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Six weeks.

Six weeks to find a solution to this.

The clock is ticking.

Optimus was silent almost the entire way back to England - we had a military escort, and we were accompanied by Cade and Viviane. Their presence made things better. Being surrounded by familiar faces made things better. I wouldn’t argue against that.

But there was still that awful, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Going home should have felt much better than it did, and I could tell Optimus was feeling the same way.

Even our drive back to the castle was quiet. It was dark, and our little caravan was led by the hulking red and blue semi. I sat up front, simply staring, watching the steering wheel move on its own accord. An object streaked overhead, a jet - a large jet.

“Megatron,” I murmured. I glanced back down at the steering wheel and said softly, “You’re...have the two of you talked about things?”

“No. However, I have a feeling w e will. not know how to proceed with such a conversation.”

I shrugged. “It’s awkward. I get it.”

Optimus hummed. I glanced in the side mirror - Hound was on our tail, Drift and Bumblebee behind him. I briefly wondered if Megatron would make a case for his men to join us. From what I’d overheard Mearing say, I was being stacked with protection. Just in case.

I guess even Decepticon’s count as protection now.

When we arrived at the looming castle, I immediately shuffled upstair, leaving Optimus to assign Cade and Viviane their room. I barely felt Cogman gently walk up and ease my coat from my shoulders.

“You need to rest. Tomorrow is a new day - we can contemplate our next move then.”

I nodded, waving him away before showering, scrubbing my skin clean, and changing into some night clothes. As I bypassed the glass doors leading to the balcony, I paused.

I could see Optimus, out on the wide lawn. His armor glistened in the moonlight, and he was talking to someone - I could hear his deep baritone, faint, but there. I realized that I’d missed another figure.


I considered going outside, but I didn’t. I didn’t need to know what they were discussion. I knew whatever wounds they’d inflicted upon each other wouldn’t heal after one talk. That sure wasn’t the case with me.

I crawled into bed. Half an hour later, I heard the door open and Optimus holoform entered the room. I watched out of the corner of my eye as his clothes dissolved into thin air, and he slid into the bed and held me close.

“Megatron said that I owe his men high grade,” Optimus murmured, “Since you made it out alive.”

“Yeah...we’ll have to work that out once we get back to Diego Garcia. His men aren’t coming here, are they?”

“They are still considered rogue, dangerous Decepticon’s. The deal was amnesty. We can’t ask anything more from them.”

I snorted. “They’ll come if Megatron needs them, I’m sure. Just like you came for me. Just like Viviane and Cade…” I fell silent, closing my eyes. “We have a lot to do tomorrow.”

“I know. It shouldn’t worry you. You need sleep.”

“What if I can’t sleep?”

Optimus’ hold on me tightened, and he nuzzled the back of my neck. He then pressed soft kisses against the skin, murmuring, “You are exhausted. I can feel it in your frame. You’ll sleep fine.”

“We’ll see.”

Prime was right.

I lasted ten more minutes until I fell into a deep slumber.


“Let’s do a status check on everyone...we still don’t have Sideswipe and Mirage in the U.S, right?”

“Right. They’re still in Cuba.”

I saw Cade shift in his chair, toying with the talisman on his arm. The outdoor table itself wasn’t packed, but the space around it consisted of Autobots, Sqweeks, and Cogman.

“Hot Rod headed back to be with Tessa,” Cade said rather softly, and I snorted. “He misses her.”

“So he’s out, for now,” I glanced down at my notepad, before taking a look around the room. Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, Optimus, and Megatron all stared down at me quizzically. I sighed and said, “I’m just...keeping inventory of everyone. Seeing how much firepower we have. We’ve got a short window for this shit. Do you realize that-”

“We all realize that, fleshling. Fretting over it will not make it go away,” Megatron crossed his arms. “I say we take the same approach as last time. Bait, and then ambush.”

“Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is called insanity, Megatron,” Viviane said curtly. “Besides, we’re not risking Rachel’s life again.”

“Yeah. To be honest, you shouldn’t even be fighting this battle,” Cade said, and I scowled. He shrugged, shooting me an apologetic look before explaining, “Quintessa is after her. That we know for sure.”

“I’m not going to sit here and let you have all the fun,” I murmured. “I’m in on it no matter what.”

I saw Cade look up at Optimus, almost as if searching for backup. My mate just dipped his head and said, “While I agree with your concerns wholeheartedly, you know there is no deterring her.”

You’re goddamn right.

“What about Joshua Joyce?” Izzy suddenly said. I perked up, and I heard Hound groan in annoyance at the mention of Joyce’s name.

“What about him?” I said slowly.

“We...we don’t have to ‘kill’ Quintessa. I mean, we do, but I could barely hold her last time. She was too strong. And she had those...bug creatures with her,” Izzy ran fingers through her dark hair. “What if we have Joyce make something that could help us restrain her?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Keep going.”

“I’m talking about, like, a weapon strong enough to hold her. One she can’t get out of, or teleport away from,” Izzy continued. “That way, we can work on taking out those insect creatures and then deal with her.”

“Enlisting Joshua Joyce’s help might be a wise idea, regardless,” Optimus said, though he didn’t sound as enthusiastic. I knew deep down Optimus still held a grudge against Joyce and against KSI for how they’d defiled the corpses of his fellow Autobots. I couldn’t blame him.  

“He did create my former body, Galvatron,” Megatron sneered. “I’ll take pleasure in visiting the little maggot.”

“Yeah, you’re not going anywhere,” I said. “If anything, I’ll go.”

“And me!” Izzy’s hand shot up. “It was my idea, so I call dibs! I never get to go anywhere with you.”

“I might as well go too,” Cade reclined in his chair, fingers itching at the metal covering his arm. “I’ll have him look at this thing...maybe he can give it some upgrades or something. I sure haven’t had any luck trying.”

I snorted, jotting a few things down on my notepad before standing. Cogman rushed past and I heard him say, “I’ll give Mr. Joyce a call and let him know that you’ll be visiting soon.” 

“We still really don’t have a plan,” Viviane said.

“Once we see what Joyce has for us, we’ll think of one,” I said. I met Prime’s gaze, and the big mech quirked his lips into a smile. “I have a feeling Quintessa isn’t going to know what hit her.”