Return to Normality

By Matthew W. Quinn

Author's Note: This will be my last fan-fiction. I hope to finish my steampunk epic Western "Battle for the Wastelands" by this Veterans' Day and I have other projects besides. I've played in others' sandboxes long enough — now it's time to build my own, one that others might play in someday. I hope you all liked the ride and I'm sorry for the times I let it go without updates for months. If you want to see what's going on after this, visit my blog or join my Facebook fan-page.

September 15th, 2009 AD, 2:15 PM

Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Sam stepped out of the Firestone Library, the first of the assignments he'd missed sitting completed in his backpack. He'd only missed a few days of class due to the Decepticon attacks, but it wouldn't be good to get behind so early in the school year. He was the first in his family to attend college and he wasn't going to fail out his first semester.

Luckily, he didn't have too much work to do. This early, it was mostly required reading, with some probable pop quizzes to keep him on his toes. If he got up early the next few days to read, he wouldn't need to miss that frat party he'd been invited to.

A warm hand suddenly covered his eyes. He nearly jumped a foot.

"Guess who?" Mikaela whispered in his ear.

To say Sam was surprised was an understatement. After they'd returned from Morocco, after being debriefed by General Morshower and even Secretary of Defense Keller, they'd been given a couple of days to rest. Then Mikaela had returned to California and Sam had gone back to Princeton. He hadn't expected to see her in person again until Thanksgiving.

"Mikaela, what are you doing here?" he asked. "Not that I object to you being here, of course, but this is all really a surprise."

Mikaela laughed.

"Well," she began. "Certain people were quite glad that I'd persuaded Starscream to try his luck with betraying Megatron and, you know, saving the world. Glad enough to part with the cash for a college degree."

Sam's jaw dropped.

"'Kaela, that's awesome. Are you going to that CalTech program you were looking at?"

Mikaela laughed.

"No, silly. New Jersey Institute of Technology. It's not far from here and I like their mechanical-engineering program. It hasn't been that long since the school year started, so they were able to work me in. Maybe I'll help build the ships that'll take us to the stars you find."

Sam felt like leaping for joy. He'd feared that college would slowly pull them apart, as they lived separate lives in separate parts of the country, but New Jersey Tech was only an hour away.

Then a sobering thought hit him.

"But 'Kaela," he said. "Who'll help your dad in the shop?"

Mikaela laughed.

"Don't worry about that."

She fished a smart-phone out of her purse. She poked about the screen with her thumb and a video clip appeared. It was her father, standing beside a car with an open hood.

"I love you, Mikaela," he said. "Good luck in New Jersey."

Wheelie emerged from within the engine.

"Goodbye Warrior Goddess! Kick his ass for me a couple of times!"

The little Decepticon-turned-Autobot waved.

Now it was Sam's turn to laugh.

September 15th, 2009 AD, 7 PM (EST)

Seven thousand light-years from Earth

Lennox stood on the bridge of the Ark and watched the disposal of the fallen Decepticons. Dozens of Cybertronian bodies floated out of one of the huge Autobot ship's open cargo bays in the direction of the huge swirl of gas and debris that marked a black hole.

"This should keep them out of trouble forever," Optimus said. "We won't make the mistake of leaving them where they can be easily retrieved."

Lennox laughed grimly.

"Planning on staying and watching them fall into the event horizon?" he asked.

Optiumus shook his head.

"The Ark is a powerful ship, but a singularity is nothing to mess with. Once they get sufficiently close to the event horizon, we're heading back."

Lennox smiled. Back to Earth, where the final details of the treaty ending the Cybertronian Civil War would be hammered out. Starscream had already agreed that Optimus would be the inheritor of Megatron's old title of Lord Protector of Cybertron as well as the honors he held before the war. Although Cybertron was a ruin now, this would make Optimus the supreme ruler of all remaining Cybertronians in the galaxy. Starscream would retain overall command of the Decepticons, but he would report to Optimus.

"What do you plan on doing with Starscream? He was crucial in ending the war, but I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. You make him your second in command, he could backstab you like he did Megatron."

Optimus nodded.

"That is possible. However, unlike Megatron, I know what he is and will act accordingly. Furthermore, I've contacted Dropkick and other Decepticons who were not pleased with Starscream's coup. They'll be my eyes and ears aboard the Nemesis."

The senior Autobot smiled.

"Besides, now that the war is over, we can concentrate on replenishing our numbers. Starscream was working on that before Megatron was revived and now that we're manufacturing Energon together rather than trying to steal it from each other, we should be busy enough for the time being."

He looked out over the receding bodies of the Decepticons.

"We've been here long enough. Take us back to Earth."

The Ark disappeared as its space-folding drive took it on the first of many jumps that would bring it back to the Autobots' new home.

Had the Autobots remained just a few minutes longer, they would have learned the fallen Decepticons hadn't made it to the point of no return. Just before they would have crossed that line, something seized them. Slowly, oh so slowly, the corpses of Megatron and the others floated away from the black hole.

Instead, they floated in the direction of a vast orange bulk that materialized amid the dead, frozen worlds that had formed around the black hole when it was a living star.

They floated in the direction of Unicron.