Title: Another Gate
Disclaimer: Transformers and all related characters therein do not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Several years into the future, the war still continues between Autobots and Decepticons, and through it all, life goes on, and everyone's still looking for ways to hold on.
Author's Note: I have no idea what this is, or from where it came. The opening scene just came into my head and demanded to be written. This is a gift fic for twinseternal on LJ as a thanks for creating such beautiful artwork. This was originally meant as a one-shot, but the plot's gotten big enough for it to be either a two or three shot. We'll see what happens. I hope you enjoy it.
Why you say you are not in love with me.
"Come on, hurry up! I think he's this way."
The long grass parted easily before them, yellow stems rippling away from the grasshopper trails in the late afternoon wind. Mikaela's steps fell light and quick across the dry sandy soil, the blades bending under the soles of her sneakers and marking her dash across the hills. Around her, she could hear the others running, occasionally calling out to each other to keep in contact while blinded and cocooned by the prairie grass. Above, the sky was low and red, illuminated by the setting sun as it flared its way across the building clouds. Against this ceiling the roar of jets sounded low and far away, making lines in the dimming light. Smoke rode in on the wind, bitter, light, and old—the smell of dying fires gnawing at the last bits of structure left.
"There he is!"
"I see him."
Mikaela picked up her stride, following the shouting and disjointed roaring of engines being forced to work in battered states. She came to a clearing, the grass here either pressed completely flat and broken, or missing entirely, revealing dark and trampled earth. It was large, with equally rough-shorn army jeeps lining the perimeter and numerous soldiers running back and forth between them, loading the trunks up with the equipment that was scattered across the ground. There were guards, standing tense and ready with rifles, but she was only spared a passing glance before her presence was dismissed in favor of keeping attention on the sounds of distant sirens.
And in the middle of it all sat Sam, legs dangling over a large pit and surrounded by various machines and tools—and bits of them—most of which being certainly not of human design. The soldiers were running around him, shouting over his head, but he ignored them, typing on a computer while occasionally directing the few men in the pit on where to dig and how to do so. He was tired, Mikaela could see that from where she stood, his hair tangled and matted, dirt caked to scraped skin and rough-worn clothes. Mikaela knew she looked little better, her own clothes having been worn day and night for the past four days. Judging by the way this day was going, they would have to serve as pajamas once more.
Will Lennox had beaten her to the clearing, the current soldier in charge more than relieved to turn command over to him. Will assumed it quickly, all but whipping the others to double their rate of packing and to just throw the damn junk into the back seats, or tie it to the roof, as long as it got in and stayed there. Mikaela ran to Sam, the burn in her muscles making itself known as she collapsed beside him, breath heavy and heart racing.
"I thought you were in Tulsa," Sam said, not looking up from the laptop screen as he ran his hand across it to brush away the dust.
"I was," Mikaela panted. "But we had to leave due to some unexpected and unwanted guests."
"Your mother in law?"
"Sam!" Will's voice sharply cut through the din. "What's taking so long?"
Sam's head snapped up to glare at him, and he threw his hands up in frustration.
"Look, I'm doing my best here, all right? Starscream didn't exactly give me the time to finish 'Geology for Dummies.'"
"Well, do better. You're the scientist."
"Historian!" Sam corrected, turning back to his laptop. "There's a bit of a difference. I can tell you all you want about the history of the site, its weather, and what happened to each guy and his dog. You want me to dig it up, that's going to take a bit longer."
Thunder snapped across the plain, the falling from the black clouds on the eastern horizon. The sun was sinking lower, red slowly fading to thunderstorm green.
"You get five more minutes!" Will shouted, earning a less than charitable string of curses from a furiously-typing Sam.
"Johnson! Pack away the augers, I don't want any damage to the deposits. Everyone else go back to spades," Sam ordered the group in the pit, who quickly hurried to obey. Where's Bumblebee?"
"He dropped me off at the road," Mikaela answered. "He had to go back with Ironhide. Said they'd meet us at the rendezvous point."
"You ran all that way?" Sam asked, turning to look at Mikaela and seeming impressed. "Most girls opt for treadmills at the gym."
Mikaela cocked a half-smile at him.
"I ain't most girls. Oh, and Bumblebee told me to tell you that if you pull another stunt like you did in Santa Fe, he'll kill you himself."
"I don't get out of here soon and Thundercracker will be more than happy to save him the trouble. Damn it. The signal's gone. They must have realized we had the satellites working."
A sudden shout from down in the pit had Sam shoving aside the laptop and jumping down, pushing aside the men to reach the treasure recently unearthed. Mikaela followed him, squeezing in between the diggers to kneel down next to him. Just sticking out of the dark ground was a pale table of mineral, and Mikaela could not determine whether it was simply gray or a shimmery light green; the digger's helmet lights and occasional flash of far away lightning made it hard to tell. At any other time, Mikaela might have found it amusing, that such fuss was being made over a chunk of unattractive mineral, but the e-mails, the phone calls and eavesdropped conversations had prepared her somewhat for its significance.
"So this is what the Decepticons want," Mikaela said as the team loaded the mineral into a large bin, the lid coming down in locking snaps that sounded oddly loud in the wind and rumbling thunder. It was almost dark, and Mikaela had felt a few raindrops on the back of her neck.
"Nope," Sam said as a soldier tossed him a satellite phone, and he caught it in bandaged hands. "It's what they need. What's this? The satellites are down."
"This one's also tapped into the landline towers," came the soldier's reply. "You got Epps on the other side."
"Excellent. Gotta love alien technology. Get that tub into the jeep! Epps, it's me."
Mikaela hopped out of the pit, squinting against the wind as it gusted through the waving grass. Will waved her over to one of the jeeps, and she quickly hopped in, pushing much of the cases and tools down onto the floor to make room for when Sam joined her.
"Witwicky, let's move!" Will shouted, sounding irritated but Mikaela knew that there was no real heat in it. Will had practically adopted Sam, would have, too, if Ron and Judy Witwicky had not put up such a fight about it, and the irritation stemmed more from impatience and the need to outrun both oncoming storm and their decidedly pissed-off pursuers. A quick check around the site from Sam, and, slinging his backpack over one shoulder, he ran to the jeep and Will was able to give the signal to leave. No one had to be told twice, and the gravel and sand crunched beneath spinning tires as the convoy departed into the grass. Will stood up, leaning on the roll bars to shout directions to the driver, who could not see in all of the grass.
"I don't care! Bradford is the best marine sedimentologist in the nation. I want you to get him out of South Carolina and to our base immediately. I don't care if he wants funding for another ten years, just do it. And have the General call the Geological Survey in Denver and tell them that I need a geologist by Saturday. They should be able to spare one; whoever it is won't have a date anyway. Have the General call me if he runs into any problems."
Sam snapped the phone shut, struggling to get it into his pack with the heavy bouncing from the jeep.
"So, Sam, what is all of this?" Mikaela questioned, gripping the door rest to keep from flying over the top.
"It's groenite, a mineral discovered in 2009 by Dr. William Dawson. 'Groen' meaning green, and 'ite' for silver. As far as we can figure, there's not a whole lot of it, but a fuel cell made from this stuff is hundred of times more powerful, efficient, and long lasting than fossil fuels and even hydrogen cells. Low as they are on energon reserves, the Decepticons would tear this planet apart trying to get it. We need to obtain as much of it as we can before they figure out how to mine it themselves," Sam answered, also latching on to the top of the jeep's side door. The grass was whipping past him, hitting his hand, but he did not seem to notice it, the bandages on his hands absorbing the lashes.
"So why do you need a marine scientist and a geologist?" Will shouted down to Sam, straining to be heard over the increasingly loud, long rumbling thunder.
"Because, Lennox," Sam replied, placing exaggerated emphasis on Will's last name and smirking at the scowl he received for it. "Groenite is a marine deposit."
"Then what's it doing in Kansas?"
"Millions of years ago, this was all under water, a shallow sea. It's why it's flat and there's so much limestone to the north. And like I said, groenite's rare. If there is more, a marine sedimentologist and a geologist should be able to tell us where to look."
Mikaela shook her head, amused.
"I thought you were 'just an historian,' Sam. Best I can remember, you were asleep in all your Earth Science courses."
Sam grinned back at her.
"I am. But geology is the history of the world, Mikaela. Human history is barely a paragraph in that book. I better have at least some frame of reference for everything. Now, hurry up, Will, and get us out of here! I think it's going to rain."
At least the rain washed away some of the dirt, Mikaela thought as the jeeps pulled into the main loading dock of the Autobot's mountain base. Base, perhaps, was used a little too lightly, as this particular hole in the ground was little more than that. Still, with the main base overrun with Decepticons, it would have to do. It was hidden, secret, carried a wealth of backup supplies for the main base, and the Decepticons would have to have to bring down the entire Rockies to find it. Sam was quick to hop out of the jeep, bringing backpack and laptop case down with him before helping Mikaela step out onto the bare rock that constituted the base's floor.
"Get the groenite to Wheeljack, and make sure that it has to go into storage, and that under no circumstance is he allowed to 'mess' with it. Even for a second. And be careful, he i will /i beg," Sam warned.
The main loading dock was huge, a vaguely circular room that had been dug and blasted straight into the mountain itself. Little had been done to furnish it; floor, walls, and ceiling were left bare, the granite having been barely smoothed out, and the lights were strung high, running on low power and thus casting everything in comparatively dim illumination. The Autobots did not seem to mind, and Sam suspected that they probably would have been able to operate everything in pitch blackness, but the human soldiers demanded at least minimal creature comforts, and the government had grudgingly conceded the basic needs for illumination and some sort livable habitation. Both Autobots and humans moved around the loading dock, most concerned with just doing their job but occasionally stopping to engage each other in conversation. It was satisfying to see, after the hard work and long days it had taken both sides to get over their initial fears and reservations and start cooperating like true allies. Sam let himself smile, feeling a quiet pride ripple like a small pool through his body.
A slam of the entranceway door announced it locking in place, shutting out both outside light and rain. It was loud enough to draw Sam out of his thoughts, and once out of his distraction, he could hear a man calling out to them, footsteps echoing rapidly in a flat-out sprint. To his right, Mikaela spun around, her own exhaustion not enough to keep away the grin, the joy, and she leapt into the approaching man's arms. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam could see a flash of sparkle on Mikaela's hand, the diamond in her ring catching the light from overhead.
"Sean! Oh, God, hi!"
She was laughing, kissing him, and her husband was doing the same thing back. Sam's smile widened, Mikaela's happiness spreading to him as chords from a favorite song. That had been him, once, him and Mikaela, but a couple of years after their fateful meeting at the park had brought Mikaela's match to her, and Sam was happy for her.
"Hey, honey, you been playing out in the rain again?"
Sean and Mikaela pulled apart, but did not go far, keeping their arms around each other's waist. Sean was not much taller than Sam, just by a few inches, dark blond hair cut short and jumpsuit covered in grease—an ideal Air Force mechanic with whom Mikaela could argue engine design and specifications for hours on end. A nice guy, overall, and who, most importantly, loved Mikaela just as much as she loved him. Sam approved of him.
"Ambassador," Sean said, inclining his head towards Sam. The respect was there, certainly, but the light in his eyes was teasing, playful, and friendly. Sam took Sean's extended hand, shaking it firmly.
"Knock it off. You know you it's just Sam with you and Mikaela."
"Yeah, yeah. You look like you've had your own share of adventure."
"You know, Sam, most ambassadors would opt for large offices with leather couches and built in putt-putt holes," Mikaela teased, winking at him.
"I ain't most ambassadors. But it's sure enough to make me want to sacrifice my soul to the creator of the hot water shower," Sam replied, running a hand through his grimy, gritty hair. Mikaela made a face in sympathy.
"I agree. God, I smell horrible, and Sean, if you say one word I'll never speak to you again."
"Don't tempt me, Mikaela."
An indignant smack to the arm had the three of them laughing, but Mikaela was quick to start walking away, dragging Sean with her.
"Sam, we'll meet you later for dinner, all right?" she called out, making sure she got an affirmative nod from Sam before heading off to the makeshift dorms. A moment's peace, a second alone with no one demanding his attention, but he knew it was far too good to last, and he was hardly surprised when he felt an arm swing heavily around his shoulders.
His title was said like a nickname, as if he were being called 'shorty,' or 'son,' or 'tiger.' Hardly befitting his position, but Sam did not really mind. The soldiers he was friends with meant well, and when it came time for inspections or formal ceremonies, they treated him as though he were the President. Hell, when it came to the really formal ceremonies, even the President treated him as though he were President.
"Hello, Fig," Sam greeted, shrugging the arm off and shrugging his pack up higher on his shoulder. It was getting heavy, and his bed, hard as a rock or not, was calling to him.
"Look at you," Fig said, shaking his head. "Twenty-seven years old and looking not a day over eighteen. How do you do it, man?"
Sam smiled at him, but it was not like the smile he had given Mikaela and Sean. This one was edgier, more secretive, but not enough to set Fig on edge. He clutched his bandaged hands tighter around the shoulder straps of his pack.
"South Beach, dude. Diet and exercise."
"No shit? Tell my mama about it. She doesn't think those things work. Well, come on. I'm supposed to bring you to Optimus."
Fig's speech dissolved into rambling Spanish as he lead Sam out of the loading bay and through the intricate web of tunnels and passageways to Optimus Prime's command room. In these emergency situations, it was guarded with more exclusive personnel admittance than the arsenal, and despite the way that both humans and Autobots saluted him in the hallways, it still surprised Sam at how easy it was for him to stroll in, guards stepping quickly aside. Fig remained outside, leaving Sam alone as the only human when the door slid shut behind him. Sam had expected more people, but then with current situations, everyone was relatively dispersed, and it would take time for them all to regroup. Only Optimus and Ratchet were in the room, both staring at and discussing in low Cybertronian the large plasma screens of national newscasts, most tuned in to the recent Decepticon attacks on cities. Relatively speaking, the attacks were not severe, carried out with only the intent to cause a little havoc while the big plans were being formulated. In the wake of Megatron's death, Starscream had assumed leadership of the Decepticons, but he was holding onto the position only tenuously, as loyalty to him was extremely low, and he had to expend most of his energy and attention in fending off dangerous usurpers, such as Soundwave and Shockwave.
The old scar on his thigh twinged at the thought of Soundwave, and Sam shifted his weight to his other leg to keep the stiffness out of it. But really, the dissention in the Decepticon ranks worked to the Autobots' and human advantage. The Decepticons remained disorganized, and that made them impulsive, angry, reckless, and ultimately stupid. The latest attack against the main Autobot base had been successful, but the Decepticons were too easily satisfied and proud of their triumphs, too busy gloating over a comparatively minor victory while the Autobots reassembled and planned their counterattack. It would have to be done quickly, though, before the Starscream got his feet under him again, and right now the Autobot forces were spread too thinly. So much to do and organize, and it made Sam's head hurt, already swimming from lack of decent full meals and sleep.
Optimus and Ratchet both turned at the sound of the door and scuffling of Sam's boots. Sam could see Optimus visibly relax at the sight of him, the light in his optics softening as the intricate plates around them arched in an unmistakable smile. They had picked up human expressions well, and Sam knew that had been instrumental in getting humans to trust and like them. Humans operated so heavily on familiar, friendly expressions, that lack thereof made them uneasy. Optimus had recognized this most subtle of influences, and had been quick to utilize it. By this point, however, Sam suspected that these expressions had become habit, and Optimus was probably no longer aware that he was doing it. Nonetheless, it soothed Sam as well.
"Ambassador," Optimus greeted, voice deep and low, and Sam could hear the pride hopping lightly, like crickets, across the syllables. Sam grinned at him, smile stretching tiredly, but still wide.
"Optimus Prime," he greeted in turn. "Hey, Ratchet."
"Hello, Sam. I'm glad to see you managed to keep yourself all in one piece, this time. No gaping wounds that I can see or broken bones," Ratchet said, and Sam could practically feel the deep, penetrating medical scan.
"I fear you too much to go running through rains of flying shrapnel again."
"Uncommonly good sense for a human," Ratchet murmured, nodding his head in approval. "And since you are not in mortal danger for once, I shall let you be. But make sure you stop by the med bay later this evening," he continued, and Sam noted the pointed look at his hands. "You need a checkup."
Sam saluted him, the cloth of the bandages distinct and rough against his knuckles. "Will do, sir."
"Uncommonly good sense," Ratchet repeated as he exited the room, leaving Sam alone with Optimus. Sam stepped up to the long conference table, placed close to the wall for human use while leaving the rest of the room open for Autobots. Sam pulled out a chair, slinging his backpack and laptop case up on to the table while he sat down, unable to suppress a groan of relief in being able to finally rest. The muscles in his legs and back relaxed, the tension slowly draining out like a slowly released pressure pump. Optimus came closer, also settling down so that he was sitting on the floor. It was quite informal, and a perhaps a little ridiculous looking for the Autobot commander to be so splayed out in a mess of long limbs, but it put him closer to Sam's eye level, and for once Sam's neck did not feel the strain of having to look nearly straight up to meet Optimus' gaze.
"I am glad to see you back, Sam. It's been a long time," Optimus said, and Sam nodded, bringing a hand up to cover a yawn.
"Three months," he agreed. "Though I hadn't thought it would take so long, I apologize. The site coordinates were wrong, and it took us six weeks just to figure out we were digging in the wrong spot. But we did find a deposit, about fifty pounds of it. I ordered it into storage. I've also put in a request for a geologist and the marine sedimentologist Noah Bradford to come here and help put together a decent dig team."
"Good. I would like to have you working with the United Nations again. The sooner we can have someone else in charge of groenite mining, the better it will be. The better I will feel, with no offense meant towards your skills, of course."
"None taken," Sam chuckled. "I'm horrible at it. You know, the German Chancellor has been raising the recommendations of dissolving the United Nations and creating a new cooperative federation."
"So I saw. And your opinion?"
Sam exhaled, chewing a little on his lower lip as he leaned farther back in the chair. The idea of the dissolution of the United Nations was hardly a new one, though not enough discussion or consideration had been placed on what was to take its place, and what the organization's policies would be. There was little doubt that a new coalition could have outstanding benefits; a clean slate on which to map out both Earth's and the Autobots' future, free from past mistakes and prejudices, but it would be difficult to do as well. It was going to be challenging, to get the various countries of the world to agree to cooperate with each other and set aside long-held grudges and intolerance. Not to mention being considerate of the desire to preserve cultural heritage and languages, including religion, methodology of government, and use of environmental resources. It was a delicate balance, one that only a few planets in the galaxy had managed to pull off. Most civilized worlds were either completely uniform or divided into regional powers separated at the very least by language. To preserve diversity and yet work as a united front…
"I like the idea of it," Sam answered. "But it's going to take some fancy footwork and lots of committee meetings. I suppose I can start discussing the possibilities of it with the President next time I see her, and I'll contact the German Chancellor, as well as the British PM. A lot of background communication and bridge building is going to be needed first before we discuss it properly with the United Nations. As well as a lot more PR work for you guys."
Optimus stared at Sam for several long moment, the barest of smiles pulling up at the corners of his mouth. He looked old, Sam thought, but far from weak. It was age in its most glorifying of states: experience, wisdom, all looking down at a younger being who had all the potential to be the same.
"You are indeed an amazing human being, Samuel," Optimus finally said. "I know your parents are very proud of you, and I wish you to know that I am, as well." He let it sit for a moment in the cool clay air before continuing. "Please let the President and Chancellor know that we shall be happy to provide our knowledge and examples of previous planets who have managed such unique internal cooperation. We will hold no bias towards anyone who wishes to work for peace and freedom. Your species is at a crucial junction in its development, and while I am sorry that we have forced the choice so early, I sincerely believe in humanity's ability to choose well and assume its responsible place in the galaxy."
"Thanks, Optimus," Sam murmured as he leaned back in his chair, feeling the ache of several days', weeks', years' strain begin to settle in his muscles. It was going to take a lot of work and headache, but there was little use in complaining when something had to be done.
"Bumblebee has missed you," Optimus said, the comment light but pointed, settling like a chickadee in Sam's tired, tired mind. It took some of the burn out of his hands, let him breathe more easily and deeply.
"I've missed him, too. I hope he hasn't caused too many problems while I've been away."
"No more so than usual. I believe he's even teamed up with Sunstreaker and Sideswipe on occasion."
"Oh God," Sam moaned, draping a hand over his eyes at the very thought of it. "I'm surprised Ratchet's processor hasn't blown. Why do you let them torture him so much?"
"If they're bothering Ratchet, it means they're leaving me alone."
"You're more evil than you'd like people to think. Well, as much as I love talking with you, Optimus, I need to shower and lie down."
Optimus let Sam go, even escorted him back to the quarters he would be sharing with Bumblebee, once his guardian returned from the mission he was on with Ironhide. They were smaller than those he had at the main base, and no doubt Bumblebee would consider them cramped, but with any luck, neither would have to suffer them long. Sam would have leave soon for New York, ideally within the next two weeks, and Bumblebee would leave with him. It had been hard enough to convince Bumblebee to let Sam go on the dig alone; there was no way that Bumblebee would give up his guardian duties again. At least, not for a very, very long time.
The shower was nothing less than nirvana, and despite his fatigue, Sam was more than content to just stand under the cascading heat, taking away a chill he had not even known was there. Soap and water cleared away the dirt and grime, the dried sweat, revealing long scrapes and some bruises, but as Ratchet said, there was nothing serious. The water turned black as it rinsed out his hair, and it burned slightly on the raw patches of skin where dirty clothing had rubbed, but the relief that came with it was well worth the miniscule discomforts. Soap soaked through his bandages, and Sam knew it would itch later, but he did not dare to remove them until his checkup with Ratchet. Through the wet, slightly ripped gauze, he could make out the dark patches underneath, colored like old blood. It hurt, aching like arthritis, but he merely clenched his fingers tighter into his palm and forced himself to ignore it. Ratchet would take care of it later, as well as replaced the bandages.
Once he was dry, the flannel pajamas that Sam found in one of the clothing boxes under the bed felt like nothing less than silk. They were a little large, made for more heavily built soldiers than his own scrawny self, but they were soft and warm and comfortable and i clean /i . And he had not meant to fall asleep, really, at the most take a short nap. But he had underestimated how tired he was, how good it felt to be under warm blankets instead of a pile of thread-bare jackets, for the moment safe with friends just yards away. Within moments he was asleep, waking only briefly when he heard the door to his quarters open and the reassuring, heavy steps of his guardian's return. He thought he heard Bumblebee call his name, and he might have responded, but exhaustion was quick to drag him back down. Mikaela would wonder where he was, after agreeing to meet for food, and Ratchet was expecting him in the medbay, but Sam could not bring himself to care. Besides, Bumblebee was back, and he would take care of it for him. Bumblebee would handle everything, make sure no one bothered him until he was ready to wake. As he listened to Bumblebee fold into his alt. form and idle up right next to his bed to recharge for the night, it was all to easy to collapse back deep into unconsciousness where his dreams were quiet and dappled, like sunlight through leaves.
END PART I.