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[personal profile] saeru posting in [community profile] kinkfest
Title: The Seventh Night
Author/Artist: [personal profile] saeru
Rating: R
Warnings: This is Robot porn. Thus far, it has included tactile, plug-n-play, and spark-play. Some of it is explicit, some of it not so much, but other types of kinks and intimate experiences may occur. Watch each chapter for warnings.
Word count: 13,436 and counting.
Summary: For the May 10 prompt- Transformers (G1), Rodimus Prime/everybody: ritual sex - "Chosen One"
The threat of Unicron is gone, the Decepticons are vanquished, and all that remains for Rodimus to do is rebuild Cybertron. However, when dark dreams start to torment him during his recharge, he is horrified to learn that there might be more to becoming 'Prime' than getting a new trailer and a name change. If only he hadn't missed out on the first night. If only he could pass the Matrix on to someone else. If only he didn't have to pick the best of the Autobots to sleep with...
But that can't be so bad, can it?
Unwittingly forced to chose someone each night for his Matrix to sample, he has to learn the hard way how difficult it is to be leader, how far the boundaries of his friendships will go, and how much he'll have to give up in the process.
(Rodimus x Arcee, Springer, Blurr, Perceptor, Ultra Magnus, and SPECIAL GUEST SPOILER.  But not all at the same time.)
A/N: This isn't finished yet, but I wanted to be sure to get it up today. More will be coming. Keep an eye out on my journal or my A03 Account to see the rest!
Also, this is sad.
This is really, really sad.
You have been warned.



Cybertron was a wreck.

Rodimus could see most of it from Shockwave’s tower, laid out before him, glistening darkly in the starlight for hundreds of meters in every direction. Here and there were pockets of darkness, giant craters caused by war, by the Decepticon invasion, or by natural disasters occurring in the four million years since the Autobots had left Cybertron. Chunks of Unicron were still plummeting through the thin atmosphere, too, paving fiery streaks across the distant cosmos, dimmly lighting the old, worn out buildings below.

Occasionally, his optics passed over areas where Shockwave had tried to rebuild them. Towering construction equipment still blocked several of the streets, left silent as energon supplies had dwindled down to naught, abandoned next to piles of non-functioning drones.

There were dead drones everywhere, hundreds of burnt-out troops remaining from Shockwave’s last stand.

There were living ones, too, mindlessly going about the old Decepticon’s lair, performing repairs and polishing surfaces. Sometimes they stared at him.

Sometimes he stared back.

He couldn’t tell if they realized their master had been decommissioned. He didn’t know if they’d even care.

He certainly didn’t.

The part of him that admired Shockwave’s contribution to the defense of Cybertron was still drowned out by the part of him that scoffed at Decepticons. It was their fault, after all, that this was the half-dead planet he’d inherited. It was their fault that there were only a few hundred surviving Cybertronians, at all. It was their fault he now sprouted a trailer every time he transformed.

Well.

Mostly that was their fault. If he wanted to be more technical, he’d been the one to unlock the matrix, and that had needed to occur because of Unicron, not because of the Decepticons. But if they hadn’t killed Optimus, then he wouldn’t be standing here. Now.

Rodimus Prime.

It still sounded too pretentious. Sure, he deserved it, but at the same time it felt wrong. Not like him.

Too much like someone else whose name should end in ‘Prime.’

He kept wondering if this was meant to be his destiny, or if he’d just been the only one handy. He kept wondering if it might pick someone else more worthy, now that all the Autobots were coming to gather on Cyberton. He kept wondering if maybe Optimus shouldn‘t have died, at all, and if maybe there was anyone who could live up to that crazy kind of precedent, least of all him.

Those feelings, more than any others, clued him into the fact that he had changed.

Before, he’d known exactly what he was doing.

Now, he was second-guessing himself.

He felt uncomfortable in his own body, and uncomfortable on this barely recognizable world, and uncomfortable with the looks his friends were giving him.

He was uncomfortable with being Prime.

However, for right now, he didn’t have to be.

Venting a sigh that was mostly relief, Rodimus signaled his torso panels to open, waiting through the process of metal armor sliding unfamiliarly over inner plating, sending a shiver up his spinal struts. The Matrix nestled within, all too close to his spark chamber, warmed through contact with his engine and remaining all-too-comfortably warm as he carefully slid his hands inside to grip the edges.

For a moment an echo of memories flickered though his processor, trailing emotions like tendrils over his tense shoulders. Instantly he felt himself relax, letting the feeling blanket him, recalling with unexpected arousal the sounds of soft moans, the touch of cool fingers probing his inner circuitry, the images of sleek, shining metal curves that he could not put a face to.

His memories?

Probably not.

Slightly horrified by the idea of where the images might have come from if they weren‘t his, he steeled himself, and pulled the matrix free.

It glowed, brightly, shining out for an instant, glimmering like it held some amusing secret that he wasn’t going to be told. Then, it faded, dimming into darkness like a pleasant dream.

Thank Primus for that.

He’d had strange enough dreams himself the last few nights than to be recalling someone else’s while standing here, awake.

“Y’know, it’s probably not a good idea to be doing that.” A wry voice spoke, behind him.

“Oh yeah?” He glanced over his shoulder, catching some of his panels smoothing back down out of the corner of his optic. Conscious of his open torso, he sent the command to shut that, too.

All better.

Much, much better, in fact.

He was Hot Rod again.

“Yeah.” The voice responded, coming out of an ancient green bot leaning on one of Shockwave’s consoles. “It’s gotta get used to being in you, or some such thing. Trust me, kid, I’ve been around enough Matrix transfers to know.”

Hot Rod managed to grin. “Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve been through more than one of them, Kup. But Unicron is gone. Cybertron is ours. And having this thing inside me is very….new. Is there really any reason why I have to always house it?”

“’Course there is!” Kup frowned, standing straight up off the console and waving an arm toward the mass of Cybertron beneath them. “It’s what makes you a Prime!”

He stared at Kup for a moment, feeling like he’d been answered again with ‘you have to do this because its how its always been done,’ instead of being answered with…well. An answer. “We don’t need a Prime. We just need a good leader, and I can do that fine like this.”

Kup stared right back at him, uncomprehending. “No you can’t.”

“Kup…” He started, exasperated already.

He trailed off, when the old bot put a hand up in the air. “Might as well show you, then, since you’re too young to get it on your own. ‘We don’t need a Prime’ my aft.” Kup grumbled, cocking his head toward the elevator leading down from Shockwave’s towering dome. “Why do you think we’d have a Matrix if we didn’t need a Prime?”

“Probably because there was a giant floating planet-sized Transformer that decided to come and try to eat us.” Hot Rod answered, unimpressed.

“And how do you know there aren’t two giant floating planet-sized Transformers wandering around out there?” Kup countered, narrowing the plating around one optic. “We’ve got to be ready, at all times! We’ve got to have a matrix, and the matrix chooses its Prime.”

The doors to the elevator closed around the two of them, and Hot Rod felt his gyros steadying him as the floor started to drop. In his hands, the matrix still felt warm.

He looked down at it.

Then, he looked at Kup. “If another giant planet intent on eating us showed up, I think I’d have enough time to put this thing back in before it got here.”

“But are you confident that you could use it at a moment’s notice?” Kup questioned, crossing his arms. “Are you confident that you’d still have a connection with it, after a decacycle goes by? A stellar cycle? A vorn? Do you really want to take that chance?”

Hot Rod looked up as the doors opened, and stepped out into the lobby of the makeshift Autobot Headquarters. There wasn’t an opportunity to answer Kup, even if he’d wanted to try answering a question that he couldn’t think of a snappy comeback to.

Down here, things were too bustling.

Arcee was the first one to catch his optics as he exited the elevator, tossing him the kind of brief, knowing smile that still made him melt. She’d been working with Springer, taking head-counts and scouting out living quarters to house the multitude of warriors that were suddenly filling up the streets. She’d even gotten the Protectobots a makeshift clinic in the building next door, where they were making due as best they could after Ratchet’s untimely demise. It had helped.

It had helped a lot.

Ultra Magnus had taken the most burden from him, though, already familiar enough with command to organize everyone into task groups that could begin occupying Cybertron immediately. Hot Rod could see him in the corner, pointing as he gave directions to Jazz and his team. A larger group surrounded them, filled with some Autobots that Hot Rod recognized and some that he did not. Perceptor was handing out equipment nearby, small, quickly-rigged devices to help the Autobots navigate the maze-like streets to find any survivors or pick up energon. Springer was still tallying new arrivals. Since the meeting that morning, they’d already gotten so much work done.

All of them were looking towards him, now.

He noticed Arcee’s smile fade.

“Is…everything alright, Hot Rod?” She asked, softly, stepping up.

She still called him Hot Rod.

That felt good.

“Of course it is. I came back down here to help out.”

“But the Matrix…” Arcee began, and Kup chuckled behind him.

“See,” the old mech said, “We’ve got to have a Matrix.”

“I still have the Matrix.” Hot Rod grumbled, holding it up. “It’s right here.

“But doesn’t it have to stay inside of you?” Arcee asked, glancing sideways towards Springer as if to confirm her theory.

“For protection.” Springer nodded, as if it were an answer that was obvious.

“Oh, come on. I can protect it perfectly fine when I’m holding onto it. I’ve driven Daniel around hundreds of times, and he’s a lot more fragile than this.”

Springer didn’t seem to have a reply to that, but Ultra Magnus did.

“Hot Rod.” He said, quietly, calmly, and in that way that could command the attention of the entire room, if the entire room weren‘t suddenly busy minding their own business. “It is what Optimus would do.”

Ultra Magnus had called him Hot Rod, too.

He’d also made an infuriating point, and one that Hot Rod couldn’t easily counter. He knew--he knew that just because Optimus had done things one way didn’t make that way right. He knew that.

He also knew that specifically ignoring the way Optimus had done things would be betraying everything the old Autobot leader had done, and everything he’d sacrificed to end the war. Optimus had to have had some reason for keeping the Matrix inside his own shell.

Ultra Magnus was trying to remind him of that.

“Technically, Optimus gave this to you.” Hot Rod replied, venting his frustrations in a sigh but finally relenting, crossing toward Ultra Magnus. “It’s never fit me quite right.”

“It needs time to adjust, same as you.” The large hauler said, glancing around the room as if willing the other Autobots to get back to work. Already, they were doing so, slowly, some still glancing at Hot Rod and the Matrix from time to time. “Optimus said the same thing that you’re saying now, once.” Handing a data-pad to Jazz, Ultra Magnus made room against the wall for Hot Rod to join him.

“He sure did.” Jazz added, with the slightest grin. “And you saw the kind of leader that he made. Cheer up, kid. The war is over. We’ve got a future to look forward to, again. Knowing that the matrix chose a good successor who can lead us into peace?” The small mech tapped his data-pad, and then hung it in a slot on his side. “That’s a hope most of us didn’t think we’d see. You’ll be fine.” He blinked out one optic, and turned to go. “I guarantee it.”

Hot Rod watched him leaving, trying to ignore the new throngs of bots that moved up in line to take his place.

“I wish I could be that optimistic.” He frowned, looking back down at the Matrix.

“I seem to recall you being overly optimistic, not too long ago.” Ultra Magnus said, simply, pulling out a new data-pad to take care of the next mech in line.

“No, I was overly confident. There’s a difference.” Turning away from the crowds, Hot Rod let his torso plates slide open once more, grudgingly relenting to the fact that everyone seemed to feel strongly about this. He couldn’t really argue with hope.

Especially not with Jazz.

“He’s still right, though.” Ultra Magnus frowned, serious as always, mostly keeping Hot Rod‘s privacy in the corner through his sheer bulk. “This isn’t actually about what is good for you, or what you want. It is about what’s good for Cybertron. What Cybertron wants.”

“I know.” Hot Rod, unwillingly becoming Rodimus again, sighed. “I know.” The matrix fit snugly back within him, both aching and satisfying at once. The ghostly trails washed over his vision once more, lighting Ultra Magnus with a faint haze of intoxicating crimson and the scent of clean lubricant. It was suddenly and uncomfortably alluring, and Rodimus quickly looked away. “I just can’t even begin to explain what it is doing to me.”

He focused, instead, on Kup heading toward him.

The haze blessedly vanished.

“You’re worried that it’s changing you.” Ultra Magnus guessed, handing out another data pad and shuffling the next set of bots toward their new assignments.

“Yeah.” Rodimus nodded, watching Kup approach, stopping here and there to talk with some unfamiliar face in the crowd. Kup seemed to know everybody. “That, and more. I had this…dream. Last night.” And the night before. And the night before that.

“Do I want to know about this?” Ultra Magnus asked, not even pausing in his routine.

“No, probably not, but I won’t go into details.” Rodimus felt bigger already, even if he was still dwarfed by Ultra Magnus. Carefully, he let his chest-plates close, and finally turned back around. Kup had arrived.

“Why not?” The old mech grinned. “It’d probably do that workaholic good to hear some tips on how to find a good position.”

Unable to imagine Ultra Magnus in any ‘good positions,’ Rodimus finally cracked a grin. “He probably thinks the best position is the high ground, Kup. We shouldn’t waste his time.”

“That is the best position.” Ultra Magnus said, his face unchanging.

This time, Rodimus tried not to laugh.

However, when he looked back to Kup, he realized the old mech was acting strangely serious. “If you’re already having dreams, kid, we need to get you started on the rituals before we are too late.”

Of all the things Kup could have said, this was probably the least expected. “I don’t think we can really afford to take time out of searching for bodies and fixing half-dead people to do any kind of rituals, Kup.” He said, feeling that it was something Optimus would have agreed with. “There’s too much to do right now.”

Ultra Magnus was still processing mechs, one at a time, handing out duty after duty to the able-bodied and those who could transform. He seemed completely absorbed in his work, in that way that meant he was paying absolute attention to everything Kup said.

“This ritual isn’t the kind that is for show, kid.” Kup grumbled, shaking his head. “This is one of those things that has to be done, if the matrix is going to work right.”

“Where did you get all of this knowledge from, anyhow?” Rodimus asked, looking out across the crowd to catch Perceptor’s and Arcee’s optics, cocking his head to indicate he wanted to talk to them. Whatever ritual this was, it would be best to get it over with. It was about time for a mid-day meeting, anyway.

“Because I’ve participated in a matrix passing.” Kup replied, simply, his own optics falling on Arcee and Perceptor as they finished the conversations they were in and started to come. “You’ll probably want to grab a few more folk for this, they ought to hear about it, too.”

“These were probably things we should have heard about before we were all in the middle of fixing a planet, Kup.” Rodimus sighed, even if he knew there wasn’t going to ever be a good time to approach him about this sort of thing. Probably ever again.

“Well how was I to know you’d start having the dreams right away! Tell me you didn’t wait more than a night…”

He considered this, and briefly counted. “Three nights. It’s been three nights, so far.”

It wasn’t easy to understand what came out of Kup’s vocalizer, then, but he caught enough to know that it was swearing.

Well, then. This was more serious than he had thought.

Glancing around the room, he looked for anyone else he trusted that was present. Blurr. Alright. Wheelie. Yes. And Springer was already coming with Arcee.

Adding that to Ultra Magnus, there were seven present. It would have to do.

“You’ve missed a night, then. The other two were meant to be your warning.” Kup finally managed, and gestured toward a room off of the lobby. “But you’ve got six left, still, which I guess is not so bad. Just don’t take that matrix out again, and be ready. Just…be ready.”

“Be ready for what, old-timer?” Rodimus asked, a hint of worry starting to creep into his darkest thoughts.

Those dreams hadn’t been for the pure at spark.

“Be ready to give up yourself, your body, and your friends, for Cyberton.” Kup answered, cryptic and much too serious.

“Because it’s what Optimus would do?”

Kup laughed, and he could sense Ultra Magnus shifting, uneasily, still listening with his back turned.

“Optimus already did it, kid.”

And Rodimus had seen what Optimus had become.

“Just one final question, then, Kup.”

“Go for it.”

“Is it too late to give this thing to Ultra Magnus?”

He’d probably deserved being hit for that remark, he decided.

It was a good thing that he’d already thought to duck.

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

02

 

“I have to do what?” Rodimus exclaimed, physically taking a step backward away from Kup in horror.

The look on his face was matched by the small group surrounding them, standing in an office not far off the main lobby. It was stale inside, and the ancient desk was covered in a thin layer of rust and metal microdust, probably blown in from the cracked plastic of the windowpane.

Nobody was speaking.

Nobody could form the words.

Rodimus certainly couldn’t think of anything to add onto Kup’s explanation. It had been unfortunately thorough, and exacting in ways that Rodimus did not care to recall.

“He…has to do what?” Perceptor finally spoke up, his voice calm and reasonable except for the shaking twinge beneath it. “I’m sorry, Kup, but what you have just said makes no logical sense. It should not matter who Rodimus chooses to interface with, or when, and if it does, then this ritual ought to be recorded elsewhere, or be public knowledge. Surely something this important would not have gone unknown!”

For the first time, Rodimus found himself grateful for the lengths at which Perceptor could present his theories. It gave Rodimus time to recover.

Kup, unfortunately, had a sensible response. “It was recorded in the hall of records and moved to the storage asteroid, and slag if any of us know where that’s drifted off to.” He shook his head.

“We should get somebody on that.” Ultra Magnus offered. “It would be important to confirm this…procedure…before we take any hasty….action.”

“Well, yeah, it would be nice to confirm, but only if you think you can get somebody to find it before midnight.” Kup retorted, sitting down on the rusty desk with little concern for the filth layered on it. He probably didn’t have much reason to worry--some of it was the same color that he was.

Rodimus, on the other hand, had plenty to worry about. “What,” he asked, dreading to know, “happens at midnight?”

“Well, if you haven’t taken someone to bed with you by then, the dreams get worse. And trust me, that ain’t pretty.”

Rodimus considered how much more…real…they had been last night than the two nights before, and started to see exactly what Kup was afraid of. “And they’ll keep getting worse after that, won’t they.” He wouldn’t need to chose somebody, at that point. He’d end up just bedding the first mech who walked by.

“Yep.” Kup responded, simply, reaching to absent-mindedly scratch at his elbow-joint.

Springer was eyeing the old mech, warily, but it was Wheelie who looked at Rodimus openly to ask, “This not right, what dreams last night?”

Instantly, Rodimus felt the seven pairs of optics falling on him.

His engine down-shifted in a flush of shame. “Look, I don’t want to talk about it. But I think Kup might be telling the truth. I don’t really see what the problem is, though. I mean, if it’s just a few nights, I can ask Elita’s girls to--”

He didn’t have the chance to duck Kup’s blow, this time.

“How hard is it to think with more than eight bits?” The old mech growled. “This isn’t about having some pleasure harem, this is about the future of Cybertron! You’re supposed to pick the mechs that represent the kind of world you want to build!”

Reaching up, Rodimus rubbed at the dent Kup had managed to leave in his crest-piece. “And why wouldn’t I want to build a Cybertron full of hot femmes?”

There was a rain of pummeling, at that, and some of it he was pretty sure hadn’t just been coming from the old, green transformer. He’d…probably deserved that.

Okay, okay, he’d definitely deserved that.

But it was hard to take this seriously. It was hard to listen to Kup talk about the ‘seven nights of establishment’ and imagine himself going through the complicated…positions…without feeling like this was some huge joke. It couldn’t be real.

It couldn’t.

“Alright, Kup,” he said, after a moment. “What am I really supposed to do to stop these dreams?”

“You’re supposed to do what I just told you to do, kid. You’ve got to pick six members of society--er…five, now, since you missed a night--that you trust will make a good Cybertron.”

“Does it…really have to be five different people, though? I mean, surely Optimus didn’t…” He trailed off, realizing he didn’t want to go there. “With…anyone other than Elita…”

The room had gone completely still. Even Blurr was managing, finally, not to fidget.

“I’ve heard stories.” The blue Autobot spoke up, his words running together, but somehow quieter than they normally were. “Jazz, Ironhide, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Prowl…all of them close to Optimus, all of them keeping him safe, always trusted, with him from the beginning. That’s one, two, three, four, five, and Elita makes six! But even counting that way, they’re still one night short. It could have been Bumblebee, maybe, he was always around Optimus too…” For once, Blurr shut himself up, realizing what he was about to suggest. “Probably not Bumblebee, never mind. Forget I said anything, it probably was someone else.”

“No, it wasn’t Bumblebee,” Kup said, rubbing a hand over his face. “But thank you for that mental image, Blurr. The seventh night isn’t supposed to be for you to pick, anyhow, its for the matrix to decide. I don’t know if anyone was with him, then or if you’re just meant to be left alone. I never really asked.”

“You certainly know enough about the rest of it, for not asking.” Springer said, looking more than mildly perturbed.

“I was around for a ritual before Optimus’s time.” Kup answered, simply, his hand falling back down to the desk. “I guess I just felt that it was my job to oversee.”

“And we’re all. So. Grateful for that, let me tell you.” Rodimus tried not to shudder, not really knowing what to do from here. “But let’s…uh…let’s look at this logically.” He glanced to Perceptor. “Most of the mechs that Blurr mentioned were dead, but I saw Jazz this morning. It should be easy enough to comm him up, and…uh. Ask.” He took a deep cycle of air in through his vents. “If he’s ever slept with Optimus Prime.”

Arcee crossed her own arms, this time, and gave Rodimus a particularly baffled look. “Maybe you should think on another way to ask him, before you give him a comm like that. If he’s even in the area. I believe Ultra Magnus sent him out to scout for energon and leftover Decepticons.”

“Then I’ll have to act fast.” Rodimus managed to grin, and sent a communication to the relay tower for longer-range broadcasting. “Jazz, can you hear me?” He asked, out loud, feeling that everyone should hear this.

“Loud and clear, Prime.” Jazz’s voice echoed, coming out through Rodimus’s stereo speakers.

Being called ‘Prime’ was unexpected.

“We were just wondering, Jazz, if you have a few moment so we can ask you some…er…questions.”

“Well, I’m kind of busy out here. And, generally, scouting means it’s best to maintain radio silence. But I haven’t gone that far out, yet. How’s that ritual goin‘?”

Rodimus’s spoiler wings went completely flat against his back.

“Well, Jazz, that is actually what we called to ask you about.”

“Me?” The voice sounded surprised. “Really? When you’ve got Kup right there to explain it all to ya?”

Awkwardly, everyone’s gaze turned toward the old warrior sitting on the desk. Kup flicked off a piece of rust, and pretended not to notice.

“So the ritual. It’s real?”

“It was last time I checked. Not really something I like to talk about, though. It’s supposed to be private.”

“If it’s private,” Rodimus asked, almost exasperated. “Then why did you bring it up when I commed?”

There was a soft laugh from the other end of the communicator, and the sound of an engine picking up speed. “Because Kup told me you’d probably do something like this. And watching you tryin’ to break the ice was getting painful.”

“Okay, then. Thank you, Jazz. That’s…really all we needed to know.”

“Anytime, Prime.” The laugh continued. “Jazz out.”

And that, was that.

Now, nobody was looking at Kup on the desk, not wanting to see him trying exceedingly hard not to be smug about this. Rodimus, himself, was trying exceedingly hard not to haul off and hit him. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy a good ‘roll on the race track,’ but doing it for the matrix was…awkward. It was beyond awkward.

How could he ask any of his team-mates to do this?

How could he ask mechs and femmes that he respected and had worked beside and had fought beside to come be…intimate…with him, in sequence, because he had to?

How could he even decide?

Picking the sorts of things that a new Cybertron would need was a far cry from picking the sorts of bots he’d feel comfortable sleeping with. He would need people who were strong, and who were smart, and who were confident, and who were compassionate, and who were…

…who were standing right in front of him.

Frag them all.

Literally.

Arcee was the first to meet his optics, and it was exactly what he needed to see, right now.

Arcee was someone he could feel comfortable with. Arcee was charismatic, and strong-willed, and compassionate. Arcee was kind, and easy to get along with. Arcee was beautiful. Arcee was someone he’d had a crush on for much, much too long.

“Arcee, would you…?”

“Hot Rod…“ She shuttered her optics for a moment, and slowly nodded. “If this is something that you need. I would willingly help you build a better world.”

Springer was shifting, agitated, next to her, and Rodimus could tell it was only with the greatest restraint that he wasn’t objecting right now. His optics blazed, nevertheless, and wouldn’t let go of Rodimus’s, waiting to see what the new ‘leader of Cybertron’ was going to do next.

“Springer…” he began, and trailed off as the look turned sharper, and the optics narrowed.

“What.”

“Look, this is hard enough on all of us. Asking Arcee was just…it was just….easier on me, okay? It doesn’t mean I’m keeping her, any more than it means I’m keeping anyone. Especially since I’m going to need your help, too…”

“Me?” Springer almost coughed on the words, his arms unfolding in surprise. “What, you want me, too?”

“The mechs I trust the most are already in here with me.” Rodimus confirmed, looking down the line to each of them. “Blurr. Perceptor. Ultra Magnus. Wheelie.” Oh, Primus, wait. No. Not Wheelie. His engine stuttered for a moment as he back-tracked, and shook his head. “Look, I just mean we’ve all been through plenty together. Even if…uh, Wheelie, you probably should sit this one out. But the rest of you…”

He counted. Arcee. Springer. Blurr. Perceptor. Ultra Magnus. That was five.

“It’s okay, Wheelie have plans, today.” The young mech offered, even if it sounded conciliatory. “Probably should go, don’t…really want to know.”

“Yeah, alright, Wheelie, you’re excused.” Rodimus winced. “Sorry about that.”

“Goodbye for now, you’ll live somehow!” was the reply, and it was actually accompanied by a wave as one of the newest Autobots vanished out of the meeting room.

There was a communal sigh of relief.

“And…that leaves you six.” Rodimus said, glancing around. “Does…anybody have any objections?”

“I have plenty of objections.” Ultra Magnus said, stepping to fill the gap before the door that Wheelie had left, locking it behind him. “But if you really think this needs to be done…”

Rodimus shook his head. “Look, I don’t know for sure. I don’t know anything for sure. But we’ve got Kup’s word, and we’ve got Jazz’s confirmation, and we’ve got my…my dreams. And there’ve been these weird twinges every time I’ve touched the matrix, and, primus, can we please stop talking about this? If anyone has to say no, I understand. Just let me know now, so I can think of someone else.”

The mortified silence that followed was unbearable.

It was even more unbearable when Perceptor raised his hand. “I…ah. I’m not certain that I’m comfortable with this idea. I mean.” There was actually condensation forming on the edges of the microscope’s armor, places where the coolness of embarrassment warred with the warmth of his motors. “This is not an area in which I have much expertise. I fear that I will bungle something up, or miss a cue, or not properly…ah…stimulate the notable areas requiring….” He trailed off, horrified. “…requiring stimulation.”

“It’s okay, Perceptor.” Rodimus said, as understanding as he could muster. “I don’t think anyone is ‘comfortable’ with this. But I’d…” Slag everything, this was difficult. Perceptor was the only scientist alive that he knew and was comfortable with. “I’d really like it to be you. Cybertron is going to need a strong intellect, and there aren’t many choices.”

“There is Jetfire?” Perceptor offered.

Rodimus tried to imagine the jet fitting into his bed-chamber, and realized exactly how well that wasn’t going to go. “Jetfire was a Decepticon,” he countered, hoping this excuse made sense. “I think I’d rather not take my chances with that becoming part of our culture. I know I said I’d try to find replacements, but…it’s hard to replace you.” He glanced around. “It’s…hard to replace any of you.”

There was no one as fast as Blurr, or as strong and resolute as Ultra Magnus. No one had Springer’s skills, and no one had Arcee’s charisma.

No one had Perceptor’s intelligence, either.

“Then the five of us are gonna have to make it work!” Blurr chimed in, looking up from where he’d been examining a dilapidated filing system. “It’s just one night, and then it’s over, and if it’s just one night, then that is easy enough. We will not ever have to talk about it, we will not ever have to tell anyone we’ve done it, it will be just like it was with Optimus. You’ll see.”

“That’s the spirit.” Kup grinned, finally standing up off of the desk. “And it won’t even stop you from doing your regular duties. Arcee, Springer, Blurr, Perceptor, and Ultra Magnus. This kind of reminds me of the crew that I went in on Sentinel with…”

“Not now, Kup.” Springer and Arcee said in unison, visibly shuddering as they headed for the doorway. Ultra Magnus unbolted it, and stood aside for them.

“We’ve agreed to this. It doesn’t mean we have to like it.” The green triple-changer frowned. “Or hear about other incarnations of it. But I’ll still see you, tomorrow night. I don’t want to hear a thing about it until then, and I don’t want to hear about it afterward.”

“That’s fair enough.” Rodimus agreed, wishing he could have the same arrangement instead of having to go through this, over and over again.

One by one, the others filed out, with Ultra Magnus ducking through the doorway last of all, and Kup lingering behind. He stared out after them, watching them returning to their duties, watching the crowds in the lobby talking to them, watching everything slowly melt back into what it had been before he’d come down.

This wouldn’t be…unpleasant, he knew. They were all good soldiers, and they’d all do anything for Cybertron and for the Autobot cause. Hell, that was what he was doing, right now.

But that didn’t mean it wouldn’t make things harder on him.

This matrix was going to be more trouble than it was worth.

“There’s one more thing, kid.” Kup whispered, nudging him in his side with an elbow-joint that squeaked.

“Then I’d rather hear it now, instead of being caught by surprise, later.” Rodimus replied, wearily.

“Heh, good answer. Sounds like you’re learning.”

“I’m learning plenty.” Most of it was lessons that he didn’t want to learn. He’d have rather been out there, getting an assignment, driving off with his exhaust pipes echoing the deep, throaty purr of his engines. Showing off. Anything was better than this constant, foreboding sense of responsibility. No wonder Optimus had been so eager to sacrifice himself.

“Well, there’s one more lesson left. You ready?”

He was as ready as he’d ever be. “Go ahead.”

“When these six nights are over, you won’t be able to interface with anybody.” Kup said, slowly, turning to face Rodimus with an expression that was deadly serious. “Not anybody. Not ever. Again.”

Scratch that thought he‘d just been thinking.

He couldn’t ever be ready enough for pronouncements like that.

“Kup…” He growled…

But Kup just stared at him, forlornly, and didn’t offer any new advice.

It looked like he was just going to have to make these last six nights count.

That, or he was going to have to toss the matrix into deep space, where it would never be seen or heard from by anybody.

He was the last person that it should have chosen.

It just seemed that fact was obvious to everyone but it.

 
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