Arc I-1: Distress Call
A/N: Well, what happened with Harry Potter happened again, only for a different fandom. I got a plot bunny that didn't let me easily fall asleep one night, and since some of the themes here will help me figure out the rest of the plot for a certain original fiction I've been cooking up, I'm giving Transformers a try.
There won't be any time travel in this one. It does share some themes with HP: DEM though. Particularly that since the films (especially the second one) are rife with railroading and deus ex machinas (the Dynasty of Primes came totally out of nowhere), I am adding my own Divine Intervention as counterweight. After all, it's not an asspull (Deus Ex Machina in the strict sense) if divine meddling is expected.
Nothing as blatant as the one in my previous story though. It's mostly meant to give a plausible reason why Sam is such a wimpy loser in all the films, and why he will be everything BUT here.
The narration will happen in first person, and the point of view will switch between Sam and Optimus Prime, with some other characters sometimes getting their turn.
Also, romance is not going to be the focus here, but there will be some pairings, most notably Sam/Mikaela and (eventually, many chapters down the line) Optimus/Elita-One.
Finally, please note that the main genre here is Supernatural and Spiritual (even if no longer listed as such) for a reason. Well, Sci Fi is the main one, but that's obvious for Transformers so I'm not even going to bother listing it, especially since I can only choose two when it should be something like Sci-Fi/Spiritual/Adventure/Family/Drama/Hurt-Comfort and, why not, even a bit of Romance here and there.
Transformers: Prime Divide
Arc I: Cognitive Readjustment
Chapter 1: Distress Call
Earth was much noisier than Cybertron, owing to a much denser atmosphere. Virtually every motion made by a person or object caused a strong enough ripple through the air to be picked up by our audio receptors. It was not too long after our arrival on this planet that we had to adjust our audio sensitivity downwards, in order to avoid our performance being impaired by the sensory overload. Our processors would have handled the strain of hearing the movement of every blade of grass within a five hundred meter radius, if we did not require the processing resources for other things, such as staying alive on a potentially hostile world and completing our mission without causing unnecessary loss of life.
I knew that, in time, our programming will adjust to the different planetary conditions and we will become more accustomed to processing more incoming data without sacrificing operational efficiency. For now, though, our constant use of energon detectors and motion-, electromagnetic- and bio-scanners was more important.
And yet, even with the adjustment to our audio sensors, we could hear better and farther than any human, so I could not claim that we were traveling in silence. But as I led my Autobots down this seemingly endless, empty man-made road in the middle of the night, following the directions burned by Megatron's navigation systems into a pair of flimsy glass lenses held together by a frail metal string, I could not help but feel that it was far too quiet. Despite the wind shearing, roaring against our frames, the silence between us was heavy and stifling, like a noose slowly grinding against my spark chamber.
None of my soldiers felt the urge to communicate, even amongst themselves. Not even through private comms, and I would have known if they were. Somehow, I always knew when my kin were having a private conversation, even if I was not privy to it.
It was made all worse by the fact that I knew this was not my Autobots staging a silent protest for my decision. They had vocally contested it, yes, Ironhide had even objected to my choice to not risk harm to the humans even at the cost of one of our own, but in the end they accepted my command in silence. Even when I voiced my intention to destroy the cube along with myself if it came down to it, they backed me.
All because, to them, I was Optimus Prime. Because even if I were to make the choice that would doom our entire race's future and set us on the inevitable path to extinction, it was my choice to make, my right, because my helm bore a Glyph that happened to match some old writings in an ancient archeological dig, and because of that, to them, I was a Prime.
The primitive asphalt felt rough against my tires, and my internal sensors and adjustment subroutines were working constantly to compensate for every inch-tall bump, but when that was the only load on my processors, I had little to distract me from my musings. I half-expected Ironhide to chime in and grumble something about brooding not being a Primely thing to do, but no such thing occurred. I took that to mean that he was valiantly holding himself in check, because he did not trust himself not to say something disrespectful to me for leaving behind Bumblebee.
Oh, Ironhide tried to hide his worry for Bumblebee by protesting a different matter. Why should we save the humans if they were such a primitive and violent race? But really, were we so different, once upon a time? I called Ironhide out on it over a private comm, pointed out that it had been him leading the Thetacon tribes that waged war on us, all those vorns before human civilization even emerged, just because they believed Sentinel Prime was a crazed fraud for saying the AllSpark existed and could be found (and it had).
Before we touched down on this planet, I studied the transmissions of the people here, and I was stunned by how similar they were to us, but so young. All of them children, but twice as tenacious as our own hatchlings. After failing the young of my own race when Megatron bombed all youth sectors, I could not even fathom bringing harm to these organics, these beings whose lives burned for so short a time, but which could burn so bright despite their frailty.
I did not have to explain that to Ironhide. My reminder of his past actions were enough. But despite him backing down, I am left wondering if perhaps I am just rationalizing my decision to sacrifice anything for the beliefs that have carried me through this endless war.
I suppose it was the perfect setup to a cosmic joke, to make me have to choose between them and my own last youngling.
Innocent, bright, precious Bumblebee.
I could not understand how my spark did not flare in self-disgust at the blatant hypocrisy of my own thoughts. Precious. I chose a wonderful method to show he was precious.
Bumblebee, who Ironhide had mentored at my request after that fiasco, hundreds of vorns ago, when Megatron told the yellow bot and his squad to arrest me, only to have Starscream try to ambush and offline us all. Bumblebee who, even before that, had not been just a random hatchling from the second generation of new protoforms brought into being by the AllSpark. Even if everyone believed it, Bumblebee included, I knew better. I always carried the evidence with me, in the form of a Creator bond I kept totally blocked at all times.
The truth was that Bumblebee was the very first new spark created by the Cube after I, Megatron and my mentor Sentinel Prime unearthed the Temple of Al Simfur and, with it, the AllSpark. Just an orn before it was powered by the device Wheeljack invented, which teleported a sun into orbit, I was alone in the Simfur temple main chamber, studying the Cyberglyphics. The Cube, which we thought was totally depleted, flared once and struck me with a mighty surge of AllSpark energy. I was thrown across the hall and knocked into stasis by the blast, and when I recovered Ratchet pronounced me to be in perfect condition. Even better than I was before the event in fact. My Spark had been reenergized and all my systems were at optimum efficiency.
We all thought that was the only effect, and in the excitement of having real, tangible proof that the Cube really was the AllSpark we had been searching for, the artefact that finally ended the war with Ironhide's disbelieving Thetacons, we set the issue behind us. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, as humans would say.
I do not know even now how it was that Bumblebee only activated during the second hatching, or how his spark survived that long, unless it found a protoform somewhere, somehow, and stayed in stasis for an age (without a constant energon supply), until it inexplicably got mixed up with the second generation birthed by the AllSpark during the latter half of my joint rule with Megatron.
I also know not how it was that we never ended up within a close enough proximity of each other for the bond to activate, as Bumblebee matured. Seeing as how I tended to visit all major cities on a regular basis, even as I kept up my archeological digs, it should have happened, especially since I always visited the youth sectors.
In the end, the first time I actually met Bumblebee was when he and Cliffjumper, a friend of his with a similar frame but colored red, applied for work as guards for the Al Simfur temple. Then again, it was not truly a meeting. More like he was submitting his application chit while I was looking upon the chamber from behind a two-way mirror on an overlooking platform. Our connection flared, like it should have done had I actually built his frame and brought it before the Cube to be given life. It brimmed with my surprise and his shock, his confusion, then came fear and panic, panic, panic-
I shuttered the bond closed immediately, before it could cause the youngling to succumb to the processor crash I could see building up. I internally flinched at his reaction – his reaction to being touched by my spark – but if I could not manage to make sense of how the bond made me feel, how could I expect him to take it well without even knowing what it was? It had startled me, taken me by surprise as much as it had him. I had not even been aware it existed before that point, unlike him.
I brushed my mind against the bond only twice after that, both times in the privacy of my quarters, and I realized he had, in fact, recognized what it was. But when I felt his longing for his Creator being pushed aside by defiant independence – he had always felt the void of the bond, felt abandoned by his creators among the other AllSpark creations, and wanted to make it on his own just to prove he could – I did not find the will to immediately reveal myself, explain myself. So I put the block in place, shunted it to a corner of my mind, though it pained me to do so, until I could build a rapport with him, hopefully enough that he would listen to what I had to say when I confronted him on this matter.
Only later did I realize that I was only failing him a second time through that delay.
Only later did I realize that the mere fact he had stayed at the temple instead of withdrawing his application, despite knowing his creator was there, meant that, deep down, he still wanted to meet them.
I had his application accepted, and that of his friend – I could not deprive him of the familiarity of Cliffjumper after such an experience, despite the bot's rather wild nature – and as I gradually established a tentative working relationship, possible only thanks to my anonymity as his Creator, I encouraged him when he expressed his admiration of the Temple Priests. Encouraged him to become an Acolyte, a priest in training, taught to link with and handle the Cube.
Then, Megatron severed the brother bond we shared (I had to force my processors away from the drive space where those memories were stored). He began to covet and secure more power, and my reluctance to stand up to him only fueled his ego. Then we were attacked by Nebula forces, just as my Science Division was unearthing the artefacts responsible for the strange surges of energy the Cube was giving off, and Megatron used that as a rallying point to create a new faction and bring war upon Cybertron once again.
Sometimes I still wonder if it was a mistake to break into Megatron's quarters looking for the artefact he had taken out of the hands of the science division despite it being beyond his purview. But I know that even in absence of that pretext, he would have engineered a reason to have me arrested. That he sent Bumblebee and Cliffjumper to do it felt like a cosmic farce. That it was all a ploy to have Starscream ambush and offline us was what ultimately made me decide to see the situation for what it was, Civil War, and assume my role as Optimus Prime even if I still did not believe the glyph on my helm meant anything.
Instead of a descendant of the Dynasty of Primes, I could have merely been part of a line of archive clerks for all we knew. But everyone else believed it, and if it allowed me to safeguard those who would not succumb to Megatron's madness, if it enabled me to rally my brethren away from his poison, then so be it.
To this day I am surprised I did not terminate Starscream for Bumblebee's role in that disaster. I spared him, even as I blew up the city of Metrotitan while Megatron was creating his new faction.
After that, all thoughts of acknowledging the bond between Bumblebee and I disappeared from my processor. He may not have been happy, but he was content and he had his life, something I could not guarantee if his connection to me was revealed and made him a target. A dangerous thing for a scout that often traveled alone. And in those moments, which came more frequently than I wanted to admit, when my resolve faltered, I remembered the defiance I felt when I brushed the bond all those vorns ago, and told myself it had been his choice as much as mine, even if we had made it separately.
After a while my motivations changed. My despair threatened to overcome me as my planet became more dead than alive. I made some foolish choices, fell for Megatron's deceptions, fake offers of peace, time and again, until the numbers of Autobots offlined when coming to rescue me from my foolishness – offlined brothers and creators or caretakers of my clansmen – were too much to bear. Subroutines and firewalls had to be developed to prevent a bond-brother's death from also killing the other. But even so kin bonds were lost, mine included. The femmes, the ones that most often maintained the clans and had the most bonds, were hunted down.
It left me bitter, and for a while all I could concern myself with was ending Megatron and everything he stood for. For betraying our race as much as for betraying me. I stopped to take a look at myself – saw I was becoming like him – only when I alienated Elita-One, but there was no time to repair things between us by the time I had the AllSpark launched into space. After that, we all broke off, splintered, each going off to look for the Cube among different stars, hopefully preventing our war from endangering other worlds.
And now, here we were, involving human children. Just another item to add to my long list of failures.
Yes, it had been his choice to jump out of hiding and save those children, exposing himself, but he had had to do it because I had dropped them. The list always seems to grow longer and longer.
Perhaps I have fallen into the other extreme. I see it unacceptable that our actions would inflict our war upon this innocent planet, to the extent that I am willing to let my own kin be captured and taken instead of risking his captors harm.
At least our routes seem to coincide, so we are ultimately following them, albeit on a parallel, not too distant road. My assumption that the humans would take Bumblebee to the same location as the AllSpark has proven true, if nothing else. It is poor consolation, but at this point I will take what I can get.
I have long been fighting a hopeless war.
My sensors picked up a familiar sort of radiation passing through my frame. Ratchet. He was driving a few meters behind me, and I wondered just what he was picking up if he felt the need to run a medical scan on me while still in motion. I pinged him and waited for him to open a private comm line. I could have done it myself, but medics need to figure out scan results in their own time. When he did, I asked. :Have you found anything my own inner sensors missed?: We were decavorns past the point where I minded him doing it without my assent.
The medic's even voice held no more inflexion than usual, but it did not matter once the reply came. :Just checking for spark damage.:
I almost swerved off the road in shock.
He was looking for the kind of spark damage that occurred when a bond-brother or descendant got offlined.
I had to redirect part of the memory assigned to monitoring interstellar transmissions towards my main processor in order to prevent any other obvious reactions.
He knew. :How…?:
:You forget that I've never allowed anyone to miss their periodic checkups, Prime: Ratchet replied. :And that includes you and Bumblebee. Deep-spark scans are an essential part of those.:
:… There are no scans that can identify who the bond nodes link to:
:No offense, prime, but even if it wasn't already obvious from how you and Bumblebee are the only ones left of us that still have kin bonds of any kind, besides the twins and Ironhide and Chromia, your reaction to my earlier answer gave you away.:
I raised my firewalls fully and ran a deep-level program that forcefully synched my resources until there was no outward evidence of how truly rattled I was. :You will inform no one, Ratchet. Do you understand?: I did not intend to explain why I was so set on this matter and I had no desire to dwell on it either.
:Understood,: Ratched crisply acquiesced. :Not like I'll have to do anything differently from what I've been doing for the past 200 vorns.:
I was glad I had reassigned those resources earlier. It was all that made sure I did not swerve like I was glitched on high grade again.
He had known for that long… roughly 1600 human years. Had he told Bumblebee of his suspicions in regards to it? The suspicions I had just confirmed?
Likely not, because if our status had been revealed he would have most likely complained on and off about what a waste of a perfectly good bond it was to refuse to acknowledge our roles in each other's lives. He might have recruited the others to his cause as well, I pondered with bitter humor.
I was about to say something else to him when a high-priority uplink flashed in my virtual heads-up display. Security codes were instantly recognized and another secure comm came online.
Despite all the resource adjustment I had carried out over the past breem, my engine still revved in astonishment when Bumblebee's voice spoke in my audials. :Bumblebee to Prime. Please respond ASAP.:
:Youngling!: I could not help myself blurting that, and I thanked Primus that I did not slip and say anything actually incriminating. Once I managed to get a grip on my frayed circuits, I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and opened up the link to the others. :Bumblebee! Status report!:
:Whoa whoa, wait, what?: Jazz stopped next to me, surprised and hopeful in equal parts. :Lil'buddy, ya' really there?:
:All systems online.: Why, oh, why did he sound so off-balance then? :Nothing essential has been permanently affected by the harpoons or liquid nitrogen.:
:I'll be the judge of that!: Ratchet snapped over the comm. :Then we'll have a talk about dismissing potential frame and system problems after being forcefully pushed into stasis.:
:And I'll have to run you through basic drills for a decacycle after he's done with you!: Ironhide cut in. :Primus, youngling! How could you let yourself be captured by those squishies after all the training I gave you?:
For the love of Primus, did he never change? I knew that the amount of time Ironhide spent training others was proportional to the level of concern he had for their wellbeing, but did he have to choose the drill sergeant routine over tact each and every time? I knew he was not emotionally inept. He knew better than to keep up the attitude just for its own sake.
I was about to open a private link and express my disappointment, but Bumblebee beat me to it.
:Because, clearly, that training covered every possible scenario there could ever be, including methods for miraculously becoming invulnerable when weapons specifically designed to take us down start being fired on my position from all directions!: Bumblebee's reply was positively scathing. So much that I was left speechless. Knowing how much Bumblebee looked up to Ironhide, and how fond the latter was of the former, I could only listen in growing stupefaction. :Including achieving that Primus-worthy feat while trying to cradle, in your servos, precious cargo that could easily shatter! Oh, and of course, that training includes getting out of any bind someone could possibly land in after trying to ensure Pr… no one would have to live with the guilt of dropping Sam and the female to their deaths after all they did was help us!: I felt at once humbled and wretched. He was concerned for my feelings, even after I let him be taken… Did he not hold that against me at all? :Yes, the perfect solution to all that could surely have been found in all that firefight training you've given me. That I was expressly forbidden to retaliate using said firepower was no issue at all!:
Even though it should not have been possible over comm links, I could feel the shock as it ripped through the three Autobots around me. Cybertron did not lack sarcasm, but it also did not have it developed to the level of an art form like it was on Earth. Clearly, Bumblebee had internalized the concept to an extent none of us could hope to match at this point in time. Except for Jazz perhaps, but my lieutenant seemed content to slacken his chassis suspensions in what could only be admiration.
:… Bumblebee…" Ratchet tried, surprisingly wary. :Are you really alright? You never lose your temper... Did those humans do anything-:
:It has nothing to do with the humans!: The yellow bot snapped again. But neither of us believed everything was really fine. Not even needing to signal the others, I left the road and took to the empty fields, right in the direction I knew Bumblebee had been heading. They followed me across the rough terrain, not daunted by the speed I was gaining. :At least not… I'm not…: Seeing his bluster so easily popped only made me worry more. :I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at anyone. I'll submit to any disciplinary measures after the mission is over.:
:No.: That was Ironhide. :I was out of line.:
I wondered if the other two were as surprised as I was by that admission.
:I may outrank you, but for this mission you report directly to Prime, so only he has the authority to criticize your performance unless he delegates the task to another, and if that ever happens it will be to Prowl, not me. And you're also right about your assessment of the situation, and if the time comes when either of them evaluates you, I'll tell them the same thing.:
"…I'm sorry, Ironhide.:
:Yeah… I am too.: And when Ironhide did not go all gun-happy or start cussing when things became uncomfortable, it was serious. :Just… where are you Bumblebee? You never said… do you need backup? How did you escape?:
:I didn't escape.:
I decided it was high time I finally rejoined the conversation. :They still have you? Or did they set you free?: Could I have been wrong about the humans after all?
:The Sector Seven troops have been neutralized. All of them:
I almost did not drive around a boulder properly.
:Did you slag them?: Ironhide asked hopefully.
:Ironhide!: I chided, but I, too, was curious. :Bumblebee, Report. Properly this time.: Honestly, that should have been the first thing we had him do. This conversation had truly gotten out of control before it even started.
:I came back online four and a half breems ago to find that the four manned aircraft that took me down were gone, and that all the cars making up the Sector Seven convoy had come to a halt in a disorderly fashion all over the highway. Given lingering gas particles in the air, I suspect an airborne compound was responsible. All humans are accounted for and unconscious, save for the one who facilitated my release by shutting down the automated software which ensured liquid nitrogen was sprayed on me in a constant flux. Sir… the human. It's… this makes no sense, sir. It's Sam, but...:
:Sam?: I was as incapable of processing that as the next bot.
:Ye're sayin' the kid took out everybody there?: Jazz dared ask what we all wanted to know.
:I don't know!: Bumblebee said miserably. :All I know is that when I got my bearings and came out of the battle mode I'd reflexively entered after I came loose of the trailer, I scanned Sam like I always do! And I've been having trouble staving off a processor glitch ever since. I need backup, fast! I need Ratchet here!:
:We are coming.: I told him. If he thought he had a processor glitch despite systems showing green, it meant something that defies logic had happened. Something even he had trouble processing. :We headed for you as soon as you contacted us. We will be there in a few kliks. What is wrong Bumblebee?:
:It's Sam! This… my scanners must have been fritzed by the freezing. The readings show his insides all wrong! And he's behaving oddly-:
:Oddly how?: Ratched asked.
:He's just… I don't know! He just is!:
:Alright, hold on!: We finally got to the main road. :We have almost reached your location.: It was a long time ago that I had last heard Bumblebee so distressed while giving a report, mostly due to him always avoiding any sort of emotional ties to his mission objectives. Somehow, Samuel Witwicky had achieved what nothing had done before in the past several thousand human years: turned Bumblebee's happy-go-lucky attitude into something sparkfelt instead of just a coping mechanism.
As I accelerated down the highway we had abandoned in favor of stealth, I could only wish that this miracle had not come hand-in-hand with this emotional upheaval. Alas, this seems to be one result that attachments always bring.