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Dan @Aicity

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Stairs

Orion meets a familiar face in the archives.

Orion often finds himself wandering the halls of the Iacon Archives nowadays. It’s one of the few buildings left in Iacon where he doesn’t feel a profane sense of guilt ever since the senate incident. The old shelving that holds the myriads of information always brought a sense of comfort for him, and a place to think and be himself as he sorted and catalogued datapad after datapad.   His wandering doesn’t really have an aim, but he isn’t surprised that he ends up standing in one of the smaller archival rooms, which happened to always be his favourite. The particular room was host to a good portion of Cybertronian history and legends, and he recalled coming back here very often, during breaks and after shifts to read through the material. Of course, he didn’t come back as much after he stopped working there to go to the academy. Even less once he realised a lot of the history in those pads were falsities. He sort of missed those days, where history was just a story of your people overcoming all evil. He knew better now, though. He knows the truth, how much the senate had lied and caused pain.   He also knows that the very pale doorway at the end of the row in the otherwise dark coloured room had never been there before. He would have remembered a doorway being there, and it didn’t look new by any means. His curious side suggested to go through, and he was never really one to ignore his curious side. When he touched the door it felt odd, a slight buzzing underneath his hand as he triggered the opening mechanism. The doorway led to a dim corridor and his curiosity spiked further. The door shut behind him with a soft hiss.   The room he found himself in after following the corridor looked similar to the archival room he had just left, but much… older. The shelving was nowhere near as advanced as the shelves he was used to. Instead of electronic databases and filing units, before him was a room full of rows of actual shelves, each stocked with datapads. Hand-glyphed signs were bolted to each shelf, the numbering system still the same but Orion felt that this room was just that more personal due to these plaques. Less like an archives, but more like something the public could come and browse. The room was even more dimly lit than the previous one, being lit not by bluelight but by small, yellow-orange lamps sitting on small tables littered around the shelving. Long windows high on the walls let what looked like moonlight in, making the room feel like as though it was nighttime.   He could see, slowly moving along one of the archival rows, a mech in monochrome metalmesh robes. They placed a datapad on the shelving every so often, before moving on. Orion shifted on the spot, suddenly feeling self-conscious, in the presence of this unknown mech. “Um, hello? I ... do not recognise this section of the archives ever being here before.” He frowned, “I only vaguely recognise you. What is this place?”     The mech before him gazed up from their datapads, and Optimus noticed their frame for the first time. Their faceplate was a pure white, dotted with odd black sections of protoform. The right part of their face looked burnt and scarred, like a disfiguration they never had repaired. Their optics were completely black and yet - strangely enough - Orion could tell they were looking at him directly. The mech straightened out and paused in their shelving, beginning to smile at Orion while doing so. They clutched at their datapads, robes flowing around them, and Optimus finally found words to describe the feeling they exuded. Peace. Kindness. Familiarity.   “Hello Orion.”   Orion’s optics widened at the greeting that broke him out of his thoughts, and he had to reset his vocaliser before he spoke again. “How do you know my designation?”   “Your name is the brand of your resistance, a key for hope in sparks of the people. It would be hard not to know your designation, Orion Pax.” They replied. “As for what this place is, tell me, what do you see?”   Pausing in his thinking, Orion cast his optics around the room again. “I... see a record hall.”   “Then that is what it is.” The mech resumed their task of shelving datapads, fishing another pad out of their pile and glancing at the archiving brand.   “Who are you?” Orion asked.   “You said you had recognised me.”   Orion shook his head, confused. “Like I mentioned, only vaguely. Like a corrupted memory file, or someone I have seen on the street. I’m sure I would recognise you, if we had met before.”   The mech just continued to smile as they shelved another datapad. “It does not matter. What matters is that right now, I think you need some guidance. You have something on your mind, do you not?”   Orion's pedes made barely any sound on the floor as he walked closer to the mech, taking the moment to observe their appearance some more. Faint sheets of crystal made up sections of plating on their frame, and they glittered in the dim light. Despite the calm Orion finds himself a little reluctant to speak. “I do find myself a little troubled, yes.”   The mech offered a few datapads to him, a silent question. Orion took them with hesitance, as if they would break underneath his touch. With Orion taking the pad, the stranger went back to shelving pads, and Orion felt the compulsion to do the same. The whole time the mech was silent, almost eerily so, waiting for Orion to speak.   “I seem to have found myself in a position that I never thought I would obtain- not through disbelief of myself and my aspirations, but through the fact that I was never expecting events to end up such as they have.” He reached to a higher shelf to put a pad away, the area illuminated by dim lamplight. “There are a lot of mechs relying on me. I am not sure I can lead them through the coming days.”   The mech stayed quiet, the two of them shelving pads in silence as Orion let the words sink in, and as he thought about what he was saying.   “I feel lost. A little afraid.” He ex-vented in a sigh, “What am I saying, I am very afraid of what is to come.”     Both Mecha reached the end of the row for their shelving. The mech looked up to Orion, who turned to face them, a little apprehensive of their next words.   “I believe I have something for you, Orion Pax.”   Orion let a small frown appear on his faceplates, “Something to help?”   The mech smiles once again, their optics two dark, starry voids in their faceplate. The burnt protoform warps underneath them. “If you wish it to be, young one.”   The mech wanders off, going further off into the hall, which had been a solid wall before. Orion lingers for a moment, before setting the remaining datapads down on a nearby table, and walking after them.   “Is this real?”   A light chuckle from the mech. No other reply. He thinks to quicken his stride to catch up, but finds himself staying behind.   “Where are we? This place... no longer looks like the Iacon archives.”   “What does it look like to you, Orion?”   Orion frowned at the repeat question. “A hall. Of some kind.”   The mech hummed in agreement. “A hall. A transient space. A place of travel. From one place to the next, ever frequented.”   “If this is a place of travel, I cannot help but notice there is only us here.”   The mech looks back over their shoulder slightly as they continue to walk. “Can you not hear it? Listen closely, young one, do you not hear them coming and going?”   Orion tilted his head, listening carefully to catch any noise beyond their own steps. He could hear very faint noises, unlike the noises of the archives, which were soft buzzing and humming of the inner workings. These noises were busy sounds of transport hubs, waiting platforms, of meetings and greetings and goodbyes and reunions. He looked around, behind him, and discovers the archives are gone. There is only the hall which he and this other mech have found themselves in.   “Where are we going?”   The mech stops, and turns to their left. "You will be going up." They point a little upwards, and Orion follows their gesture. On the soft wall of the hallway he sees a stairwell. Plain, unimpressive, the kind he would find in his apartment building. Nothing like the ornate carvings he can just make out on the barely visible pillars of the hallway. Out of place. Different and remarkable in its contrast. Important in its humility.   “This gift is only if you are sure, Orion Pax. Not something to be taken lightly, although -in the end- it is ultimately your choice. I have faith in your decision.”   “Shouldn't I be saying that to you?”   The mech smiles again, reaching their optics and lighting their faceplate up with care and warmth. Safety. Orion feels for a split second that he never wants to leave, he wants to stay with this mech in this hallway forever because it is safe and nothing can hurt him again-   “You've figured it out, have you? I was wondering when you would. I had noticed that you had forgotten to ask what my designation was.” The mech’s frame almost seemed to sparkle in the barren distance of the hall.   Orion stays quiet for a moment, absorbing the information given to him. “Am I awake? Or is this a memory purge?”   Primus. In front of him. Again? He had long thought that night a dream.   “I will allow you to make your own conclusions as you see fit, my creation. After all, that is what you are fighting for, right now, for your fellow creations of mine. For your people. For cybertron. For freedom.”   They turn back to the unremarkable stairwell. Orion follows suit. “It is time to go now. Go find your gift.”   Orion hesitated. “Why visit me?”   “Why not?”   Orion found answer after answer on the edge of his processor, but none queued up for his vocaliser. Instead, he stepped forward. And again. And again, heading for the stairwell. He cast his gaze upwards but saw no end to the stairs before him. Only a vast fog that swallowed the steps.   "Step well, my dear creation. You are important for the coming days. Have hope." Their voice rang out this time, bouncing up the stairwell before Orion.   He turned to say a final farewell to his God, and was greeted by nothing but a blank expanse behind him. With all he could see now being the stairs directly in front of him, he realised that there was only one way he could go now. So he began to climb.   Each step seemed just far apart enough for his pedes, and the further he climbed, the more he saw in the walls on either side of him, on the railing that was carved into the wall. He saw the small cracks in the metallic stone that made up each step, and if he looked closely, he could spot the faint indent of a pede where he hadn’t stepped yet. It spoke of traffic. A transitional space, like the hall before he started his ascent. He listened closely, but no bustle graced his audials this time. It was quiet. A comforting quiet, like the absence of loneliness and simply just being alone.   He realised the stairway wasn't neglected, unremarkable, or unworthy. It was ancient. The carving spoke of being unrefined, of wanting to place something before there were skills or tools to give it decoration. Something before all that he had known, and perhaps before anything he had even read. It all felt too tangible now, compared to the liminal, airy feeling of the halls before. As he stood on the next step, some stone came away under his pede, and he stopped climbing and looked up.   He could see a doorway.   At least he assumed it was a door. It seemed old, like the stairwell, and nothing like anything he knew in his life. He looked back behind him, and saw the many steps he had climbed. A strange sense of pride coursed through him at that point, as if this climb had cleansed him of something unwanted, unneeded. A needless fear, or perhaps a doubt.   He counted thirteen steps to go, and on each step, an alcove alternating on each wall. He stopped at the first one, and gazed at the bas-relief carving inside. Prima. The first Cybertronian, and the first of the Primes. A small bowl of crystal sat in front of it, decorated with small chains of bismuth growths. The next alcove had Vector Prime. The next, cracked and abused beyond belief. Nothing lay in front of that one, but Orion stopped and traced his fingers across a deep gash that lay across where the faceplate would have been. The Fallen.   The alcoves continued with each of the Primes, Orion recognising features that he had ingrained since his apprentice archivist days. When he spotted his mentor in one, he didn't know why he did not feel surprised. Perhaps the day had been too strange, and nothing more could surprise him. If it didn't all feel so real, he would write it off as a dream. Perhaps.   He continued up the final steps, passing the final primes and a curiously empty alcove for the thirteenth. There were little records of the thirteenth prime, and what Orion could find always mentioned the people. Whatever that had meant. A metaphor for mecha finding faith in others? For their world that they live in? He never knew.   After this last step was the summit, the platform upon which lay the door. The door seemed almost organic in its make, now that he could get a closer look at it. The metal was dark, and slightly warped, as if had suffered punishment over the time it had been standing there. he pushed against it, but it didn't budge. It was only then he noticed the handle on the side. He reached out, and hesitated.   He could feel faith, tangible as the metal under his pedes. It had grown from his climb, surrounded him, strengthened his resolve, his belief that no matter what lay beyond this door, it was his decision to make. It was under his control, and if he had faith in Primus- who in turn had faith in him- it was the right thing to do.   None of this stopped the rush of overwhelming realisation that coursed through him just before touching the door handle. It shook him down to his core, threatening to constrict what felt like his very being.   “I can do this.” He managed to gasp out after a deep invent. The words almost didn't feel like his own, almost like someone else's. Someone who stood in the same position aeons ego. It was comforting. He wasn't the only one.   He lay his hand on the handle, and pushed it downwards. The door clicked, and slowly fell open as he gently pushed, wary of it falling to pieces. Inside was a small room, with obvious boundaries much like the initial archive hall he had found primus in. Light filtered in through a small window, casting a soft spotlight on the pedestal in the middle of the room.   Orion approached it. On it lay a small, slightly glowing device, gently humming as its internal mechanisms worked. It had what looked like handles on either side, and disc in the centre. Orion felt his spark stutter as he recognised exactly what lay there.   The gift bestowed upon Prima from Primus himself: The Matrix of Leadership.   Primus had offered it to him, and had offered it to be his choice. A choice he knew he was going to take, no matter what his spark said.   He picked up the matrix. It felt warm in his hands, happy, comforting. Like coming home.   Like being home already?   Before he knew it his chestplates were opening, and he closed his optics to the stream of wisdom. Information that submerged him, engulfing him in a wave that swept the floor, the room, the light out from beneath him, leaving him standing - not quite floating - in a dark void. The last thing he felt was a cohesive, surrounding sound of many voices telling him 'welcome', before losing himself to shutdown.   --   He awoke lying on cool, unrefined metal.   He was underground. He didn't know how, or why, for his processor was still rebooting after an odd shutdown, and he clears lines of messages that built up in queue. He went to stand up, and promptly fell back to his side.   His frame was different. Not by much, but enough to give him a different centre of balance. He took his time standing again, reacquainting himself with his frame, cataloguing changes. He had gotten bigger. Taller, bulkier, stronger. He felt different, more determined, less anxious, among others. Changed, but he felt it was right.   He walked. Through old blue-metaled caverns and winding paths, up until he found a door. An old one, once again, organic looking and ancient, although distinctly lacking the abuse the previous one seemed to have suffered.   Orion - no, not anymore. Perhaps one day he can call himself that again - pushed it open. Behind it, a group of mechs crowded around a table jumped in shock, all their faces darting towards the new arrival in the room. Orion spotted Prowl, Jazz, Wheeljack with young Bumblebee gripping to his back, Roller, Red Alert-   “Orion?”   Ratchet. His best - and longest - friend, surrounded by all the other mechs Orion had come to call his close confidants in this rebellion. His voice betrayed underlying confusion, concern for his presence, his appearance.   Orion shook his head. “Not anymore,” he murmured, searching for the right term. “I am…”   The confusion present in the optics of those he trusted only spurred his confidence, and decided to speak from the spark. After all, that’s why he began the revolution with Megatron, wasn’t it? To be able to speak from the spark? They deserved a name that inspired it.   “I am Optimus Prime.”


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