill you in, tell you what happened after your, er, departure."

They made optical contact and Optimus nodded in wordless agreement. Trion paced the room, fingering his long chin. "Hmm. Let me see, here, you left at the point the Quintessons arrived. And they... contracted with Nemesis, did they not?"

Optimus nodded. The song thrummed in dreadful low tones. The actors reenacted an ancient Quintesson ritual involving mutilation in the name of purging evil rationales from their intense hatred of Transformers. For they believed rationalizations distracted them from their goal to retake Cybertron.

"But behold," Trion recited, "Here this Prime hates for us. This Nemesis wrought of sludge from the depths of the Pitt. Here he smogs the planet with lies. Acid rains showered death from his spark and the wheels of his machinations empower the servos of his will.'

'So they used him, Optimus and twisted his will to benefit theirs and through their ideals Nemesis built his empire of death. He resuscitated his long dead friend, Encledius, to serve as his personal protector. And his friend, though mostly dead, did everything Nemesis asked. All the while, Nemesis did nothing for Cybertron. He led them into despair. He forced others to administer to the people while he disappeared for long stretches at a time, never repeating to another soul of his whereabouts. But all along, Nemesis ever returned to the Quintessons, and drank the dregs of their heresy.'

'Eventually Nemesis became obsessed with his zombified friend. He turned to the enemy then started killing. He allied himself to Cybertron's enemies while he murdered millions and millions of Autobots all both innocent and ignorant of his treachery."

Trion paused here and smiled sadly at Optimus. "It's certainly a horror story if there ever was one, Optimus. But maybe now you understand why I worry for Roddi. Maybe you'll see why it's so important I keep an optic on him. He's so young and carefree-and bless him that I love him so much! He's just not willing to give up the hope that there could be peace between Autobots and Decepticons. After all, Optimus, a moon cannot change its crater scars. How can we expect the Decepticons to be any different?"

"The Decepticons are sapient creatures, Trion. They can make choices. A moon is not a living thing."

Trion laughed quietly. "To be sure, Optimus! I certainly stand corrected on my metaphors! My goodness." The CDA member paused as he gazed at Optimus. Most bots who suffered from delusional hero worship of Alpha Trion would have squirmed but Optimus felt no such admiration.

Trion settled at the corner of Optimus' desk again and folded his arms. "I was just wondering if Roddi had mentioned any new projects he might have in mind. Um, future ones for Cybertron or Metroplex."

"I'm afraid not. If he has made any, he's disclosed nothing to me."

"Hmm." Trion frowned. "It's been two and a half years since his last project. I would have thought by now he'd make plans for a new space station or-or further colonization... on Europa, perhaps."

Optimus scrutinized Trion, "There was the garden city he wanted to build but the CDA said it was a waste."

"Oh!" Trion grinned. "Ha, yes. That was an amusing idea-"

"It was a serious plan-"

"Flowers and ferns-"

"Medication and rare herbs to trade with the people in Sabris Thesalon who need natural vitamins for their children." Optimus caught the gleam of annoyance in Trion's expression. He pushed the subject: "Rodimus also wanted the garden for the terminally ill children who have to reside in Angel's Wing. It would have been easier for Rusti to go to an inner-city garden than out to the woods. She loved it there." Optimus had to look away and forced himself not to think too much of her. He tried not to think how the experimental gardens might have saved her life.

Trion removed himself from Optimus' desk. "Well, the idea was a flight of fancy over a frivolous idea for a people that have nothing to do with Cybertron-"

"Since when is it wrong to aid a species of people who are not like us?"

"Since always, Optimus!" Trion answered crossly. "Humans are fortunate we tolerate them! And the life forms on Sabris Thesalon do not even approach our line of concern. They make good workers and that's about all." Trion pushed a diplomatic smile. "They're not Autobots. They're not us. They have different ideas and-" the elder caught himself.

Optimus narrowed his optics. "Come on, Trion, you can say it: 'their bodies are different."

Alpha Trion glared. "I think we're done here."

Optimus took on a smug expression. "Yes. We are." The Matrix was rather pleased and enjoyed watching Trion exist the office. But Trion left Optimus with questions about Rodimus.

Blurr received a stern note to see Optimus Prime that evening. Naturally he was on time but the Autobot leader made him wait as he poured over two more digipads.

"Sit down, Blurr." Optimus finally ordered.


Prime shuffled a series of pads, taking his time before laying three in front of him. "Blurr, according to records, you have had 214 traffic violations in three months. That averages out to two a day. And I've been informed you had two again today. Would you like to explain this?"

"Two? Two? Wow that means I"m doing a lot better than I thought I was. It's amazing that I've not done more in a shorter period of time cuz sometimes I really can't help myself since I have to race against the clock-although I really don't know why I feel it's necessary to beat the clock but it's there and always reminding me things have to be done cuz you know, Ultra Magnus hates waiting for anything. So I'm delighted it's only two violations, not three or four, aren't you?" He ended his monologues with a debonair smile.

But Optimus was not impressed. He paused before answering. "Blurr, over this three-month period, your reckless driving has cost our operation $15,700. That's in three months."


"Your allowance only allots three thousand monthly. That means I'd have to pay the county, city AND state and allow you to pay back."

Blurr's jaw dropped and nothing came from his mouth.

Prime continued. "I understand you're still paying on charges from five months ago."

Blurr shrugged. "Yeah that doesn't leave much of anything I mean I can't buy music, polish, 3-D puzzles or road maps so I can navigate cross-country places where there's not a lot of traffic. 'It's really frustrating that I can't get these things cuz I really like to do stuff when I'm not delivering between Metroplex and other places and nobody wants to let me use their puzzles cuz I solve them so fast. I mean I really can't help it, I honestly can't it's just something I'm really good at and I really enjoy doing it cuz the closer I get to the finish, the faster I go and the faster I go-"

Blurr went on and on about puzzles while Optimus' mind drifted. He did not want to be here. He did not want to do this.

Was this all his life was about?

" ... and Optimus are you doing okay? Cuz if this is a bad time for you, I can come back to discuss all this later, if you'd like, it's not a big deal to me, really, honest!"

Optimus came back and his optics darkened. "It's a big deal to me, Blurr. So here's what we're going to do: for ninety days there will be no excursions outside Metroplex. No races, no challenges. You will scrape, wash and polish every square inch of city sidewalks and you will be put into transformation lock for three weeks."

It could not be possible for Blurr to drop his face any further if his head fell off. "What? What?! You cannot possibly be serious! No transforming for three weeks? I've never had that happen to me! I don't understand-and no races, either? You're grounding me from the roadways? This isn't fair, Optimus! I've never had to-"

"That's my point exactly, Blurr. You've never had to. One way or another you're going to learn to be responsible for your actions."

Blurr actually walked slowly out the office. He looked like someone just killed his best friend.

After taking a break late that evening, Optimus reviewed Steeljaw's secret report. Initially, Steeljaw found the chamber layout staged not as a chamber, but more like a theater; curved and raked with all seats facing the front of the chamber rather than seating along opposing walls, facing the center of the room. Steeljaw also reported construction underneath the chamber and a passage leading to an underground room of unnatural proportions.

Optimus set it aside for further review. He felt certain, however, he already knew what was going on.

Laboring over the rest of the work, Optimus poured through requests and complains filed by Humans and Autobots. Two people complained about Ultra Magnus' intense training, saying his manner of teaching was incompatible with their personal religious beliefs.

Optimus reassigned them to lower city maintenance which always needed help and wrote them letters of disqualification from EDC. If they could not handle the training, they could not be a part of the organization.

Five complaints regarding Twin Twist crossed three digipads, all of which registered two weeks ago. That was Prong'S fault. He always procrastinated. Optimus sent Prong a second note regarding his idleness and scheduled his department for audit in two weeks.

An odd report regarding Rodimus popped up next. Something about private conversations with someone known as One-Face. The report was signed by Smoke Screen and addressed to Alpha Trion.

A visitor chimed at Optimus' door but he ignored it, reading then rereading the brief report. It indicated time and place and a few words such as Humans, shipment and packages. Nothing more because Smokescreen could not hear Rodimus and One-Face over an on-coming truck.

The door chimed again.

Was One-face a Decepticon? Or maybe a Human working under cover? Rodimus enjoyed assisting police departments when asked. It allowed him time from his own duties and gave the Autobots good public relations.

The door chimed a third time then an impatient hand knocked.

Optimus stared at the doors. Arcee stood on the other side, bearing a digipad. "Enter," he granted.

She scoffed as her hips swayed side to side. "It's about time! Was out there for half an hour."

Optimus stared at her then through her and struggled to correct his vision. A silky garment swept about the femme's body as though it made love to her. She set the digipad on his desk then crossed her arms, daring. "Well?"

He picked up the tablet. "Did you need me to sign something?"

"No! I said I was standing-" she cut herself off and a smile calmed her features. "I mean, I was hoping to -to find Magnus. Have you seen him?"

Optimus gazed from the digipad to the slender, sleek femme. "No, Arcee. I've not seen Magnus all day."

"I see." she sighed as the director attached her digipad to a master and transferred her reports. "Optimus," she said, her voice silky. "Don't you ever get lonely sitting in this huge room all by yourself?"

He did not so much as look at her. Arcee lifted her arms and arched her back, revealing her pearl-white midriff. "My goodness," she moaned. "I get so board! I'd be willing to just... plug into any outlet, just for fun. Wouldn't you?" she giggled at her own joke then helped herself to the same corner of Optimus' desk as her father sat on. Optimus stared. She reached out and picked up an empty digipad. "You know, I just love Ultra Magnus. He's incredibly brawny and enticingly strong. But sometimes he's so bullheaded and just... Arcee sighed again and set the tablet back, pretending that Optimus sat fixated. She leaned over slightly, her hand palming the desk. "I think he forgets that a lady needs a softer touch. Someone who knows how to be passionate and gentle at the same time."

Arcee slid along Optimus' desk. Tablets tumbled in all directions as she laid on her side, staring at him. The femme planted a finger between her lip components. She stared expectantly at Optimus the removed her finger.

He stared.

"you know, Optimus, Magnus once told my father something about you. It was a little mean and I told him so. He thinks you should have stayed dead, that by coming back to life, you've destroyed your own image and made Roddi look more like a babysitter than an Autobot leader. Ha! Magnus once suggested you should be locked away and saved as an ornament for parades or other celebrations. I'm sure he was only joking. Magnus says a lot of stuff... like how ridiculous it is for you to be doing half of Rodimus' job when he's out racing or partying with his friends."

Arcee giggled, rolled to her back and kicked up her feet. "I LOVE your desk! It's SO big and roomy! You could sleep on it!"

Optimus stared, withholding disgust from his expression. Arcee laid her hands over her midriff then arched her back and raised her legs. She cast her optics on him. "Come on, Optimus, let's prove Magnus wrong. I'll bet you're a better love machine than he could ever be!" she spread her knees and arched her back again.

He just stared.

Arcee gazed at him again. "Well?" she waited, "Are you shy? I guess you've not... you know, been with anyone in a long time."

He had, but not the way Arcee expected. He loved, but not like she did.

"Don't worry," Trion's daughter promised, "I won't say a word. So, come on, come up here with me."

Optimus recalled the last dream he had of Rusti.

Arcee grew impatient. "You know, I don't have all night." She sat up, perplexed and a little annoyed. "What is wrong with you? Aren't you going to say anything?" she watched him watch her. He did not so much as twitch.

Arcee proposed physical bonding as a means of love. Optimus viewed her intentions as usury and potential blackmail. The Matrix considered her seduction disgusting.

"Pffp! Fine, whatever." Arcee snatched back her digipad and hopped off the desk. "Hope you're happy with yourself." she paused at the door and faced him as she opened it. "You really are creepy, you know that?"