Optimus was being congratulated on all sides. The Holo-Droid glared. It couldn’t fathom how a mech that was weak could beat it at something it knew as well as its opponent. Optimus then took notice. “Well?” hissed the Holo-Droid. “What are you waiting for? Order my destruction and be done with it.”
“I want answers first,” snarled Optimus. “Who were you trying to reach?”
“If the past weeks were any indication,” replied an elder woman’s voice, “I’d say it was trying to reach me.” A femme then appeared. She wore white armor with a helmet style shaped like a Fleet Admiral’s hat. She had wings and the Autobot symbol emblazoned proudly on them.
“Fleet Admiral Flashpoint!” yelped Optimus. “How long were you watching?”
“Since your duplicate came back online,” replied Flashpoint. “That thing was mobilizing us to a set of coordinates near your current position.”
“What coordinates were you given?!” gulped Optimus.
“Southern Imperia,” answered the Holo-droid. “Specifically, Robotropolis!”
“Robotropolis?” asked Flashpoint. “The home of that unsavory human that keeps fighting a blue hedgehog?”
“You were gonna murder him with the Autobot fleet?!” growled Optimus.
“No!” insisted the Holo-Droid. “We’re not gonna MURDER anyone! We’re going to HELP Sonic save this planet from a certain cyclops!”
“…An ultimatum,” realized Optimus.
“Bingo!” confirmed the Holo-Droid. “We issue a very specific statement! Eggman drops his vendetta against Sonic and does everything in his power to get Shockwave under lock and key, or we level Robotropolis with the Autobot fleet.”
“What?!” yelped Flashpoint. “This is outrageous! I see no reason to…!”
“Would you think for a second?!” snapped the Holo-Droid. “This is a chance to fix this! No more having to deal with two problems! No more Sonic being distracted by Eggman’s schemes! No more Shockwave and Metal Sonic! Sonic, here, claims that he’s doing it for the people, when, truth be told, they’re comfortable with Eggman attacking and couldn’t care less! Sonic is a hero, a living part of mythology with power to inspire and go beyond limits! But, time and again, he gets squandered by the people he cares about! Well, it’s about time to correct this mistake! Eggman had succeeded a while ago by making the people numb to his schemes! He’s proven to be the first successful villain, so it’s up to us to help Sonic be a hero and save this planet!”
“YOU INSULTING, PATRONIZING PIECE OF SCRAP!” roared Sonic. “HOW DARE YOU!”
“What?!” yelped the Holo-Droid.
“You have a lot of gall,” snarled Sonic, trembling with rage, “to say that the people of this planet became numb to Eggman! You have a lot of nerve saying they couldn’t care less about their lives being trampled on by Eggman’s machines! You dare tell me that the people I protect don’t care about being saved?! Every day, I have to hear stories about Eggman ripping an entire village in Mazuri apart, a hole blown into Chun-nan’s mountainside, and ancient tombs in Shamar being robbed! I fight to make sure Eggman doesn’t cause that tragedy every day, that he has to think about the lives he’s ruined, even for a brief time! I have to live with the fact that I can’t be everywhere at once while a madman causes untold suffering! That’s why I save people, to show that one being is more than enough to stand up to evil! Nothing enrages me more than some hunk of junk telling me my sacrifices aren’t worth it!”
“I have never seen Sonic so mad!” Tails whispered to Shadow.
“Can you blame him?” muttered Shadow. “He was just told that people don’t care about good things, that people only care about themselves.”
“Holo-Droid,” interjected Optimus, “you want to save this planet? You want to show the world that Sonic and the Autobots are more than titans that visit rarely and just listen to prayer, not doing anything? In the end, all you’re doing is threatening people if you don’t get your way. You’re trading Mobius’ self-imposed sanctions for your own! That’s not Sentinel Prime’s example, that’s Zeta Prime’s example! The example of a despot, not a hero!”
“Slag it all!” dismissed the Holo-Droid. “We have to do this! Look at what Eggman’s constantly doing! Having to put up with two problems and rebuild again and again and again and again and nothing ever changes!”
“Wrong!” argued Optimus. “We WILL win through eventually. We do so by convincing people we’re right, by winning hearts and minds! We don’t force people to think as we do, and we sure as the Pit don’t point a gun to their heads saying accept or die!”
“Slag it! We have to do this!” insisted the Holo-Droid. “We have to…!”
“Fleet Admiral Flashpoint, broadcast an order to stand down!” ordered Optimus. “No action is to be taken!”
“At once, Sir,” obliged Flashpoint as she released a breath. The Holo-Droid glared again.
“He will never stop, he will never cease, Eggman will never change,” it insisted, “unless WE make him change!”
“…Teletraan 1, fry him!” commanded Optimus. The Holo-Droid’s image faded as the endo-skeleton sparked. It fell and made a crash.
“Primus, that’s a creepy cuss!” gulped Jazz.
“Fleet Admiral, you deserve explanations,” sighed Optimus.
“Yes, and I want details,” insisted Flashpoint.
“Everyone, whatever logs were made surrounding this unfortunate mess I put us into,” directed Optimus, “give them to her so she can have the facts as well as our views.”
The Autobots and their allies told Flashpoint everything. Flashpoint had her staff confirm the logs. When she got the entire story, Flashpoint sighed. “Well,” she stammered. “This…I…You understand, this is a lot to take in.”
“We can certainly go over the Holo-Droid’s systems and find the problem,” assured Ratchet.
“With all due respect,” sighed Optimus, “you won’t find a single fault. It was doing exactly as programmed.”
“Prime, it reached into my chest and squeezed my spark like a stress toy!” protested Bumblebee.
“The Holo-Droid was based off of my memories and mental patterns,” answered Optimus. “It’s more than likely that if I hadn’t gone on this journey, I’d be doing what the Holo-droid did, even going so far as to get the Autobot fleet here.”
“Prime, I don’t buy it,” remarked Vector. “How many times did you save this planet? You’re far from evil.”
“I believe the phrase, where you’re from, is that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” observed Flashpoint.
“Take it from a veteran of her caliber,” confirmed Ironhide. “Even I can tell you that the funny thing about morality is that you can justify anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, in the name of a greater good, but it’s a matter of where you draw the line.”
“I’m not particularly happy about what I’ve discovered about myself,” sighed Optimus. “But, I’ve got some people willing to give me a swift kick in the aft.”
“What I would like to know is how the Holo-Droid deleted the various Emergency Shut-down protocols you and Teletraan installed!” snapped Tails. “You guys buried them in its programming! It shouldn’t have found them!”
“Optimus’ invention, Optimus’ memory patterns,” remarked Ratchet. “The funny thing about exact duplicates is that you and the duplicate know everything about each other, including where one would logically put things.”
“So, that’s it?” rasped Shadow. “You went from one side of the planet to another just to find some witch who told you to get your act together?”
“No, I think this whole journey has ensured he won’t turn evil,” replied Sira.
“How do you figure?” asked Cliffjumper.
“Well, when the Holo-Droid went nuts,” supplied Amy, “what happened? We rose to the occasion. We tried to protect ourselves and our friends.”
“Optimus,” remarked Sira, “you should be proud of your friends.”
“Oh, I don’t think any bot is capable of being prouder,” assured Optimus.
“Well, if there’s nothing else,” interjected Flashpoint, “I promised my grandchildren I’d take them to Six Lasers Over Cybertron.”
“Oh, I LOVED that when I was a sparkling!” cheered Bumblebee. “There’s the Space Slide, the Galaxy Coaster, the Plasma Curve, and…”
“Corporal,” interrupted Flashpoint, “don’t make me hurt you.”
“Give your grandchildren my best wishes,” bid Optimus.
“Will do,” replied Flashpoint. “Fleet Admiral Flashpoint, out.” She ended the transmission.
After things settled down, Sira, Natalie, and Trema were given a tour of the base with Amy as their guide. They were granted access a while ago. “And this is Optimus’ office,” revealed Amy. “Let’s see if he’s in there.” She rang the chime. No one responded. “Huh?” muttered Amy. “Teletraan, is Optimus in his office?”
“No, he’s on the ship,” replied Teletraan as his avatar popped up on a view screen nearby. “He and Ratchet were checking over my link to the Ark’s functions.”
“Are they on the bridge?” asked Sira.
“No, Ratchet beamed down back to the Med-bay while Optimus went to the cargo hold,” explained Teletraan. “He’s busy playing on his flute.”
“His flute?” quizzed Amy. Meanwhile, Optimus was playing a snatch of music from Star Trek. It was from Lessons. He and Elita usually played a duet of the song with Elita on the piano. When he ended, he could swear he heard a piano version of what he played. Back on Mobius, Blackarachnia was playing a portable piano after she thought she heard Optimus playing the flute. As she played on Mobius, Optimus joined in at the right time and the song played on. No words were needed to show their thoughts on the other.