Spike slid down a pile of freshly displaced debris, scanning the wreckage intently. He hurried along, doing his best to avoid the hazardous spears of broken factory wall and ruined equipment as a tug of desperation gripped his throat. Five minutes earlier he'd watched an epic battle commute sloppily into this automated deathtrap, and after pulverizing the site into a twisted pulp, he'd watched it leave one pint-sized yellow robot short. There was the possibility that Bumblebee could have escaped during the fight, but something in Spike's gut told him otherwise.
The sound of a distant explosion echoed about the space. Spike craned his neck over the crumpled car chassis and through the freshly nonexistent wall to see the shapes of giant robots trying to bring each other down amidst the manmade forest of an innocent office park. A cacophony of car horns told him the battle had finally arrived at the highway. They were getting further away by the second. Spike frowned and returned to his search, trying to discern a sign of life amid the clamor.
The pile moved to his left. Spike turned fast and slipped on spilled hydraulic fluid, collapsing backward against a broken table and barely missing the edge of a metal railing. The raw gray of an unpainted car hood clattered hard against the rubble, displaced by the buggy twitch of a buried robotic arm. Spike's breath caught in his throat and before thinking twice he'd sprung from his place in the wood and sprinted to the stirring metal. His foot slipped into a hidden gap in the pile and a shard of broken glass sliced a line up his shin.
The arm he'd seen was nothing more than the electric sputtering of a broken assembly robot. Spike cursed under his breath and noticed the blood on his pants. He leaned down to investigate with a heavier groan. All he needed was tetanus to go with losing his best friend.
The boy limped to a clearing to try and clean out his wound. The hollow space he'd found was instantly recognizable as a transformer footprint. Considering the size and depth, he discerned that it must have come from a larger robot like Optimus Prime. The foot itself was not big enough to crush Bumblebee, but who's to say the smallest Autobot wasn't somewhere sandwiched beneath. Spike's stomach twisted as the irony of the plucky little bug being smashed to death by the robot he most adored. Viciously sickened by the thought, Spike dismissed the possibility, wiped blood on his shirt and moved on.
Spike cursed his luck. Of all the places in the world to lose an injured robot, a vehicle assembly plant had to be the worst. No matter how foreign cybertronian technology appeared walking around, disassembled it was as indistinguishable from the jumble of fragmented auto-assembly robots and twisted sedan bits as if he was combing the place for a missing toaster. His eyes were overwhelmed by the chaotic landscape, he could only hope Bumblebee's auditory receptors were still working.
Spike turned on his heel, tilting off balance on his wounded leg. That car horn was not from the highway like the rest of the din. The realist in him considered the possibility that one of the nearby arm-robots was a horn-installer, but the hope in him was stronger than logic. He took a step forward. "Bumblebee!?!"
It had to be him. Spike dashed to the top of rubble, unsure of where horn had come from. Sound echoed off the junk heap in so many random directions...
"Honk again!" Spike yelled. "Where are you?"
It was from the right. Maybe. Spike picked along until he found a twisted support column. At a downward angle was a straight path with another layer of debris piled on top. The flattened hunks of sheet metal were bent backward into the cave as if hit with great force, yellow streaks of paint transferred obviously on the twisted edges. Spike's heart jumped up into his throat. He shoved a crimped wall panel off of the entrance to the force-shorn tunnel. "Hold on, Bud, I'm coming!"
Light filtered into the cave through small gaps in the upper layers, bouncing back and forth off the reflected surfaces to create an eerie glow. Sparks shot from a bisected white assembly robot ahead, further illuminating the streaks of black and yellow on the walls. Most of the surfaces were wet with splashes of hydraulic fluid and reflected white with each burst of electricity. Spike hugged the wall to avoid the live wire, catching his shirt on one of the metal barbs. He waited for a break in the spurting before jumping off the wall, ripping the seam out of his sleeve but leaving his arm intact. It was obvious to him that Bumblebee had been thrown backward through this mess. It was also obvious that he was in bad shape.
Progress stopped at an insurmountable roadblock. A large portion of the roof had collapsed the tunnel ahead of him behind a solid sheet of jagged metal. He searched the edges of the obstruction for a gap to squeeze through but couldn't find one his size. He'd either have to dig out one of the larger openings and hope the whole place didn't crash down on top of him or climb back out the way he'd come and find another way. A support rung braced the dirt in one of the larger spaces. Staring through the hole, he saw the faint shape of a head and torso. "Bumblebee? Is that you? Say something!"
"Bumblebee!" Spike tore into the small gap, cutting his hand on a bit of stripped metal. The roof of the cave shifted, dust and small bits raining down on top of him. The steel beam sank deeper into the heap, collapsing the tunnel behind him like a dry vein and opening the shaft to the sky. Spike clambered into the space above the beam as a blunt corner scraped down his uninjured leg. The skin was protected by his jeans, but still stung bitterly. The collapsed roof above him sent dirt and light into the chamber with the robot. When the cave in stopped, Spike slipped down into the cell and found himself face to face with the battered shape of the abandoned Autobot.
Bumblebee's arms and legs were shredded, his shoulder components ripped open and speared with bits of the factory. The metal on his helmet was striped in white and silver with huge dents on every side. The shielding on his back had protected his core, but the room still hung with the smell of burned plastic and lubricant. Amid it all, the red Autobot symbol sat unscathed on his yellow chest. Spike slid down the junk to the robot's side, horrified.
Bumblebee looked up with as much of a smile as he could manage. "I'm glad you found me."
"Yeah." Spike said, trying not to stare at his limb-less-ness. "Are you okay?"
"Hah." Bumblebee laughed, his voice soft and tired. "No."
"At least you're talking." Spike said, struggling with what to do. "That's something, right?"
"Not for long." The robot replied.
Spike's insides took an unhealthy twist. "What do you mean?"
"Main power network ruptured. Battery core leaking." Bumblebee muttered. "Loosing energy." He pulled his head up to look Spike square in the eye. "You've got to get out of here and tell the others where I am."
"No way, I'm not leaving you." Spike said.
Bumblebee slouched a little in the wall. "Spike..."
"They're way far away." The boy insisted.
The robot smirked. "Start running."
"Not funny." Spike said, liltingly. "They'll move faster than me. Radio for help."
Bumblebee shook his head, musing a little through his exhaustion. "I shut the radio down long ago."
"Shut it down!?!" Spike cried. "Why!?"
"Saving energy." He replied. "As soon as you leave I'm turning off optics, audible communications, higher-level processing, cooling, everything. Anything I can shut down I will."
"No, you've got to keep talking to me." Spike coached. "You've got to stay with me and we'll get you through this."
Bumblebee's look softened on him, a genuinely thankful smile giving life to the Autobot's face. "I'm not a human, Spike."
"But..." The boy's heart broke at the thought of leaving his friend in such a critical state. "What good can I do if I'm not here?"
"A lot." Bumblebee insisted. "With you getting help, I can log off and save all the energy for my spark. That's the part that really matters. If I lose it then I'm dead."
Spike frowned, not wanting to understand. "When you say dead you mean dead like my cell phone right?" He spoke with his hands, the slightest twitch betraying the sense of panic growing inside him. "My phone dies on me all the time... Then I take it home and recharge it and its fine."
"I mean dead like dead." Bumblebee replied. "Like living dead. You can't recharge a spark, it's who I am. You can fix my body and get me walking again but if my spark's out it won't be me... I'll be gone."
Spike shook his head slowly, the severity of the moment made his feet feel like lead. He wanted to throw up. "But you're a robot... You can't..."
"I'm alive." The light of his eyes dimmed a little, but his look stayed strong. "Spike, you know I can."
"I won't let you." He replied.
"Then go." Bumblebee nodded his head toward the open space. Spike tried to look but couldn't tear his eyes away. The robot managed a final smile. "It's okay. Don't worry about me. When I wake up I'll be on a table in Ratchet's workshop shiny like the day I rolled off the assembly line."
Spike hardened his face against emotion. "And if you don't..."
His friend filtered a sigh. "I'll never know the difference. " His smile began to fade. "It won't be your fault, Spike. You're still my best friend. "
The robot was already starting to shut down. Spike watched as parts in Bumblebee's exposed machinery stopped moving, the corners of the Autobot's mouth sank downward out of the smile as he released the heated air from his cooling system like a final breath. Spike moved back, but stopped short of the door, adrenaline pounding in his ears. It felt like leaving a sick man in a tomb. He didn't know if Bumblebee could still hear him, but spoke anyway. His heart wouldn't let him leave if he didn't.
"I'm not saying goodbye." Spike stared into the chamber, the blue lights of Bumblebee's eyes still lit in the dim room. "I'll be right back so there's no point, so I'm not saying it." He stared intently. "You understand, right?"
His glowing eyes rose a little to focus on him, the faintness of the blue light still full of consciousness as Bumblebee's head bobbed slightly in the smallest sense of a nod. The lights dimmed and went out. His head sank limply to his chest like a marionette left hanging by its strings. Spike realized now what he'd meant when he said he was more than just a robot. With his consciousness shut down, Bumblebee's shape was as empty and dull as the bits of unsorted metal stacked into the walls. Even his color seemed to fade. He was lifeless.
Suddenly Spike couldn't leave the space fast enough. He scrambled out, ignoring the scrapes and cuts covering him, and hurdled the factory remains on his way to the fight. The boy sprinted toward hope and away from the dark motionless corpse which now frightened him more than anything he'd ever seen in his life. He desperately had to restore animation to those circuits and gears. He had to see the face he'd learned to recognize as Bumblebee take on the life that made the Autobot who he was, because without it he was as much an automaton as the mechanisms that used to work in this ruined factory. He was dead.
Dead with no goodbye.