Sex, Lies and the Autobot Leader

(or The Crush)

by Phantom

Chapter 10

Optimus Prime sat once more in his office, hands steepled in front of him, lost in thought. Yesterday's confrontations and arguments, primarily with Crystal, weighed heavily on his mind. He just couldn't bring himself to accept her words, that she had been forced by his former mate to compromise herself in order to gain information to benefit the Autobot cause. What horrible irony -- in order to upkeep their ideals, they'd had to betray them utterly. A shudder of horror wracked his frame. It was a very good thing that the war was over, for Optimus would have surrendered to the Decepticons right then and there. It was better to lose the war with dignity than to win it by sacrificing every noble ideal that they had fought for.

'And what part did I play in this?' he mentally berated himself. 'Certainly the femmes were an autonomic unit after our departure, and they had to fend for themselves and make their own decisions, but as Autobot commander I have a responsibility to them. I should never have stranded them on Cybertron! Of course, I merely assumed that our shuttle flight would be brief, and that we'd return as soon as we gathered more energy. If only I'd left them with more materials, more energy, more protection, perhaps they wouldn't have been so hard-pressed to survive.' He sighed. 'Well, there's nothing I can do about that now. But still, when we made contact with the femmes once more, I should've seen to it that they behaved more like a sub-unit instead of their own private band. As a result, they drifted far from the purpose that they should have been fighting for. I don't know what they went through to allow them to sacrifice one of their own without a qualm, but I must take my part of the blame for it. And I do indeed have a large part of the blame to answer for.'

He shook his head in disgust, remembering the harsh and ugly words he'd hurled at the poor femme the day before. 'And what did I do when she revealed her true function in this army? I jumped to conclusions, I slandered her, and I accused her of treason. Good going, Optimus Prime. You're just as bad as those that sent her to the Decepticons. The poor femme. I admire her strong spirit. Anyone lesser would've already cracked under the strain.'

'Perhaps it's not too late!' he thought suddenly, brightening slightly. 'Perhaps I can make it up to her yet. She's missed out on so much. I hope that I can provide the caring and stability that she's so yearned for. Both I and this army have a lot to answer for, and I'm going to begin this second to make it up to her.'

Optimus turned to his computer console with renewed inspiration. He opened up the “locate” menu and typed “Crystal” in the space. The computer searched for a moment, then emitted a low, negative buzz. “Operative Crystal not in detectable parameters.” Optimus grumbled an oath. What could that mean? The computer was capable of scanning the entire planet, except for a few remote locations. Okay then.... He initiated a general search on Crystal, tracking her movements since the day before.

“For the love of Primus!!!” he exclaimed, jumping out of his seat at the findings. Crystal was slated for a mission deep in the Poh sector of space, as of today, and her ship had already left spacedock quite a few hours ago. And the authorizing officer for this decidedly pointless mission was....

“ALITA!!!” Optimus roared. He had a sinking sensation as he realized something very wrong was going on here. Surprising how you think you know someone.... For the love of Primus, he'd been practically soul-bonded with this femme for nine million years, and now he was realizing that he didn't know her at all. Had the war really changed her, changed both of them, so much?

Enough was enough! He'd put a stop to all of this garbage, right away! He wouldn't allow any more of this to go on. He flipped on his radio with an angry snap and growled, “Alita One, this is Optimus Prime. Report to my office at once!”

“Acknowledged,” a cool, feminine voice replied, sounding less than enthused. Optimus sat back, his anger simmering, to await the arrival of the femme that he had loved so much.

* * * * *

“What is going on here?!” Optimus roared, thumping his desk in emphasis.

Alita jumped, a bit taken aback. She'd known that something was up when she'd received the curt radio summons, and she figured that he'd discovered her little plan to separate him from his new femme toy for a short while, but she hadn't realized quite how furious he was over the situation. “I don't know what you're talking about,” she said, but not sounding very convincing.

“You know very well what I'm talking about. What did you do with Crystal?” he snapped.

“Oh, that. I sent her on a mission, that's all. Even though we're at peace, there's still a lot to do. We have to keep tabs on the Decepticons.”

“That is true, but there's no reason to send a lone operative that far away to do it! And I doubt Crystal would've agreed to it. I have many operatives that are better suited to such a task. You are to check with me before authorizing any missions! You picked a soldier that was poorly suited for such an assignment, out of vengeance rather than out of professional consideration.” His voice grew sad. “Alita, what's happened to you? I would have never believed you were capable of such cruelty. You sent one of your own females out on a risky and completely unnecessary mission, just to achieve some low goal of your own.”

“I had to!” she snapped, unable to hide a look of guilt that flitted across her face. “You don't know Crystal nearly as well as I do! She uses men and then discards them like they were yesterday's fuel! You won't listen to reason; all you're interested in is a bit of fun! She has you wrapped around her finger, and you're so addled you can barely see it! I had to send Crystal away for your own good, to give you a chance to clear your head and see things objectively. She's a rotten energon cube, ruining everything she touches. Believe me, I know. She's wrecked more happy relationships than I can count. Although I did want her out of the way, I made sure that she would be safe during her mission and would return in one piece.”

“That's not good enough!” Optimus roared, jumping to his feet and towering over the femme commander, who quailed under his look of wrath. “You deliberately put her in the path of danger to suit your own twisted goals, and I won't let you get away with it! And my private life is no longer any of your business! I can do whatever I please, and it just so happens that I *like* being with Crystal! There's not a single thing you can do about it, either. If she decides to leave me, so be it. Leave us alone to make our own decisions. That femme has been persecuted by you and your army long enough.”

“Is that all?” Alita asked, not believing that she was about to get off with anything harsher than a lecture.

“It most certainly is not!” Prime snapped. “This abuse ends here! Alita One, for the abuse of your command power, you are hereby stripped of rank and are restricted to quarters until a court martial can be convened. From this moment, the femmes are directly under my command. And if I can't straighten out this mess, Primus help us all.” He pinned her with a sorrowful gaze, his voice dropping in tone. “Alita, what's happened to us? I used to think that I could face anything with you by my side, but lately we can't even sit next to each other without getting into a fight.”

“I--I don't know,” Alita whispered, looking at the floor. “I miss the way things were, too, but I can't stand seeing Crystal manipulate you. That femme is up to no good, I just know it.”

“Well, let me worry about that. I'm a grown bot; I can take care of myself,” Optimus replied. “I want you to think long and hard about what you've put Crystal through. I will work on getting a tribunal together for a court martial. In the meantime, you are to go to your quarters and wait. I'll notify the femmes of the change in command structure.”

“I'm sorry, Optimus,” Alita whispered. “For everything. But if I had the chance to do it all over again, I don't think I'd change anything.”

“Then it is I who should be sorry, Alita, for allowing any of this to occur. I just pray that all of this turns out for the best.”

Chapter 11

Crystal stared moodily out the window, watching the endless stream of stars streak by. Other than the odd planet or ship, it was all she had seen for the past week. To be honest, it was starting to drive her batty. She began to feel as if she was the only being in the galaxy. It seemed as if her head would simply float away if she didn't hold it down. She shuddered, recognizing the symptoms of some kind of shock. After living underground for so long, space travel, for even short periods of time, was difficult to handle, but such an extended time by herself was beginning to eat away at the edges of her sanity.

“I must stay calm,” she told herself. “Repairs on the hyperdrive are nearly complete. Once that's done, I'll be back at Iacon in no time. Then I'll be with Optimus again, and I'll know I'm not alone.”

'But you might as well be,' a mocking voice replied. 'Nobody else likes you. Alita even went so far as to stick you on the other side of the galaxy to be rid of you. Even though Chromia and a few others are at least polite, they don't really want you around. Even Optimus doesn't love you. He's just using you, like all the others before him.'

“NO!” she screamed, the cry bouncing off the metallic walls of the ship and echoing through her head. “It *can't* be true! Optimus loves me! He's noble and loyal and wouldn't take advantage of me. I've wanted him for so long, and now that he's mine I won't ever let him go!”

'You're just kidding yourself,' the voice piped up once more. 'He doesn't love you; he just loves how you make him feel. He's probably still in love with Alita. He'll go crawling back to her, just wait and see. Nobody really cares about you at all. Even Moonracer is just a casual friend. I can see it in her optics -- what you used to do with the Decepticons creeps her out. And as for the other femmes, like Sunrunner, they'd like to flay you alive for breaking up their relationships. It's been seven million years, and clearly Sunrunner still carries a grudge.'

“That's slag!” Crystal shrieked, covering her audials in a futile attempt to shut off the mocking, destructive voice in her head. “If the guys truly loved their girlfriends, they wouldn't have been tempted by me. I was only selling what they were buying, nothing more. And it's not as if the femmes haven't had flings of their own. It's not my nature to be tied down, so the femmes hate me for what I am. Well, maybe things will change with Optimus. He's the only mech I've ever truly wanted, and now that I have him I won't even so much as look at another mech.”

'True, but can you say the same thing for him? He's had his own track record, you know. For him, you're just another in a line of flings and one-night stands. He'll soon tire of you and return to that pink twit.'

“No, he won't!” Crystal cried. “He *can't*! He broke up with her, he can't love her anymore. He's with me now, and that's all there is to it! I'll do anything he asks. I'll make him so happy he won't even look at another femme for the rest of his life. Anything he wants, I'll do it for him.”

Silence greeted this last remark. And somehow, it was more disconcerting than any words her own mind could conjure.

Crystal jumped as a crackling noise hit her audials. “What's that?! Who's there?” she yelped, looking around, finally realizing that it was coming from her communicator.

//Autobot operative Crystal, come in. This is the Autobot shuttle Stealth mark III. Please reply.//

She was frozen to the spot for a moment, then suddenly she regained mobility, tripping over her feet in her haste to get to the front viewscreen. She twisted a dial, and the shape of an Autobot shuttle came into view. “Hooray! I'm saved!” she cried joyfully. //Stealth III, this is operative Crystal. Boy, am I glad to see you!//

//Likewise,// the voice replied, somehow sounding less enthused. //Stand by for towing.// A tractor beam emerged from the larger shuttle and snared Crystal's small ship, tugging it along for the ride. //Engaging hyperdrive in five seconds. Don't worry, we'll have you back in just a few hundred astrominutes.//

//Thank Primus!// Crystal radioed back. //Thank you, Stealth III. By the way, is Optimus aboard?//

//Negative,// the Stealth pilot replied. //He sent us on a mission to find you, but he had to stay behind to take care of the usual affairs. He'll meet you upon our return.//

“Oh,” Crystal said, feeling absurdly let down. 'Of course he didn't come to meet you! He has other pressing engagements and responsibilities, you ninny!' Still, a part of her desperately wanted him to be here for her. Somehow she thought that if it was Alita that had been stranded, Optimus himself would have come to her rescue.

//Um, okay, no problem. Thank you for all your help, Stealth III.//

//No problem. Engaging hyperdrive now.//

Crystal strapped herself into the harness on the pilot's chair, bracing herself for the transition to hyperspace. She barely noticed as the shuttle trembled beneath her, seemingly ready to shake itself apart. All she could think about was how disappointed she felt. Here she was being rescued and she felt as if she'd been abandoned. How ridiculous was that?

Chapter 12

Crystal's fears evaporated as soon as the shuttles set a landing course for Iacon's main landing pad, and she spotted Optimus Prime outside, waiting for them. And yet, despite the wave of relief that flooded her, a tight knot of fear remained deep in her belly. 'Stop being so silly,' she told herself. 'He came, didn't he? He cares about me after all!' Still, a part of herself, the part that had been abandoned too many times, remained unconvinced.

As the Stealth III approached the landing pad, it released her, and its pilot coaxed her through the landing sequence. With trembling hands, Crystal guided down the shuttle to its docking space. “Thank Primus!” she cried as soon as the ship touched down. “I *never* want to go through that again!!”

“You won't, I promise,” said a warm, caring voice. Crystal spun about in her seat to see Optimus standing at the open shuttle door, the pilot and small crew of the Stealth III behind him.

“Optimus!!” she cried happily, launching herself out of her seat and into his arms, causing him to stagger a bit under the unexpected assault. “I was so scared!” she cried, wrapping her arms around him and pressing her face into his chest. “The only thing that kept me sane was the thought of you.”

Optimus patted her back a bit awkwardly, taken aback by this sudden display of affection. “Well, you're safe now, and you have nothing to worry about. I'm here for you.”

“A-Alita sent me off on that dreadful farce! There's no telling what she'll do next to get rid of me!” Crystal trembled in dread. Normally she could give as well as she got, but this latest experience had taken a lot out of her. She wasn't up to any more plots of revenge any time soon.

“Don't worry,” Optimus murmured comfortingly in her audial. “Alita has been stripped of rank and will be court-martialed soon due to her abuse of power. You have nothing to fear from her, since she has been restricted to quarters.”

“Oh, Optimus, you're the best!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck. “I never should have doubted you! I feel so lucky to have you as a partner.”

“Hrm, well, thank you,” Optimus said, fidgeting uncomfortably. The shuttle crew wisely took its cue and beat a hasty retreat. “I've given you the next two days off to recover. Perhaps you'd like to go to your quarters to rest now.”

“Please come with me!” Crystal begged, still shook up. “I'm afraid to go alone.”

“Okay, but I can't stay,” Optimus told her, taking her arm and escorting her to her quarters. Crystal basked in the warmth of his arm in hers. 'Maybe we can just be a normal couple,' she thought to herself. 'Maybe all of this will work out for the best.'

They stopped outside her quarters. Optimus reluctantly dropped her arm and stepped back. “Listen, I have a lot to get done. I'd like to see you tomorrow, but for now I'd just be tiring you out. You'd better get some recharge and recover from your ordeal.”

“Alright,” Crystal replied, feeling hurt. He was right; she did need rest, but she wanted him by her side. She understood that he had responsibilities and didn't want to interfere with them, but she had just been through a frightening experience, and she wanted to be held and comforted. She shook off a heavy feeling of dread that settled over her. “Go get your work done. It'll leave us more time together later.”

“Yes,” Optimus murmured, sounding very far away. “I'll do that. Goodbye, Crystal.” He turned and strode down the hall without a backward glance.

Crystal shivered, feeling, as the terran saying went, as if someone had just walked over her grave. Had she done something wrong? Why was he acting so cold and distant all of a sudden? Could it be that he was losing interest in her? No, it couldn't be! He loved her! He had to! She slipped into her quarters and curled into a tight ball on her recharge berth, hands over her audials, trying to shut out the negative thoughts. Optimus was all that she had in the world that made her happy. If she lost him, she didn't know what she'd do.

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