They watched the sky until it was set ablaze by the setting sun. Until Optimus was no longer visible in the dark orange sky above them. At least, no longer visible to the human eye.
Cade supposed that the rest of the Autobots might still be able to see him as he traveled to face these “creators” that wanted him so badly.
He wrapped his arm around his daughters’ shoulders, pulling her close and ignoring the pain the movement caused. He would get his injuries seen to later. He was sure they were numerous after the day he’d had, but for now, he would enjoy this. Enjoy Tessa letting him do this. Enjoy knowing that he was her hero again and not mad at him for something.
Over the sound of all the police chatter in rapid Chinese and the wail of emergency sirens from all the vehicles parked nearby, a distant crack split the air. Almost like that of thunder, but not quite the same. And whatever it was, it caused the Autobots gathered around the small group of humans to shift from looking at the sky where Optimus had last been seen, to observing their surroundings. Alert and ready for a fight.
“What’s happening? What was that crack?” he asked, removing his arm from around Tessa. Again, he ignored the pain that caused.
“It is a sound we have not heard in a long time,” said Drift, unsheathing his swords.
“And it was never followed by anything good,” Crosshairs added, bringing up one of his guns.
“Egypt,” said a female voice on a recording from Bumblebee. Some news reporter probably. This clip was followed by two more clips featuring male voices. “And his name was, forevermore, The Fallen…My Matrix.”
That last voice…it was unsettling. Worst of all, it sounded familiar. But Cade couldn’t remember where he had heard it before.
Nothing around them seemed to change as they watched, waiting for something to attack them. The emergency sirens still wailed. Police still spoke in rapid Chinese. And now reporters were converging on the area, being held back by the police. Out of the corner of his eye, Cade noticed that all the sudden Bumblebee went still, deathly still, as he stared at the crowd. The yellow Autobots weapons disappeared, his arms dropping to his sides.
“Bumblebee?” he asked.
No response from the Autobot.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Cade heard Tessa ask as he looked in the direction Bumblebee was staring.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
A young man with a five-o-clock shadow and messy dark brown hair had gotten past the police line. Unlike those around him, he didn’t carry any news equipment. And he just happened to be staring at Bumblebee.
Not in shock or awe like someone encountering their first Transformer, but relaxed. He seemed…relieved. He looked to be in his mid-20s, wearing jeans and a red and white plaid shirt that seemed out of place in China. The sleeves ended just above the elbows and Cade caught a glimpse of a small black tattoo on his left arm, though of what he couldn’t tell.
“Sam?” said a male voice that Cade vaguely recognized from a show that Tessa enjoyed.
Cade looked toward Bumblebee and then back toward the young man. Behind him, he heard Hound mutter, “Well, I’ll be damned.”
The young man blinked rapidly and swallowed before giving the yellow ‘bot a small smile as he walked over to him. “Hey, Bee.”
Bumblebee went to his knees before the young man, who stopped directly before him. The yellow Autobot lowered his hand and the young man, Sam, crawled right into it. Bumblebee lifted him up to his chest, hugging him to his chest while Sam’s arms went around his neck.
In the few days he had known the Autobots - had it really only been a few days? Or had it been a week - he had never seen Bumblebee like this. Sure, he had caught them as they had been falling more times than Cade dared to think about and that had felt safe, but this was different. This hold was…gentle.
Sam pulled back and put his hand on the side of the ‘bot’s face, pressing his forehead against Bumblebees. Cade could see tears on the young man’s cheek, his lips forming words that none of the humans could hear.
“Who the heck is this guy?” Shane asked from beside Cade.
Cade shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine, Lucky Charms.”
“Wait. The Fallen. That voice the yellow one used,” said Joshua. Cade looked over at Joshua, his Chinese partner looking completely unamused next to him. Cade could almost see the wheels turning in the other inventor’s head. “Sam. That’s Sam Witwicky.”
He remembered the name. And the voice Bumblebee had played, now he remembered where he’d heard it. Back in 2009, when The Fallen had hijacked the airways looking for Sam Witwicky. Though the name of The Fallen wasn’t released for another couple years.
After Egypt, the Autobots had been revealed. It was revealed that their home was destroyed and that they were seeking asylum on Earth. Egypt had been them arriving on Earth with enemies on their tail. The war was glossed over, made to sound like a thing of the far distant past. Sam Witwicky had been described as a victim of happenstance. Someone in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Three years later, after Chicago, the truth had come out. Every little detail of it all. Mission City, Shanghai, Paris, Egypt, Princeton University, the Autobot and Decepticon civil war, all of it came out after Chicago. Sam Witwicky had been at the center of it, at the side of the Autobots. Fighting for their right to stay. Autobot activist, he’d been called. Until Decepticons attacked a march he’d been at in 2013.
It was shortly after that the signs went up urging people to report suspected Transformer activity.
“Except he’s dead. The march was being televised when the attack started,” said Cade. It was all over the media for weeks. He remembered seeing clips of the attack on the news and changing the channel whenever Tessa walked in because some of the clips were rather gruesome. And because she’d been 12.
Dozens had been killed. Hundreds had been injured. And Sam Witwicky, well, it was so bad that there were no remains to be found.
“It was a very close call.”
Cade turned around to see Bumblebee holding his hand back down and Sam climbing out of it. His face was dry, but his eyes were still red. He pat the Autobots hand before Bumblebee stood up behind him. Cade could see Sam glancing around at the other three Autobots gathered. “Um, where’s Optimus?”
“You just missed him,” said Crosshairs.
Behind Sam, Bumblebee pointed up at the sky that was now turning dark blue. “Space, the final frontier.”
Sam whirled around to look at Bumblebee, eyebrows high on his forehead. “What?”
“His ‘creators’ put a bounty on him,” Cade said. “He went to face them and find out why.”
“Great. Just great. Of freaking course.” Sam groaned and looked up at the sky. He ran a hand through his hair.
“Wait.” Sam looked at Cade, hand dropping back down to his side. “That’s why Lockdown was here? Why he worked with Cemetery Wind? Because someone put a bounty on Optimus?”
Cade couldn’t help but gape at him for a moment. They had only known about Cemetery Wind after grabbing one of their drones and had learned about the bounty on Optimus from Lockdown himself, and that was only, what, the day prior? The day before that? Cade wasn’t even sure what day it was anymore.
“How do you know about that?” he asked.
Sam glanced around at them, then to the crowd of emergency vehicles and reporters. He sighed. “It’s a very long story, and probably one I shouldn’t tell here.”
“Then where?” Cade asked.
Sam looked thoughtful for a moment before glancing toward the mountains around the city. “Your ship. Meet me where it crashed.”
“What?” said Cade. He heard Joshua and Shane say the same. “Why there?”
“Away from the city and the crowds,” he replied, walking backward toward the growing crowd. He looked back at Bumblebee. “See you soon, Bee.”
Without another word, he turned and walked back toward the crowd of emergency vehicles and reporters. Within moments, he disappeared. The distant crack was heard again.
Hound’s ‘cigar’ fell from his mouth and hit the ground, narrowly missing Joshua. The inventor yelped, jumping away from it and cursing at Hound.
“That…is impossible,” said Drift.
Shane pointed at where Sam had disappeared into the crowd. “Did he just- “
“What the heck just happened?” Tessa asked.
Cade turned to face her, shrugging. “I’m…not sure.” He looked over at Bumblebee. “Could he do that when you last saw him?”
Bumblebee shook his head as he made a noise that sounded like “uh-uh.”
“No, that’s definitely new,” said Hound.
“Should we go meet him?” asked Tessa.
Cade sighed, running a hand through his hair. “If we want answers, I think we have to.”
“The kid died four years ago, just up and pulled a Harry Potter, and we’re just supposed to meet him in the mountains around Hong Kong,” said Joshua. He held up a finger. “At night, I might add.”
Su looked at Joshua as though he had two heads. She then rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath in Chinese.
An engine revved behind him. Cade turned around to see that Bumblebee had already transformed back into a Camaro. He popped open the driver’s door. Sam’s voice came from his speakers. “Fifty years from now, when you're looking back at your life, don't you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?”
It took them over an hour to get out of the city and to the mountains where the ship they had stolen from Lockdown had crashed. The last part of it they had to climb, no road leading exactly to where the ship had crash landed. Bumblebee had turned on the headlights on his chest so that the humans could see where they were climbing.
Their party was now one smaller, Joshua having sent Su back to his headquarters to start the cleanup process that was bound to be long and expensive. His fake Transformers had gone rogue in one of the largest cities in the world and caused what Cade was assuming was in the millions of dollars’ worth of damage. And who knew how many they had killed.
Once they were on the floor of the valley, Bumblebee transformed back into a Camaro to drive them the rest of the way. After the climb into the valley in the dark, the four humans happily climbed in, Cade and Tessa in the front while Shane and Joshua climbed into the back.
After rounding a bend in the valley, they could see the crashed ship. A mess of dirt and grass showed the path it had taken before it had come to a stop. And just before it, next to a roaring bonfire and sitting in the bed a metallic red Chevy crew cab dually, was Sam. But he wasn’t alone.
Next to Sam sat a young woman that appeared to be in her late 20s, wearing jeans and a zipped up black leather jacket. Her dark brown, almost black hair, was pulled up into a messy ponytail. Between them was several large plastic bags filled with large to-go restaurant containers.
Bumblebee stopped just before the fire, popping open his doors before Cade could blink. Apparently, he wanted them out, and quickly.
Sam and the woman got up from their seats, grabbing the plastic bags beside them, as Cade, Tessa, Shane, and Joshua climbed out of Bumblebee.
“We grabbed some food for you guys,” said Sam, holding up the bag he was carrying as he and the woman walked around the fire to meet them. “Hope you like soup and dumplings.”
“We also got some rice,” the woman added, smiling at them.
As soon as they were out, Bumblebee transformed. The sounds he was making, he almost sounded excited. He was bouncier than Cade had ever seen in the few days of knowing him. It reminded him of how Tessa acted as a young girl, being reunited with her best friend who had spent the summer at camp.
The woman’s smile turned into a bright grin. Now that she was closer, Cade could see that her eyes were a bright blue, and they were fixed on Bumblebee. “Hey, Bumblebee.”
Just as he had with Sam, Bumblebee went to his knees before the young woman. The woman handed the bag of food she was carrying to Sam. Bumblebee held out his hand. She climbed in and when he brought it to his chest, she wrapped his arms around his neck in a hug, or at least as far as she could reach around it. “It’s good to see you too, Bee.”
Sam watched the interaction with a smile on his face. As Bumblebee lowered the woman back to the ground, Sam turned his attention back to Cade, Tessa, Shane, and Joshua. He nodded toward the fire behind him.
“Come on,” he said, handing one of the bags of food back to the woman. “I don’t know about you guys, but we’re pretty hungry.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Joshua said, stepping forward. He pointed to the woman. “Before I accept any food from you guys, I just want to know who are you?”
He pointed to Sam. “How the hell are you alive?”
Then he pointed to the truck they had been sitting in the bed of. “And how the hell did you get that truck here?”
Cade looked over at the truck and felt his stomach drop. The Autobots had had to transform and walk into the valley before being able to drive again. Sam had been known as the Autobot Activist, but Cade had been with the last living Autobots the last several days.
Sam and this woman had gotten to this valley with someone that was not an Autobot and as far as he knew, Lockdown had been the only neutral party. That left only one option; Decepticon.
Sam and the woman exchanged a look and Cade could almost see the silent conversation happening between them.
After a moment, Sam shrugged and looked at Joshua. “Okay, well this is Mikaela,” he said, gesturing to the woman who gave a small wave. He then looked over at the red truck. “And I guess the jig is up now so….”
He trailed off as the sounds of transformation filled the air. Tessa screamed and clung to Shane. Cade put his arm in front of them, backing up a step and putting them behind him. The Autobots pulled out their weapons and dropped into defensive positions, all except Bumblebee, that is. Cade could see him just staring at Sam, confused.
The new addition to the party was taller than Crosshairs but slightly shorter than Hound. He was bulky, with large arms that were probably filled with weapons. And his optics were blue.
Cade stared at the red Transformer as its arms turned into giant canons that it aimed at the Autobots. As far as he could tell, Autobots had blue optics. So, if this was an Autobot, why was he turning his weapons on his own?
“Feelin’ lucky, punk?” it asked in a gruff male voice. Cade’s mouth dropped open slightly. He was quoting Dirty Harry. And he almost seemed to be smirking at them.
A keening noise came from Bumblebee, who rushed around the fire and jumped the Transformer, who put his weapons away just before Bumblebee hit him. Bumblebee wasn’t attacking the red transformer. Bumblebee was hugging him, and the red Transformer was hugging him back. And it almost seemed to be along the lines of a parent comforting a child.
It reminded him of the way he and Emily would hold Tessa when she was a child and had woken up from a nightmare in the middle of the night. Or how he had held her when she had come home sobbing after breaking up with her first boyfriend.
Cade looked at Sam and Mikaela. Mikaela was grinning at the sight while Sam looked on with a small, fond smile. It seemed they had known how Bumblebee would react to this Transformer. Cade then looked around at the rest of the Autobots to see them all staring in shock, weapons hanging useless at their sides.
“Ironhide?” Hound’s ‘cigar’ once again fell from his mouth, almost hitting Joshua for the second time that evening. Though for some reason, Joshua didn’t start cursing at him for it.
The red Transformer, Ironhide, looked up from hugging Bumblebee, though he didn’t release the yellow Autobot, and Cade could see him grinning at Hound. “Hound. Good to see you.”
Hound laughed, putting his weapons away as he walked over to Ironhide, clapping him on the shoulder. “You old fragger.”
“How?” said Drift.
Ironhide looked over at the two remaining Autobots as Cade watched them put away their weapons. “Crosshairs. Drift. ‘Bout time you showed up for the party.”
“How?” Joshua asked. Cade turned to see him staring at Ironhide in shock. “I saw you. On Attinger’s list. Of Transformers Cemetery Wind killed.”
Out of the corner of his eyes, Cade could see Sam go still at the mention of Attinger and Mikaela’s smile vanished. She slowly set down the bags of food she held and Cade saw Sam look at her, shaking his head slightly in silent pleading.
It wasn’t enough. She turned around stalked toward Joshua, pulling something out of the pocket of her jacket. Cade heard the sound of something small transforming and suddenly a six-foot staff of dark metal was in her hands, the end of it pressed against Joshua’s neck.
“What the hell?” asked Shane.
Cade felt as though his eye couldn’t go any wider. Where the hell had she gotten a staff?
Joshua stood trembling, eyes wide with fear at the woman before him. “W-what-I-“
“Attinger didn’t kill Ironhide,” she growled. “But he did kill plenty of other Autobots. Plenty of friends. And then sent their corpses to you. Just because you finally decided to do the right thing, doesn’t bring back to ones he did kill.”
Cade looked between her and Sam. Sam still looked extremely tense, like he was holding himself back from joining her.
After a moment, she lowered the staff from Joshua’s neck, who took a shaky breath and stepped away from her. She walked back over next to Sam and again, Cade could see a silent conversation happening between them.
After a moment, the staff disappeared with the sound of a small transformation. This time Cade was able to see Mikaela put something the size of a dry-erase marker into her pocket.
“Just be glad she didn’t use the spear or trident setting,” Sam said.
Cade blinked. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Joshua pale slightly. “The what setting? Where the heck did you get that thing?”
Sam and Mikaela exchanged a small smile like they were trying not to laugh at some inside joke between the two of them. Mikaela picked up the bags of food she had sat down. She gestured with her head toward the fire. “We’ll explain while we eat.”
“Which we should do before the food gets cold,” said Sam. He glanced over at Ironhide, who was no longer being hugged by Bumblebee, who now stood beside the red Autobot. After a minute, he looked away from Ironhide and at Cade. “And because it’s a really long story since it technically starts with Egypt.”