One Shall Rise

By Matt TALON Kirkby

    "Welcome to this assembly, fellow Autobots. Though I know we are all still experiencing considerable shock over the brutal successes of recent Decepticon offensives, and though we all currently mourn the recent loss of so many of our friends and comrades, we must all face the painful reality of one death in particular. We must elect a new Autobot to replace Optimus Prime."
    Grid Iron studied the others to see how they were taking his speech-and he knew his words were stilted and forced...but who had ever practiced for such a subject? As the current meeting was being held in AutoBase Oberon-and his troops were currently the most organized group among the Autobots-he had been chosen the nominal head of the assembly and temporary Supreme Autobot Commander. He had gathered his chief aides-Auto Forse, Scoot, and Thunderclash-to assist in the meeting. Grid Iron's optics studied each Autobot in turn.
    Bumblebee looked unhappy, but determined. Though some still thought him immature, the young Autobot had learned much from his long association with Optimus Prime. He had risen to a position of some importance.
    Arcee, a natural leader, was haunted-some mad reports said 'crippled’-by her recent experiences on Cindras Two, and prone to sudden fits of uncontrolled trembling and now possessed a fear of shadows.
    Nightbeat, like Bumblebee, was grim yet determined to carry on. He seemed to feel guilt-a feeling which Grid Iron understood only too well-for not being present when the Decepticons had reappeared... returning from a deep space recon only to find Cybertron in ruins and the surviving Autobots in hiding. He was among the most vocal in demands for a counter-offensive.
    Hosehead, after having rallied the few survivors who had escaped from the Autobot City massacre, had been appointed to the assembly. Behind him stood Mainframe, the new identity of the Ark’s now-sentient computer, Teletran-1.
    And lastly, Sonimus Prime was seated at the far end of the table, looking amused by the proceedings. She claimed to be Sunfire, an Autobot warrior who'd been given a new body through mysterious causes after nearly dying on Cindras, but she didn't speak much of her experience. Her current favorite topic of conversation seemed to revolve around visions she had been given by some powerful though mysterious aliens...visions of impending disaster and great glories still to come.
    Grid Iron opened his mouth to continue his speech, trying to achieve a more natural flow. "In the two decades since the Great War at last ended, we've all tried to forget the true horrors of that brutal conflict. But now, those dark memories have surged back to the surface, given new life by the even greater horrors the Decepticons have committed. Yet," he added, "we must force those emotions aside and face the future with active optic sensors. Yes, we have sustained losses thus far; yes, things look grim for us right now...but we can't allow ourselves to give up. The freedom for billions of innocent lifeforms now depends on our ability to stop the Decepticons from spreading their tyranny across the galaxy and beyond. Our own lives are a small enough price to pay if we can bring about lasting freedom for those billions."
    "We must carry on," Bumblebee announced after Grid Iron fell silent. He paused, but Grid Iron hastily motioned for him to continue. "Optimus Prime would want us too."
    "But we've lost so many," Arcee protested. "So many of our comrades have already died on Earth and on Cybertron." She didn't mention Cindras Two, but her hands started shaking.
    "The exact casualty rates are not yet confirmed-" Auto Forse began, then fell silent as Grid Iron made a sharp cutting motion across his neck.
    Arcee just shook her head and slumped deeper into her chair.
    "Some of us may have fallen," Sonimus Prime said loudly, "but the rest of us are still functional. We can-and will-go on fighting."
    "The Decepticons alone were so ruthless in their sudden will we manage to fight them and against the Disciples as well?" Hosehead's face had grown more grim as the meeting progressed. "First they struck at Cybertron, conquering it even faster than Shockwave's Decepticons did, and now they're on long before they find us too?"
    "There is no evidence that the Disciples are even aware of AutoBase Oberon's existence, let alone actually looking for us."
    "Are you sure of that, Scoot?"
    "Yes, as much as I can be." The Autobot Espionage Director shrugged calmly. "There's been no activity observed anywhere in this sector. Not by Disciples, nor by Decepticons."
    "And do you guarantee there are no spies among our ranks?" Sonimus Prime demanded of him.
    Auto Forse spoke up: "If we did indeed have a spy among our ranks, Sonimus, then surely the Decepticons or the Disciples-or whomever said spy reported too -would have already descended upon Oberon and eliminated us all." He shrugged, light glinting on his yellow/red body. "As such an attack clearly has not yet happened, I trust that we can safely dismiss that suggestion. At least for now."
    She glared at him.
    "The patterns are certainly clear enough in the data files," Mainframe then added. "Historically, warriors of faction: Decepticon attacked every AutoBase they could locate as fast they located them. Faction: Disciple has also moved forcefully against every planet: where Transformers exist...surely AutoBase: Oberon would be a primary target for both factions."
    "Do you agree with him, Scoot?" Grid Iron asked, looking at his aide.
    "Yes...both them made points which are valid. I'd also like to note that Security Chief Thunderclash has reported no evidence of any espionage activities during his routine checks."
    Thunderclash nodded. "That's true enough."
    "Good," Grid Iron said. "Then we can turn our attention back towards the external situation, and I'll leave worrying about: possible spies to Thunderclash and Nightbeat."
    The two Autobots nodded. "We'll get on it right away," Nightbeat promised. "If there's any spy here on Oberon, then we'll find him. Or her," he added a moment later.
    "Good." Grid Iron nodded once, then his tone grew forceful. "Let me pose a blunt question to you all: what chance do we currently have of stopping the Disciples through military action?"
    "Insufficient data for such a determination," Mainframe replied at once. "Total numbers of faction: Disciple are unknown. Weapon capabilities of faction: Disciple remain unknown. Doctrine of faction: Disciple is unknown."
    "Not entirely," Auto Forse interrupted. "The Disciples don't really seem to care too much about Earth itself...they’re far more interested in 'converting’ us fellow Transformers than conquering and holding territory. All intercepted reports indicate that they are ignoring the Humans completely in their efforts to capture or destroy Decepticons, unless provoked by Human attacks."
    "If only the Decepticons were as like-minded."
    "We can deal with the Decepticons and the Disciples," Nightbeat countered when it became clear that Arcee was not going to add anything else. "We just need to find the right clue to their weaknesses.n
    "And for that we need a firm leader!" Bumblebee paused a moment. "Not that I've got anything against you, Grid Iron, but still..." his voice trailed off.
    "You'd prefer someone who didn't hide away while Cybertron was overrun?"
    "I didn't say that. I'm sure you had a good reason to stay here."
    Grid Iron flinched.
    "Not just selecting a new leader for ourselves is important," Thunderclash noted, breaking the now-uncomfortable silence, "but selecting our future course of action is vital as well. Do we prepare ourselves to continue fighting the Decepticons, and now these Disciples, or should we abandon Oberon and flee somewhere else in the galaxy? Do we fight back or else try to hide somewhere and attempt to rebuild our civilization?"
    Silence greeted his words.
    "We have to fight!" Bumblebee protested. "Not just for ourselves, but for the Humans an well. And for the Klozians, for the Nebulons, for the Hydrans, for the Pz'azzians, and for all those other races throughout this galaxy-and beyond-who will be unable to stop the Decepticons from invading their worlds, killing their friends, and destroying their dreams for the future." He clenched a fist, "We have to fight on."
    "Look at what fighting has cost us so far!" Arcee snarled.
    "Hey, I've lost friends too," Bumblebee replied. "Not just Autobots, but Humans too. Even if the Decepticons are defeated, do you think the Humans will still be as friendly to us after their world has been so ravaged? It's going to take them years to rebuild...even with our help."
    "Forget about the Humans! What about our world? Cybertron’s most beautiful cities are in ruins once again, the corpses of our brethren litter the ground. You saw the visuals of lacon...."
    "Please!" Auto Forse called out. "Fighting amongst ourselves like this is pointless."
    "He's right," Hosehead agreed. "We have to be rational, put our emotions aside for the difficult as that task is."
    "Autobot: Hosehead is correct. Emotions pose a danger to our deliberations as great as any weapon."
    "Thank you, Mainframe," Grid Iron said. "Do you have any suggestions for us right now?"
    "Negative, Autobot: Grid Iron. I possess insufficient data for any definite analysis at this time. Candidates for leadership of Faction: Autobot remain numerous and deciding variables are currently insufficient for final selection."
    "That's a big help," Thunderclash muttered.
    "Cross-referencing data profiles on past leaders has not provided clear cut guidelines for selecting a suitable replacement. The process appears to be very much 'luck of the draw’, as the Humans say."
    "That's the problem!" Bumblebee paused before continuing, calming himself after his outburst. "No one can ever replace Optimus!"
    "Despite the grimness of this thought," Nightbeat said slowly into the silence that followed Bumblebee's words, "all the Autobots who have died remain a concern to us." He looked at each of his fellow Autobots in turn. "We lost Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Fortress Maximus, many of our best leaders, our guiding lights, were cut down in the opening phase of this one offensive," He paused, trying to choose his next words and make each of them just right. "But if we do not move on, choose the right course and elect a new leader to replace them and also guide us into the future, then Prime, Magnus, Maximus, and all of those others who've fallen in this war will have given up their lives for nothing."
    Silence greeted his words.
    Bumblebee nodded. "Exactly!" he said finally. "Optimus was the first among us to stand against the Decepticons...with his loss, the rest of us must take his place or he died for nothing!"
    "But are any of us qualified to lead?" Arcee asked. "That is what we've assembled here to determine. I don't know about any of you, bat I don't want to become the leader. As well to ask...oh, Hot Rod to take command."
    Laughter greeted that statement.
    "I'm not the mechanoid I used to be," Hosehead began, "nor am I currently suited to take Prime's place."
    "The future is darker then the past," Sonimus told them all in a low voice. "Unless we have a bright light to guide us, all that we Autobots have fought for will be lost."
    "Can't your visions tell us anything specific, Sonimus?"
    "I was warned that my mind would be insufficient to retain all of the knowledge I was given...mortals are not meant to know everything."
    "How convenient. And just who, or what, gave you this knowledge?"
    Sonimus shook her head. "I cannot reveal their names...that was part of the price I paid."
    "Again, how convenient," Thunderclash said.
    "So does this mean that you're withdrawing yourself from this discussion, Sonimus?"
    "I am a Prime now, Arcee. I am capable of leading the Autobots into this new war. I am willing to do so as well."
    "If we trust you enough to give you that rank." Arcee shook her head. "I saw Sunfire fighting on Cindras-" she began to shiver, "-as well as elsewhere, and she never had any desire to rule the Autobots. Or anyone else,"
    "That was in the past...I am no longer the same Sunfire you once knew."
    Bumblebee nodded. "We know."
    Grid Iron shook his head. "We're going around in circles," He sighed, wondering if there just might be something in the Decepticons' adherence to a military hierarchy...and then, abruptly, he wondered if this was all deliberate -had their leaders been killed in order to purposely throw the Autobots into confusion?
    "The beacon of leadership must be assumed," Sonimus Prime announced. "Only a strong Autobot can lead us through the darkness to come, can fight back the night. It will be a difficult choice to make, but one which we have already discussed at which must be made."
    "Surely someone among our ranks is suitable!" Thunderclash exclaimed irritably. "Of all the Autobots who've survived and gathered here, one must-"
    "He is quite right," a new voice said.
    "I'm sorry, but this is a closed meeting," Grid Iron told the slim Autobot standing in the doorway. "I'm afraid that you'll-"
    "This assembly is to determine the future of the Autobots," the newcomer said in a steady voice, "and I am one of those very Autobots whose future is now being determined." He smiled, faceplates seeming stiff, as if he was unused to openly displaying his emotions. "We Transformers are a warrior race," he noted, stepping further into the room and allowing the door to close behind him, "a race fighting in a war without end, struggling against oppression and tyranny for the freedom of all sentient beings." He raised a blue metallic fist. One among us must lead our race if we are to win."
    "You have a suggestion then?" Auto Forse inquired, tilting his head to one aids as he studied the speaker.
    "I should have guessed that," Nightbeat muttered.
    Bumblebee stared at the mystery Autobot. "But who are you?"
    The Autobot seemed startled by the question. "Who am I?" ha repeated, blue optics flickering in puzzlement. "Why, Bumblebee," and again he smiled, don’t you recognize me in this new bodyshell?"
    "Why, it’s me. I am Optimus Prime."