Ultimately, this was not the perfect ending to Judy Witwicky's dream vacation. She wasn't even permitted the dream vacation, for that matter. The trip to Paris, France that she and her husband had taken was supposed to mark a liberating, albeit bittersweet, time of their lives – of their son, Sam, leaving them with an empty nest while he matured at college.
Instead, Ron and Judy were accosted by evil aliens, known as Decepticons, in the middle of their trip. The two of them had been abducted and carted thousands of miles to Egypt and been threatened the entire journey.
They'd had to witness their boy die.
There are many horrors a parent can envision befalling their children, the things that keep parents up at night worrying about: bullying, raising them right and providing for them. That's what used to concern Judy, what constituted normal? Her family's life was once like any other, but now she had to be anxious about the government carting them away or robots stalking them or-
The sight of Sam, her baby-booty boy, dead, was one of those constants that petrified every father and mother. A parent should never have to outlive their young, but for a couple minutes she and Ron had.
It was a miracle that he was alive. Sam's heart had stopped for longer than it should, despite resuscitation attempts, but he had a promise to keep. Judy believed that above all else. The sight of him unmoving would haunt her, though. She worried her lip and twirled a couple locks of hair with one hand, wondering how many white strands Sam had caused her this time.
With her other hand, she rhythmically ran her fingers through the thinning strands of Ron's own hair. He'd fallen into a fitful slumber after the events of that day, his head resting in her lap as they reclined on an improvised bench of rubble. Being kidnapped, thrown around and witnessing a conflict that had almost taken their son's life was enough to rattle anyone, but they were the unfortunate two to have survived the nightmare.
NEST, with their Autobot allies, had developed a makeshift camp until arrangements could be made for everyone involved to be safely transported to a secure location. She didn't think anywhere was 'secure', not with those cockamamie evil robots roaming their world, but Judy was too exhausted to think about any of that. At present, there was no immediate danger – the fighting had ended for the day, and for that she was grateful.
Sam had been inspected by the best Earth doctors under NEST's jurisdiction, and currently the ambulance was inspecting him. Before, Judy would have accompanied him and held Sam's hand, detailing everything in her own words to the medical officer. That was assuming she trusted an alien to diagnose her boy, which she did, now; she trusted Sam and them, those Autobots, to do the right, sensible thing. Everyone had something to prove that day and had done so impeccably. Judy was willing to sit back and let matters carry on without her supervision.
Not that…letting go was easy. It never got easier. That was why Ron and Judy were there, sitting only feet away from the hospital tent where Sam was receiving his checkup. It'd been hours since he'd left with the Chief Medical Officer for the Autobots with no apparent end in sight. Ron had gone to sleep once matters had settled into a routine; it was bizarre for Judy to witness. The activity surrounding them, as practical as it seemed, was still too much. That and she couldn't relax until she had word that Sam was in perfect health, or at the very least, not liable to keel over a second time.
A vehicle approached. That fact not eventful in and of itself, but as she raised her tired eyes toward the commotion, she was surprised at exactly which one it was or, more accurately, who it was. A blue and red semi-truck drove across the sand, managing to achieve traction where most vehicles of that class and type would have struggled on the loose surface.
"Good evening to you, Mrs. Witwicky," the semi greeted her, in a voice spoken at a polite enough level so as not to disturb their sleeping company.
She'd heard it spoken at full force, though not often. It was a voice that could reverberate bone, one that made someone like her feel as old as she was, but still never as ancient as him. She didn't much care for being reminded of her age, but this time only the hairs on her arms and neck stood on end. Such an event could be blamed on the night chill, however, as the desert was renowned for its cold turns come nightfall. She clutched the space blanket she'd been provided tighter around her shoulders and nodded toward the truck.
"Hello, uh…" she faltered, realizing years too late that she'd never learned how to properly address the leader of the Autobots. She hadn't a reason to until this moment. She'd only had experience with the yellow one: Bumblebee.
Thankfully, he was forthcoming with a suggestion. "Optimus will do."
"Hello, Optimus," Judy tried again. She'd thought addressing him so personably would be weird, but it worked.
There was no further discussion, though. Optimus didn't seem inclined to small talk and Judy, respectfully, left him alone to his business and returned to watching the tent for any signs of Sam's emergence. Aside from small flashes of light or tinkering, she hadn't a clue what was happening in there.
"Ratchet reports that he should be finished with Sam's examination in another hour," Optimus suddenly said, summoning Judy out of her daze.
He repeated himself, and she realized they must have communicated in that silent way the robots could. She sighed at having to sit on that hard rock for another hour, but it was a small price to pay. Judy thanked him for the news, and that would have been the end of it if she hadn't acted.
Optimus reversed to take his leave, but a question occurred to her and she was compelled to ask, "Do you have any children?"
She was as to-the-point as ever, tone blurting out more accusatory than she'd intended, but Judy felt this exchange was long in coming. The semi stopped in his tracks and did not answer her straight away. Judy waited.
"My species don't come into being as your kind do. We are not born, but manufactured. The bonds humans form through your blood relations are not foreign concepts to us, but neither are they the same," Optimus finally said.
He transformed. The noise of pistons, hydraulics and metal shifting didn't stir Ron in the slightest; her spouse was able to sleep through anything, and this proved it.
"To answer your question, Mrs. Witwicky: no, I do not have children of my own. Not as you know them."
As Optimus Prime rose from six wheels to two feet, he wasn't looking at Judy anymore, but at the sight of his troops. She watched that direction, too. Some of the taller ones – such as the black-painted, trigger-happy one – could be seen above the equipment, talking with an Autobot she remembered having wheels for feet.
Bumblebee and Mikaela were there, as well. Neither was ever far from Sam since the Autobot had delivered her and Ron in time to see him receive the blast that had nearly killed him. Judy made a mental note to apologize to the Camaro for that time she referred to Bumblebee as a psychotic robot. She remained upset over the incident, but the insult was uncalled for, and really, it was nice to have the home remodel underway. Judy was finally going to get that pool, if nothing else.
Judy couldn't see the two smaller ones, Skids and Mudflap, but she could hear them. The 'twins' she already knew of; their troublesome natures preceded them. She'd been warned by more than one official to keep her distance because the two of them could be a handful.
Her son had let slip once that there were not many of them left and that the Autobots were scattered across the universe. Many were lost or in hiding and what had arrived might be all that would be seen for a long time. Most who were present had traveled together for eons. If the road trips the Witwicky family had taken was any indication, being confined to close quarters for just two weeks was liable to either bring people closer together or drive them further apart. It wasn't difficult for Judy to imagine that any group that was forced to survive on a ship would become close – maybe even like family.
"I'm sorry about the…those three. I never got to learn their names," Judy said, recalling that she wasn't the only one that'd lost someone that day. "I heard they found Sam and died to defend him."
Judy meant the pink, blue and lavender motorcycles. They were the only Autobot casualties, their bodies recovered as soon as the dust had settled over the battlefield. She hadn't had a chance to get a good look at them, but the smell of burnt metal was thick as their tarp-covered frames were loaded away with the help of humans and Autobots alike.
"Arcee," Optimus supplied, all the weight of leadership and the pain that could accompany it filling his voice. He hid such emotions in the words that followed. "And her cyberkinetic sisters, Chromia and Elita-1. Indeed, they fought valiantly to discover and protect Sam. Their efforts were what allowed him to reach me in time."
Unsure of what else to say on the matter, Judy reverted to the previous topic at hand.
"You called them sisters, and I've heard about those 'twins'. So you do have familial terms, despite being…built? What about mothers and fathers? Surely you must have been a baby once, so who raised you?" Though it was difficult for her to imagine a being so massive as young, even long ago.
"Yes," he said, and if she didn't know better, Judy thought he might be amused. "I had guardians and tutors, but blood kin is not a feature of our race. We do share connections that are affiliated with what you consider family, but they are more spiritual or metaphysical. The ones called Skids and Mudflap are a unique case in our people. They've shared a spark since conception-"
"Oh! That soul-thingy?" she asked with eloquence.
"Correct," Optimus said, nodding. He tapped two fingers to his chest, where his must be stored. "It is the source of our personalities, basic functions and energy. Arcee, Chromia and Elita-1, too, were unusual. Their bond was initially sororal, akin to your sisterhoods. That is most common amongst my species. That changed during the course of the war, to a more literal bond."
Optimus Prime trailed off, seeming to consider his words, before he turned to catch her eye. Judy couldn't identify what the change was, but there was a change – maybe in his stance or demeanor – but it caused her to straighten, too.
"I once knew someone who was more than a teacher, and went beyond the call of duty or station to raise me. If ever there were someone I would use your term to call 'father', it would be him. In that way, our species share similarities. We may be machine, but we are capable of love for another, like you, should we choose to accept it."
"What happened to that guy?"
"Megatron killed him," was the straight-forward reply.
"Oh," Judy said, and placed a hand on her collarbone as sadness for the fact overtook her. "T-that's terrible."
She didn't think herself capable of crying for what must be the hundredth time in the last twenty-four hours, but tears welled up on her lashes nonetheless. She grabbed the space blanket and dabbed it at her eyes to remove the evidence, but it only crinkled uselessly in her hands.
Optimus kneeled and reached into one of his compartments, retrieving a small object that he revealed to be a human-sized rag that a mechanic would use. There was a small grease stain in the corner, but Judy didn't care as she accepted the mock-handkerchief.
"Please, don't despair on my behalf. It happened a long time ago," he said, but she wouldn't hear of it.
"I'll damn well despair if I want to!" Judy yelled, blowing her nose loudly into the rag. "It's…it's so not fair. What right does that creep have, huh?"
Now that she pondered it, maybe the information Optimus Prime's had offered explained a lot. If only that Megatron'd had a parental figure in his life, perhaps he would have turned out differently. The war might not have happened and no one would have died. Then again…
"I bet if your dad-mentor-person was here, he'd be awfully proud of you," Judy felt compelled to announce. She blew her nose into the rag again and Ron stirred for the first time, rolling over in his sleep. "Dropping dead aside, you've done pretty well for yourself."
Optimus Prime gave her the most indescribable look, before he nodded in gratitude.
"Just…just, yeah, don't go sacrificing yourself again, all right? Nobody's parents would approve of that. I know what my husband says-"
"No sacrifice, no victory," Optimus said, and she wasn't surprised he'd picked that up from them somehow, at some point.
She continued to ramble, without losing a beat. "Sacrifice is such a dirty word. I never did like it, not one bit. What good is a victory when you leave everyone behind? Sam, my Sammy-"
She broke off, the chaos from earlier almost getting the best of Judy. The words she'd spoken from what felt like only yesterday came back to her.
"It sucks. Everything just sucks when you're the one left to pick up the pieces! How do you think the Autobots would have managed without you, huh?"
"I believe they would have done what they've always done: survive. I have witnessed their tenacity against the most perilous of odds. Each has a greatness in them that would have carried them through my passing, as they have demonstrated in my absence."
Optimus raised a hand, signaling Judy to still her protests. In a kind but firm tone he said, "And you, too, would have carried on. I see the same strength in you that I've witnessed Sam exhibit on more than one occasion. You and your husband have taught him well. I cannot fathom that either of you would have wasted the lives the boy fought so valiantly to allow all of us. It is not what he would have wanted."
She sniffled and hesitantly nodded her agreement. It was hard to argue with that logic, especially her part in all of this. The Witwicky's might be the martyrs, but Sam received his stubbornness from her side of the family.
"But my statement still stands – about the suckage that is sacrifice. Sam, he looks up to you, you know. He'll do whatever you ask, maybe not when he was first going to college, but after today, after whatever it is that you two shared… You know that, right?"
Optimus Prime was rendered silent. Even the gears and metal plating went still.
"Didn't think I picked up on that, now did you? Call it a mother's intuition," Judy said. She snorted and rolled her eyes, dabbing at the last flow of tears as she got herself under control.
He remained quiet and Judy was less sure it was because he felt cornered than maybe confused or surprised. That didn't stop her from fixing him with a serious look as she wagged a warning finger at him.
"Look, all I'm saying is he's your responsibility now, too. And I don't want you thinking you can order him into danger!"
"You needn't worry about that, Mrs. Witwicky. While I understand that Sam can and will rise to any challenge, he has done more than his fair share in a war that, in any righteous world, he never would have been a part of. No – I will never ask him to die for us."
Judy snorted again and said, "You don't have to ask. Neither one of us can stop that son of mine when he puts his mind to something. He's…something else, that Sammy.
"Just, promise me you'll be there for him? He's not like those other soldiers. I won't pretend to understand what it's been like for any of you, and I'm sure Sam has seen things he hasn't told me, but he's a fighter; Sam's not army or navy or air force or even Autobot. I don't think a lot of people here quite understand the difference, and I don't want him getting killed because of that."
Optimus didn't respond immediately, and for that Judy had an entirely new respect for him. He was analyzing the gravity of her words before committing to them. He made a gesture she didn't recognize, but the message was clear. The image he presented brought to mind knights of old or a time when a person's honor actually meant something.
"You have my word," he promised. "As a Prime, as an Autobot, and as his friend."
A commotion from the west ended their shared moment. Optimus was on the alert, rising to his full height as someone came stumbling past a pair of idle NEST vehicles. He was disheveled and wearing a dusty business suit, clinging backwards to a donkey.
"Good lord!" Judy exclaimed. "Sir, are you all right?"
"Director?" Optimus inquired, posture remaining taut despite the familiarity in the tone.
The man took one frantic glance in his direction and promptly fell off his ride. The donkey appeared nonplussed by this turn of events and meandered away. He sputtered at the treatment and then at the sight of Optimus.
"You…you…you're alive? I was on the same plane with your dead keister and now you're not dead?"
Judy was not impressed by this guy, and not even Optimus Prime seemed capable of hiding similar sentiments.
"Mr. Galloway, perhaps it would be wise for you to rest. I'm sure your men will brief you on the events that transpired during your absence."
In the distance, the Autobot truck glanced up and over at them, then looked down to address someone on the ground before making his approach.
The man in the business suit didn't notice or care and refused the suggestion given to him.
"Oh no – oh no. Those NEST lunatics aren't my men. They coerced me off that plane on false pretenses, stranded me in this wasteland for hours and ignored my authority! When the President hears what I have to say, those men will be tried for treason if it's the last thing I do! You'll be banished from this planet like you should have been in the first place!"
Through the entire conversation, Judy looked between Optimus and the director, growing angry on his behalf. Why wasn't he speaking up for himself? He'd died, for Pete's sake – he didn't deserve this dressing-down from some bureaucrat! She'd seen her fair share of them, since the first time her backyard had become a war zone. Optimus was obviously not happy, the dials on each side of his head whirring in growing agitation, but until Galloway threatened everyone he simply accepted the abuse.
By then, Judy had had enough and determined to step in. She snatched her pocketbook and got up. Ron's head rolled onto the stone slab, snorting awake. He looked around in bewilderment before his eyes widened.
"Judy?" he called after her.
"Not now, Ron," she said, and walked over to the director to tap him on the shoulder.
He whirled around, flailing as he yelped.
"What – who? Who are you? Are you a civilian?" He glowered at Optimus. "And what is an unarmed civilian doing on a NEST site? This is strictly prohibited!"
"Yeah, hi, I'm Judy Witwicky, mother of Sam Witwicky, the savior of Earth?" she introduced, having to yell to be heard over him. "If you haven't noticed, some people are trying to sleep," she motioned to her husband, who meekly waved at them, "and your rude shouting is making that hard to do."
"Lady, I'm the one in charge here, and if you don't leave me to my authorized business I will have you arrested for trespassing on federal operations!"
"And if you don't check yourself and quiet down I will wreck you," she said.
It was at that time the black-painted Autobot – actually all the Autobots, aside from Ratchet – and a few military personnel were present. Amongst them were Epps and Lennox, who she recognized as the two nice young men that'd helped them in their time at the camp, the latter of whom stepped forward.
"Galloway, you actually made it here?" Lennox let slip. He cleared his throat. "I mean, what's going on here?"
"I should ask you that question! Do any of you realize how much trouble you're all in? Someone apprehend this crazy woman-"
It was the final straw. Judy had warned him, and as his waving around nearly took out her face she had no regrets as she unleashed all her pent up frustration and fury. She was a woman in possession of a purse and she knew how to use it. Judy clocked him right in the nose with it, blood spurting out of the wound as he fell straight on his ass.
"Did you all see that?" he asked, though the words were almost too nasally to be distinguishable. "She hit me! She actually hit me!"
"I'll do more than that!" she screeched, tackling him good and proper.
"I order all of you to stop her!"
"Should we?" someone, who sounded like Epps, asked to her left.
"That would hardly seem gentlemanly. She's defending herself fine." That was definitely Lennox.
"Daaaamn!" Skids and Mudflap simultaneously said, everyone collectively grimacing as she pile-drove him in a delicate area.
"Uh, what if she kills him?" someone else spoke up, their accent very British-sounding. When those present refrained from stepping in, he added, "That's a lot of paperwork."
Epps and Lennox groaned, and motioned for assistance to intervene. None of the NEST members could get Judy to release the kung-fu grip she had on Galloway's hair, so Optimus had to coax her away. It was no easy task because she squirmed and poked out from between his joints, yelling for all she was worth.
"Let that be a lesson to you, coward! Where were you while these good men and robots fought for our lives, huh? What have you contributed?"
At the commotion, Sam and Ratchet emerged from the tent to witness Ron trying to talk sense into her from twenty-eight feet below while the director was escorted away, muttering about everyone going mad.
"What in good heavens is going on here?" Ratchet demanded, noticing the blood in the sand.
"The human female enacted what we were all considering doing ourselves," the truck said, earning a reprimand from his superior. Judy learned his name was Ironhide.
"If I set you down, will you behave yourself?" Optimus asked.
She wanted to tell him he was next if he didn't, but no, Judy wasn't upset at him. If he hadn't stepped in like he had, there could have been terrible consequences. She'd attacked a government liaison, after all. That had to count as ten felonies right there.
He lowered her to the ground. Ron was immediately at her side and wrapped an arm around both her shoulders. Ron murmured calming words in her ear as he guided her toward their son, who was surrounded by Bumblebee, his girlfriend and Ratchet.
"You should have seen her, Sam – your mom was like an entire strike force team on that guy," she overheard Mikaela tell him, causing Judy's cheeks to flush. Bumblebee eagerly nodded in concurrence, playing a recording of the WWE intro music and boxing at the air.
"That sounds like her," Sam said. A part of her liked to imagine some pride accompanying his exasperation.
Even the ambulance seemed to gaze at her with newfound admiration.
"Do you require my expertise as well, Mrs. Witwicky?" he offered.
Judy looked at the fresh bandages, stitches and gauze on her son and shook her head.
"Oh no, I'm all right. Thank you, though."
"Then I bid you all good night, and I suggest you do the same," Ratchet said, motioning them toward the resting section of the camp.
Judy and Ron hugged Sam – perhaps a fraction of a minute too long, though he didn't protest because he returned the gesture the same way. They hugged Mikaela for good measure and waved at Bumblebee. They would have liked to share a tent together, where they could keep an eye on their son, but realized the couple needed space and volunteered to rest with Agent Simmons and Sam's college roommate, Leo. The arrangements would only last till morning, when matters should be settled so they could leave.
She grabbed the space blanket she'd discarded before leaving. Along the way, NEST personnel were doing the same – a shift change must have occurred. While observing all this, Judy saw on the outskirts of the camp, on a hill, a lone figure overlooking everything: Optimus Prime. He must have decided to rest there when he'd dispersed his troops after the scene she and Galloway had made. It was too bad she couldn't have finished their conversation, but…
She halted in her tracks.
"Honey?" Ron asked, still holding the tent flap open for her.
"Hold on a minute."
"Don't you even," she said, waving both hands at him in a shooing motion. "I'm not gonna do anything naughty, I swear. Just give me a sec."
She made the trek out of the camp and up that very same hill the semi-truck was on, still carrying that space blanket. When she was close, she only hesitated because she had to make a choice, and decided that the best place to drape the covering was his hood. Even in car form he was big, so it took some effort, but she managed it.
"Goodnight, Optimus. Thank you for the reassurances earlier."
He flashed his headlights at her. She patted him on the door like she'd seen Sam do to Bumblebee from time to time. Judy admired the view as she turned to leave, able to witness everything from their vantage point. On one side, the sight of the pyramids and old ruins – what was left of them, at any rate – was almost surreal. She and her husband had left their small city in Nevada to see foreign wonders, and she supposed they achieved that, despite the shaky circumstances. How many people could admit they'd visited Egypt during an alien invasion and seen the Sphinx?
Back where she'd come from, her husband vigilantly waited for her by their shared tent. Sam and Mikaela were in there somewhere, too, hopefully receiving the rest they deserved. No doubt Bumblebee was watching over them, just as Optimus Prime was doing for all of them now.
For all her griping about a ruined trip to Paris and current presence in Cairo, despite the untold horrors she'd witnessed and put up with, Judy wasn't sure she would willingly give all this up. Her family, everyone most important to her, was alive, and in the end that was what mattered. If they could survive this, then they could survive anything the future would throw at them.