End of Days
by K. Stonham
first released 10th August 2007
Optics filtering out unneeded spectra, Optimus watched the planet's sun slip below the horizon, its disappearance heralding the onslaught of night, followed by the promise of another day.
For his own people... that day would never again come.
He looked at Sam and Mikaela, the two humans leaning against one another on Bumblebee's hood, watching now the same sunset that Optimus also observed. Such small, fragile lifeforms... organic, so easily destroyed by weapon or bare hand, or even simply by the ravages of time. But also... so incredibly clever. For barely more than a hundred solar rotations, their people had studied Megatron's frozen form and learned... learned enough to propel themselves into space, to build weapons that would take down Transformers. With barely a single day's knowledge of his kind, one of their members had seen the path that Optimus had not, and destroyed both Megatron and the AllSpark Cube.
Samuel James Witwicky, still a child by the standards of his species... Optimus shook his head in wonder. Like the rest of his species, he was so terribly young and so terribly brave. There was much, perhaps, that the Transformers and the humans could learn from one another.
Turning his optics to the sky, Optimus sent out a message to his people, scattered across the stars in search of their now-lost oppressor and their now-lost hope.
With the AllSpark gone, we cannot return life to our planet. And fate has yielded its reward: a new world to call home. We live among its people now in plain sight, but watching over them in secret, waiting... protecting. I have witnessed their capacity for courage, and though we are worlds apart, like us, there's more to them than meets the eye. I am Optimus Prime, and I send this message to any surviving Autobots taking refuge among the stars: we are here. We are waiting.
He could not guarantee that any surviving Decepticons might not also receive the message. He could not guarantee that there were any other Autobots left to receive the message. It might be that he and the three who had so long served under his command were the only ones remaining... the last of their kind. It might be that he was inviting war down upon this planet. But if there were any of his people left... he had to hope. He had to take the chance.
Because there would never be any more of them.
He gazed across the darkening landscape and for just an instant the glittering lights spread across the valley below reminded him of shining Iacon as it once had been, the crown jewel of Cybertron's cities... the comparison faded, leaving him with only the pale human lights beneath the stars on this alien world, so unlike his own.
He glanced at his companions, at warrior Ironhide and gentle Ratchet and unbreakable Bumblebee, whose duty to his mission had somehow itself transformed into a devotion that seemed shared by the young human he'd guarded. He felt the absence of wise-cracking Jazz, who had always known how and when to break the darker moods their five-mech unit had endured. He felt that absence as he felt so many others, their numbers piling up across the millenia.
The humans he'd met were good people, if a sheltered race, new to venturing off their own world, never having expected to meet others more advanced and so different from themselves. Yet starting with Sam and Mikaela... and further back, the crew of the Ghost One ship that had initially led the interest of the Transformers to this planet... they overcame their fear and fought for what was theirs, and what was right. Beneath the vast differences in frame and knowledge... perhaps the sparks of their two peoples were not so dissimilar after all.
No matter how strange Earth was, or how incomprehensible its organic human lifeforms might be at times... this would not be a bad planet to stay on. To rest from the endless weight of searching and battle, to open again long-neglected databanks regarding art and music and literature, to learn and create, to mourn and honor fallen comrades, to endeavor to ensure that history was never repeated, that another brother never became such a monster as Megatron had...
He searched the human information systems and found a concept akin to the one he sought.
To retire, and to teach.
And hopefully, someday, in a rain of stars to Earth, to meet again his missing comrades and loved ones.
They'd doomed their own people in order to save countless others.
The thought ran on loop through Ratchet's processors.
It had been the correct choice, of course. Optimus had been right. There was nothing else they could have done. Megatron and his megalomania were beyond redemption, beyond repair. He couldn't have been allowed to get ahold of the AllSpark again. And even if they'd managed to destroy him without the Cube's loss... sooner or later one or another of his followers would have wrestled or stolen it from Autobot hands, and it all would have begun again. There were too many other worlds out there, too many innocent species, for the Cybertronians to embroil them in their war.
Prime was right. It was not enough for the AllSpark to be lost. It had to be destroyed. Their broken civilization and its flaws and mistakes could not be allowed to destroy the universe.
The Cube had been destroyed.
It surely wasn't wrong, though, for Ratchet to take a moment to mourn for the Cybertron that had been, had been lost, and was now gone forever. For the voices that would never be raised again... and the voices that would never come to be.
For all its flaws, though, Earth wasn't a bad planet... not like Cybertron at all, but perhaps that was for the best. Its denizens the humans, while strange and backwards, were interesting and steadily advancing their knowledge and capabilities further. Ratchet itched to study them, to answer the mystery and wonder of how frail organic beings had become sentient...
No one knew the why of life, or the how of sentience, and he was fairly sure that however humans had come about, it was in a way entirely unrelated to any he was familiar with. And that out of all the races in space, their first interstellar contact was with Cybertronians, arguably the most similar in appearance and in morality... how small were the chances? What were the possibilities the AllSpark's presence on their world had somehow shaped them as well, different form of life though they were?
The humans had madness and evil in their number, too, he knew; otherwise Captain Lennox and Sergeant Epps would not have been as proficient at warfare as they were. The humans would never have developed weapons to use on one another at all otherwise, weapons complex and advanced enough that the Decepticons had used them as disguises. But for all their violent history, all their warfare, like his own kind, the humans-some of them-healed and protected, too. The values in which they professed to believe, the values he'd seen them defend and enact before his own optics... those values seemed often the same as those which Ratchet, as a medic and as an Autobot, believed in and upheld himself.
Their species were so different... yet, in some strange way, so alike. Ratchet glanced at Optimus, hearing the end of his invitation to the others of their kind to this watery jewel of a planet. He'd known Prime long enough to have his suspicions about what the Autobot leader intended.
The concept that the children of this world might become, in whatever strange way and different form, the sparklings that would-could-no longer be created by their own race...
Ratchet found himself considering Sam and Mikaela, and the idea, the possibility.
It was a fine old soldier he made when he was seriously considering Optimus' suggestion of staying on this planet, Ironhide thought sourly. Not that there was anything on Cybertron worth returning to. Without the AllSpark to give it life, their homeworld was just another chunk of dark rock floating in infinite space. But still, this planet... it was so unnervingly alien. So soft and organic and... green. You couldn't move without killing something. Not that its people had any problem with that, he thought. They killed each other, killed the world's other creatures and used them for their fuel, killed their seas and atmosphere with their primitive technology, careless of its use and its consequences... And Prime thought they had promise?
Still, he grudgingly admitted, some of them had courage. And though small, they knew how to pack a punch. Lennox and Epps and their military had taken out Blackout. Sam Witwicky had taken out Megatron. The Decepticon surely must've been humiliated by that in his last microsecond of existence, the knowledge that it was a human who had destroyed both him and the AllSpark. Ironhide hoped with grim satisfaction that the knowledge tormented Megatron for the rest of eternity, wherever his Primus-cursed spark had gone to rest.
He wouldn't be able to drag Bumblebee off this planet without a tractor beam, though, Ironhide thought. Optimus seemed to like the peace and quiet. And Ratchet was already deep in researching the biological entities that swarmed all over the planet's surface, humans in particular. With a sigh and imprecations he didn't voice outside his own CPU, Ironhide resigned himself to at least a good long "vacation" on this backwoods planet. Not that...
Well, Starscream had fled, cowardly piece of circuitry that he was. And according to Lennox and Epps, Scorponok hadn't been destroyed, merely injured as he retreated into the desert sands. Ironhide considered these facts. For that matter, Barricade's destruction hadn't been confirmed either. He brightened at the thought. Maybe there was something to this planet after all. Maybe he'd even work with some of the humans-there had to be more of them like Lennox and Epps in their military-and see what could be done to help them defend themselves. And, well, with that signal Optimus had sent out, there'd be old faces showing up, and a few of them he might be able to tolerate. Others, though, he thought darkly, were going to get on his processor unit like rock burrs on a petrorabbit. If they were still alive to do so.
Loneliness struck him suddenly. It had been so long since they'd had contact with any of the other Autobot teams. It had just been the five of them... now four... for so many millenia that he thought he'd even be happy to see some of the most carbon-plated engine-cracked excuses for piles of circuits that he'd ever had the irritation of serving with.
Not that he'd ever admit that to them if they showed up, or to anyone. Not even Ratchet or Bumblebee. Not even Prime.
Still, he'd be just a little glad to see others arrive.
He missed Jazz.
It wasn't fair that they'd struggled so long, fought so hard, and that just minutes away from the war ending for good Jazz had been permanently offlined in the worst way. Ripped in two by Megatron, the smaller Autobot had ceased functioning instantly.
At least... at least it had been fast.
Bumblebee knew what Megatron could do, how he could draw out drop after drop of pain, each microsecond suspended, distilled like the highest-quality energon, until there was nothing left in the universe except that pain...
At least it had been fast, Bumblebee thought again, and though it was faint compensation for his present company, at least they had had the honor and privilege of serving with Jazz, bearing witness to his rare blend of verve, style, and humor. At least the humans, too, had known him, if only briefly.
It had been just the five of them on their mission for so long that all the other losses had become gradually distant. Bumblebee wondered now if any of them had hurt as badly as Jazz's death; he surely hadn't known any of his other lost friends quite as long as the athletic saboteur, and time had of course made their five-mech team grow close, friendship lightening the long slow drain of their search for the AllSpark and Megatron.
Jazz didn't even know they'd won. He'd never be able to enjoy their victory, explore Earth's terrain, its people, its music...
But he wouldn't have wanted Bumblebee to lose himself in mourning for him.
He knew that like Jazz was right there next to him, whispering it into his audio receptors. Live, li'l bro. Live for me, an' do all the crazy tricks I'll never get ta.
Right then and there, with the radiation of the Sol star falling warm on his chassis, and the weight of two human bodies comfortable on his hood, Bumblebee let the war end. Let the past, and its pain, dissolve. Cybertron was destroyed, the Energon gone, Megatron deactivated, and the Decepticons scattered. There was only the future, the Earth, the new friends he'd made, and the old ones he hoped to someday see again. He would miss Jazz, but he would not mourn his friend's death. Instead, Bumblebee thought, and knew his brother in arms would be pleased at the idea, he would celebrate Jazz's life, and the lives of all those who had been offlined by the war, by living his own to the fullest.
A small, warm hand drew his attention away from his thoughts and back to reality. Roughened fingers he identified as Sam's from the ridge pattern on the fingertips drew small circles on his hood. He felt the blood pulse behind the fragile wall of the skin, felt the human boy breathe and settle back against him, Mikaela in the embrace of his other arm. She leaned against Bumblebee too, the both of them so trusting despite the difference between what they were and what he was.
Mayfly organics, their lives begun and ended in the blink of a Cybertronian eye. So small, so delicate... so easily destroyed. The thought sparked pain in him, and panic as he recalibrated his sensors to their heartbeats, fearing irrationally for a microsecond that he'd slipped away in time and was only now waking, years later... but no, they were still young, healthy and strong by their species' standards.
As for strength... his own capture was no great example of that as he hadn't fought back, not wanting to hurt the humans. But they'd taken out Frenzy and Blackout without any Cybertronian aid. In numbers, in trained strength, the humans were decidedly dangerous. It was only individually that they were frail and easily hurt. When they stood together, they accomplished great things.
Sam accomplished great things. Mikaela, too. Even alone, the two of them stood strong, fine warriors to represent their race... and still just children. He'd felt amusement at Sam's awkward frustration with his social situation, his seeming caste inferiority among his peers, felt sympathy and wanted to help the young human, justifying to himself that if Sam did have the glasses, anything Bumblebee could do to help him achieve his goals would be a step toward obtaining the map to the AllSpark.
He just hadn't expected to actually like Sam. He hadn't expected to identify with him, to want to explain things, to do more than just protect him... to be friends. He certainly hadn't expected Sam to go to the lengths he had, first defying his own government, then negotiating somehow with them to free Bumblebee, to make the hurt-no, not again, not again, not Tyger Pax again-stop. And then... he would never, ever, have expected Sam to refuse to leave him.
Sam's actions were worthy of an Autobot.
How could Bumblebee respond in anything less than kind?
I will never leave you...
The idea of home was, to the surviving Autobots, just about like a Thanksgiving feast would be to a starving man. At least that was what Sam figured. And so, lying on the sun-warmed hood of his car/giant robot alien guardian/friend, with the most gorgeous girl in the school (a girl who had been, wishful thinking aside, totally out of his league a week ago) in his arms, he leaned back against the glass of the windshield and placed a deliberate hand on Bumblebee's hood, stroking-or was it petting?-in small circles. Mikaela noticed, of course, and raised an eyebrow at him, but Sam just shook his head a little and she didn't ask. He didn't even know how he'd explain what he was thinking.
He'd been willing to die (and had the bone-deep bruises to prove it) to keep the AllSpark out of Megatron's hands. Knowing, blindly placing his faith in those who did nothing but keep proving over and over again that they were people he could trust, giant robotic aliens or no, what would happen if the metallic monster got his hands on it... His hand reflexively tightened atop Bumblebee's hood before he made himself relax again. And Bumblebee had felt that, as sure as Mikaela had, but he didn't think they'd ask him about it. The last week had been a rough one for all of them, after all.
He thought about his parents - gone. Miles - gone. Mojo - gone. Even Mikaela, even his school, even his house - all gone. Hell, all of SoCal destroyed. And from there on out, like ripples in a glass from impact tremors, all of California, all of the US, all of the Americas. The whole planet. It was a concept almost too big to fathom.
Sam had been getting a lot better recently at comprehending really big ideas.
And somehow the Autobots had lost that, and kept going.
For millenia, if not longer.
Mikaela had been more right than she'd known when she'd asked Sam if he'd ever had to sacrifice anything. Sam hadn't. Not up until the minute he'd clung to the edge of rooftop statuary and stared up into the face of the Devil. Just like that, like flipping a light switch, the meaning of his family motto had become clear and he'd understood what he had to do. The comprehension had spread through him like a light, dissolving away fear like a shadow in sunshine.
His life, or his world.
There was no need to even make the choice.
And beyond his own world, there were countless others out there somewhere in space. Terrifying as it had been, plummeting to his own death, he knew he'd done well. His father would have been proud of him. His great-great-grandfather too...
But then Optimus had caught him, saved his life. So no matter what the Autobot leader said about being in his debt, Sam had to call it even.
He turned his head and looked over at Prime, then back to look at Bumblebee's glossy hood. He stroked that smooth surface, thinking.
They hadn't had to stay. They could have gone back to space, to any planet they chose. But Bumblebee had asked to stay, to stay with Sam... for the Autobots to make their home on Earth.
The Earth suddenly seemed like a lot smaller place in Sam's big picture of things, and the human race a lot more vulnerable. But that the Autobots stayed on Earth because of him...
It filled him up with a quiet wonder that was almost twin to the one he'd felt on seeing Bumblebee standing there, waiting for him and Mikaela after fighting Barricade. That there was something truly unique and special, beyond anything he'd ever imagined, waiting for him...
He traced aimless designs on that slick hood, feeling slow change moving inside of himself, as it had been doing for the last week and a half. A decision of who he was, who he would become... he looked at Mikaela and she smiled at him.
Like with facing Megatron, he found, there was no need to even decide.
Kisses were like really good chocolate, Mikaela thought a bit abstractly. They were sweet and melted in your mouth and each one made you want another. Or at least they were like that with Sam, whose kisses were both like and unlike those of other boys she'd kissed. Like, in that she knew, could tell by the way his hands touched her, that he wanted her. Unlike, in that he let her take the lead, respected her, didn't try any shady moves...
She'd always thought that jocks like Trent were strong guys, and that strength had attracted her to them... until she'd found out, in the middle of an interstellar war zone, that she didn't really want to be a princess to be rescued from her imperfect life and kept safe. She wasn't an object, she was a person, and if Sam Witwicky had had enough guts to try to make her notice him, to keep the AllSpark Cube out of Megatron's hands... well, maybe there was a different kind of strength, one that was better. And maybe she had it too.
She'd discovered that she hadn't particularly wanted a prince on a white horse. But she might just want a kind of awkward, geeky knight who drove a slick yellow Camaro that itself unfolded itself into a kick-ass knight bearing an arm cannon or two. And instead of looking for a perfect life in an ivory tower, she just might want to be a knight with them, taking charge of her screwed-up life and screwed-up priorities and doing something that really counted.
And really, she thought, scrawny guys with sharp wits, guys who should've tried out for the track team instead of the football team, were actually kind of cute.
Her hand covered his where it rubbed small, soothing circles on Bumblebee's hood. She smiled at Sam and nestled her head into his shoulder, their fingers tracing along the smooth warm surface together. Normal people would've considered them alone, just a teenage couple and a few cars parked at the bluff.
Normal people wouldn't have a clue.
Her life, like it or not (and she did kind of like it), now involved a quartet of giant alien robots, soldiers and war refugees. She'd been protected by them, saved by them, and fought alongside them to take down a dictator who probably made Hitler look like a cream puff in comparison. It really made the scale of life seem different, and her finals in three weeks a bit less important in the grand scheme of things. It gave perspective... and in that mirror of perspective, the importance of jocks like Trent somehow diminished.
Trent wasn't strong, she knew instinctively. Not the way Sam was, the way the Autobots were. It wasn't a physical strength, the kind that meant you could hurt other people all too easily. No, it was a different kind of strength, one that meant you did the right thing, no matter what the cost. You wrestled away a life-giving cube from the worst psychopath ever, spent millenia if not longer hunting for it, and destroyed it when you finally managed to find it, no matter that it was the only source of life for your kind.
...There would never be any more Transformers.
That kind of strength had humbled Mikaela and made her determined to become like that herself. She was tired of hiding being smart, competent, and a grease monkey. It was who she was, the same as who Sam was involved a smart mouth, a clever mind, and a generous heart. The difference was, he'd never tried to hide himself. If he was brave enough to be who he really was, it really couldn't be that hard. She smiled at him, and at the car that really wasn't a car at all, and thought about Monday at school.
She'd seen who she really was, and who Sam really was, and with the knowledge that there was a bigger world out there, a bigger universe out there... Well, after surviving Decepticons, Sector Seven, and the US government's intense debriefing, she was pretty sure that she, Sam, and Bumblebee could take on the worst that a high school's social cliques could dish out.
She was looking forward to watching them try.
As a dyed-in-the-wool Transformers fan since it was originally airing in the '80s, I simultaneously anticipated and dreaded the live-action movie. The fact that I've been to see it three times in the theaters (thus far) in no way diminishes my love for G1 and Beast Wars, and does not mean I think it's a perfect film; it has plenty of flaws. But what it does do, for me and apparently for a lot of other people, is recapture the wonder I felt at this universe, these possibilities. The film has that Spielbergian magic (even though he "only" produced it) that makes me feel like Spike/Sam... there is this whole universe out there, and yes, some of it is scary and will happily kill us, but some of it is also wonderful and capable of stealing our collective breath away. The profundity of Optimus' decision to destroy the AllSpark rather than let it be misused tugs at me as a writer because of the sheer enormity of that decision. It's basically dooming his entire species to an eventual extinction, just to make sure their messes don't screw it up for the rest of us. And at the same time, a younger species (us) takes a step out onto a larger stage... So, the blinking WTF-ness of Sam and Mikaela making out on Bumblebee's hood aside, I really wanted to find out just what everyone might be thinking during that last scene of the film. Some came easily; others did not. In any case, I hope you enjoyed the read.