There was a chapter before this, but it... disappeared. I think. Don't ask me where it went. I don't know. I am still trying to figure out that mystery. =/ Luckily, the chapter that I wrote that was supposed to be before this one wasn't all that important. It touched on Jazz going to see why Prowl had summoned him (because Sunstreaker totally did something stupid), and showed the aftermath of the Banes women taking care of a hologram-bound Hound, but now that I think about it, I can condense the essentials of that chapter into the coming chapter. I can make it a lot more interesting, pushing the plot forward quicker. Yeah. Okay. I think I am going to take this mishap as a positive.
Major mondo thanks to the readers of the last chapter! Thank you so much for your love and enthusiasm, not to mention your patience during the long wait between chapters. I really do appreciate your kind words and encouragement. Thank you so much to CNightJoy, Faecat, Berylium, Gamemice, Shadir, Flameshield, Field Empathy, renegadewriter8, star's dreams, femme4jack, luinrina, FORD B Jesus, scrin99, Lecidre, and rubymoon95. If or when I finish this story, I will do so for you! ^_^
May We Never Let Go
To Make a Wish
"Well, this sucks," Hot Rod lamented as he sat in the shade of an office building on base. At the first opportunity, Jazz had ditched him. Ditched him! Left him stranded in the middle of an alien base. Granted, he wasn't dead in a ditch somewhere, but still... Now he had nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Little organic aliens kept passing him by, watching him with wide, wet eyes. None of them stopped to chat with him.
Hot Rod had never felt so large and awkward in his life. Even among microbots, he felt like he fit in. But here, on Earth, everything was so small and delicate and organic. It made him want to tuck in his arms and legs in fear of touching something the wrong way and breaking it. One wrong move and squish goes the human.
Not that he had much of a choice for company. Either humans, other assorted organic aliens, or nothing. The Cybertronian base was supposed to be around here somewhere, but Jazz had failed to mention any directions. For as long as Hot Rod had been sitting, he hadn't seen another Cybertronian anywhere in the vicinity. He had not even thought about asking any of the other Autobots before he'd left their group back at the Birds of Paradise.
Dropping his forehead against his upraised knees, he muttered, "Urgh, I feel like such a loser."
Nearly at the exact same time, a calm "Hello" chirped from somewhere in the vicinity of his left foot.
Startled, Hot Rod was quick to look down. A second later, he was surprised to see... something standing there. He wasn't exactly sure what it was.
"Um, hello?" he replied, not wanted to be rude. He tried not to stare, though it was proving difficult. The alien was definitely not a native to Earth, if the glowing blue was any indication. Funny how Hot Rod's sensors did not pick up any kind of energy signature. No life signs, either. A quick perusal of Earth's databases failed to reveal what sort of alien it was.
"You're new to Earth, aren't you?" said the creature.
"Yeah, just arrived this morning." Hot Rod glanced around, looking to see if there was anyone else around. Maybe someone who could give him some answers? Preferably someone who could act as a buffer between him and the intense stare of the glowing alien. His closest guess was that it looked a little bit like a human. Then again, it also looked a little bit like a bug zapper.
Jewel-bright eyes blinked up at him, seeming to see right through him. "Everyone is still out at the landing site, I take it?"
"Yes. They had a lot of things to talk about." Deciding that a little bit of rudeness was necessary to assuage his discomfort, Hot Rod said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but what are you?"
A smile lit up the creature's face – literally. The dark recesses of its mouth exuded a subtle glow, the same blue that glowed eerily from its orb-like eyes and from the twisting patterns that trailed endlessly across its skin. Its bones stuck out beneath its skin, giving it a sickly appearance.
Weird organic name.
That strange glowing gaze swept over Hot Rod, intense and knowing. He was struck by the uncanny sense that he had met this creature before, a long time ago. That was impossible, though. He would have remembered something as strange looking as a glowing organic. Hot Rod history with organics was... limited, at best. Yet his spark turned over in his chest and his mind accepted Sam's presence with a calm finality, like they were old acquaintances.
"You're Hot Rod, right?" Sam said, causing Hot Rod to jump inside his armour.
"How did you know?" Frag! Had he actually met this alien before?
Another shrug. "I just do."
"Oh," said Hot Rod, pursing his mouthplates. He looked anywhere but at that intense stare. His mind seized on the first possible thought. "There are Nebulons on this planet. Are you techno-organic, like them?"
Sam laughed, which Hot Rod decided to take as an affirmative. Relief soughed through him. It made sense, really. Techno-organics were getting more and more common around the universe. This one must be super advanced to hide his energy signature and be able to hack into a Cybertronian's mind without a bot feeling it.
In a flash, Sam stopped laughing. His head swung around like it were on a swivel. Cocking an ear, it was as if he heard someone calling for him. The intensity of his expression showed how hard Sam was listening. It was silent to Hot Rod's audios, so he assumed that whatever Sam was he must have had some form of intercranial communication, like Cybertronians. Or maybe he was psychic, like some organics could be.
"I've got to go," Sam suddenly said, turning away and beginning to head for the nearby road.
Hot Rod was left feeling like a complete idiot, ditched by Jazz and now completely dismissed by a stranger. He kicked a foot through the dirt, sucked in a proud breath that thrust his chest out, and immediately followed after Sam. What was the worst that could happen?
Sam briefly glanced at him, but kept walking.
"So, um, I was ditched by a friend of mine," Hot Rod intoned lightly, treading carefully so he did not step upon the fragile creature weaving between his feet. "I don't know anyone here, and no one showed me how to get to the Cybertronian part of base. All of the bots I do know are still out at the Birds of Paradise. Do you mind if I follow you for a bit?"
"Follow me?" Sam repeated, drawing up short. He stared straight up, making Hot Rod feel like he was being x-rayed. Those glowing eyes were creepy-scary. Hot Rod tried again to look anywhere but at that intense stare, increasingly finding it difficult to find something else to look at. Sam did not seem to notice his discomfort. "Why would you want to follow me?"
"I don't know. You're the first living being to talk to me since I got here, I guess," Hot Rod pressed, hoping for even minor sympathy. Strange company was better than no company at all. "I'm really new to this planet, like fresh off the ship new. I can't find any Cybertronians, and all the other organic aliens just stare at me."
Sam pursed his lips, still watching him.
"It's not much, but you're the only one I know around here. You're the only one who said 'hello'," Hot Rod said uneasily, shifting his feet. "I'm not good on my own. Do you mind if I follow you? Just until I get my bearings around the place?"
A long sigh, followed by a neutral, "I don't mind."
"Really?" Hot Rod instantly perked up.
Sam chuckled quietly. "I saw you while I was walking," he jerked his chin in the direction he had come from, "and thought I saw something... interesting about you. I wanted to come over and check it out."
"Yeah?" He perked up, eager to listen.
"I don't know what I saw that was interesting about you," Sam admitted, causing the bot to deflate. "Come on, we're going to take a drive off of base. There's nothing I can do for anyone around here. It's all beyond me at the moment."
Hot Rod seized upon the invitation, instantly transforming. Practically jittering on his shocks, happy to have any kind of company at all. He retained his Cybertronian alt mode, having been unable to find an appealing vehicle to trans-scan on his way to base. Jazz had tried to convince him a Volkswagen Beetle was all the rage on Earth. Hot Rod had vetoed that option in an instant.
"So, you have an important job around here?" he wondered, leaning to the left and then to the right to follow along as Sam circled his alt mode. Assuming organic aliens did not see transformers all that often, Hot Rod assumed the alien's curiosity and let him look.
"One of the most important," Sam sighed, sounded anything but pleased with that fact.
"Important, huh? Are you an organic Prime or something?"
A laugh startled from the alien. "No, nothing like that. I'd never want to be a Prime. Being me is hard enough."
Hot Rod rocked on his axels. "Are you kidding? I would jump at the chance to be a Prime! Think of all that power!"
Sam's expression darkened. "All that responsibility."
"Oh. Yeah. That, too."
"I have a hard enough time with the responsibility I have now. This is not exactly my dream job," Sam admitted. "I never asked for this. I'd never ask to be Prime, either."
Hot Rod stayed quiet for a moment, his spark weighted by the heaviness of Sam's words. He hesitated before asking, "Can't you step down if you wanted to? Someone else could take over your function." The moment the words left his mouthplates, he felt incredibly stupid – especially since he didn't even know what kind of function the alien had. What if it was someone that no one else could do? What if he was making a fool out of himself by saying ridiculous things without even knowing it. Why was he even thinking about things like that? Most of the time, he just talked without thinking about what came out his mouthplates.
"I can't step down, there's no one else to take over. It's okay, though. I'll be done soon, anyways," Sam said, patting Hot Rod's flank. "Forced retirement, but it's all the same I guess. Here, let me help you with your alt mode."
Before Hot Rod could enquire about what he needed help with, power shot through him. A strange, familiar, powerful power that energized his neural circuits and made his energon sing. His spark shot tight and hot in his spark. It wasn't painful, but made him feel so full he was bursting at the seams.
The next thing Hot Rod knew, his frame actually was coming apart at the seams. He felt his Cybertronian form folding inward, compressing and disappearing, being stored in that strange place of memory that remembered every form he had ever taken on with this specific frame. Dark liquid metal flowed outward, covering him, becoming his outer shell. It should have been impossible for him to remain down in an 'alt mode' while simultaneously converting into his proto-form. The only alt mode his proto-form had was atmospheric entry mode, and that looked like a meteorite! Despite logic and the rules of his frame, Hot Rod knew he was in alt mode, and also knew he was covered helm to aft in protective dense covering of heat-resistent heavy metal of his proto-mode.
As quick as that happened, he was changing again. Lowering closer to the ground, feeling his insides rearranging. Moving around, shifting, changing. The last to change was his outer layer. He did not have optics to see with in whatever weird limbo he existed in, but he knew what he looked like. He watched as the dark metal of his proto-form swirled and retreated, reforming. A ripple moved through him from where Sam's hand touched, and in its wake there was bright red-orange armour. Shiny, glossy, perfect paint, better looking than anything his original chromatic cells could imitate. It took a stunned moment before Hot Rod could move. Or speak. Or even think in full sentences.
"W-what did you do?" he gasped, reversing away, engine sputtering.
"I switched out your alt mode for something that would blend in better," Sam replied aloofly. "I didn't know if it would work, but apparently it did."
"You can do that?" Hot Rod exclaimed, trying to keep the hysteria out of his voice.
"I can do a lot of things," Sam replied, eerily calm.
"What am I supposed to be now?" he squeaked, terrified of the answer. What if it was something horrible? Something hideous? What if he was a Beetle?
Sam allowed for a smile, amusement shining in his strange eyes. "A Corvette Stingray, a type of car here on Earth. You needed to blend in with the natives, and I needed a ride that I could actually ride in, so this suited us both. You look great."
"Are you sure?" Hot Rod pressed, creeping closer nervously. "I'm not going to transform and suddenly discover I have horns or scales or something, right? I'm not going to have gears coming out of my head or my wheels stuck to my aft?"
"No," Sam laughed.
"What about having the front bumper on my chest? I saw that on Jazz and I wasn't going to say anything to him, but I don't like that look."
Sam laughed out loud. "No, I arranged it so that the hood faces down on your front. You'll look good, I promise."
Oddly enough, Hot Rod trusted the weird alien that, with just a touch, had managed to rearrange his entire frame. While his mind questioned Sam, his spark continued to accept him unconditionally. Primus, that was just damned creepy. What if this was some sort of psychometric field thing making him trust the alien?
"Everything alright?" Sam asked, sensing Hot Rod's hesitation.
"A little freaked out at the moment."
Sam grimaced. "Sorry. I shouldn't have changed you around without saying anything first. The power is starting to get to my head."
"Apology accepted," Hot Rod said. "Everyone is always telling me how I don't use my head enough." He popped a door open in invitation. Sam climbed in and buckled up. Instead of immediately moving, Hot Rod took a moment to get used to the strange sensation. "I've never had anyone sit inside me before."
"Neither have I," Sam joked. He patted the steering wheel. "Don't worry about it. I'm an old hat at this. I'll direct you with the wheel, but I'll let you do your own thing."
"That should work," Hot Rod agreed, happy to have someone who knew what they were doing. What was the proper etiquette for having an alien sit inside you? Did you leave the internal controls to them? Or was the Cybertronian expected to control everything? Yeesh. Complicated. "So, where are we going?"
"A city a couple of hours away from here," Sam replied, easing the wheel in the direction they should head in. Hot Rod took the direction readily, easing onto the road and heading for the one bridge leading off of the EDC base. "Someone is waiting for me there."
"Should I tag along if you're going to meet someone?" Hot Rod wondered. "I can hang back if this is a private meeting."
"Don't worry about it," Sam assured. "I could probably use the backup."
The drive was nearly silent between Hot Rod and his new companion. Surprisingly, it wasn't awkward silence. For once, Hot Rod did not feel the need to fill the quiet with noise. He did not feel the need to fidget. Instead, he was overtaken by an abiding sense of peace. He wondered if that was a side-effect of having an alien sit inside of him. Sam wasn't heavy or anything. In fact, Hot Rod barely felt him.
Aside from the silence, the drive was pleasant. The road was wide open and unbroken, which was a nice change from space. There were no roads in space. Hot Rod enjoyed the rare chance to stretch his wheels and revel in the freedom of flying down an open highway. He was three time in excess of the posted speed limit, but Sam did not say anything, so Hot Rod continued. He felt the roar of his engine vibrate through him. Air rush over him. Wonderful, pure freedom!
They made it to the city in record time. Hot Rod read the sign as they passed.
"Welcome to Mission City." He paused, slowing down to match the speed of the car ahead of him. "I think I've heard of Mission City before."
"You probably have," Sam said, though not elaborating.
"Have you been here before?" Hot Rod wondered.
"Every time I close my eyes," the boy sighed.
"I don't get it."
"I've been here a lot," Sam amended, patting the dashboard. "We're heading for the other side of the city, to a park. You won't be able to miss it."
Weaving through the streets, skirting around buildings, creeping through intersections, Hot Rod was in awe of so many little organics. They were everywhere. He had never seen so many! His experience with organics was limited to only the space stations he and Kup had stopped on, and even then Kup had tried to keep Hot Rod away from making a fool of himself. But here, in this form, the humans did not know what Hot Rod was. They saw him as a fancy vehicle, and they stared with envy in their wet little eyes... Right up until they caught sight of Sam in the driver's seat. Their expressions promptly shifted after that.
"You must be a very rare species if the humans act like they've never seen someone like you before," Hot Rod commented, hoping he sounded observant and clever.
Sam was silent for a beat, and then replied, "I'm the only one of my kind."
Hot Rod felt his spark plummet, immediately stumbling for an apology. It came out as a lame, "Oh, um, sorry." Wow. Could that sound any more fake? It's not like Hot Rod didn't have experience being part of an extremely endangered species. He couldn't be bothered to offer a decent condolence to someone else? Primus, he was a stupid half-bit.
His one saving grace? Sam did not seem to notice the stilted delivery.
"Don't worry about it," he said lowly, shrugging it off.
They made it to the park quickly enough. Hot Rod suspected that Sam might have been technopathic on top if whatever else he was, because traffic lights mysteriously changed every time they approached. The park entrance when they arrived was unassuming. Two stone statues carved in the shape of humans stood guard next to decorative wrought iron fencing. Sam immediately disembarked the moment Hot Rod slowed enough, making his way to the statues that towered proudly over him. He put his hand to the side of one, closing his eyes and leaning his forehead on the cold stone.
Not knowing what else to do, Hot Rod transformed and crouched down. Trying not to be obvious about it, he peeked down at his new bipedal mode to see what he looked like. As promised, his hood faced down over his chest, broken up over the contours to create a rather eye-catching ensemble. Whatever Sam was supposed to be, he had good taste in Cybertronian fashion. The rest of him was decent, though a little more bulky than his Cybertronian mode. It couldn't be helped, though. It's not like Earth cars were meant to transform into robots.
Being that transforming was such a part of his nature, Hot Rod did not think of what it might mean to do so in the middle of a busy metropolitan area. His ignorance were immediately corrected. Human gasps, as well as a few well-placed startled cursing, alerted him to his new audience. He glanced over his shoulder and grimaced at the wide-eyed, open-mouthed stares. A couple cars swerved while their drivers gaped. To add further insult, a dog lunged to the end of its leash and starting barking wildly.
"Frag," Hot Rod sighed, hunching his shoulders like that would magically make him less noticeable. "I could have just used a hologram, couldn't I?"
"It's a little too late for that now," Sam replied apologetically. "Don't mind their staring. Your kind don't have a good reputation with the city, but they won't do anything to you while your in the park. It's neutral territory."
Hot Rod inched closer to the gate. Energy tingled over his armour. "What kind of park is this?"
"It's called Battle Park," Sam said. "It's a memorial."
"Battle Park, huh?" Hot Rod shuttered his optics, canting his head. Yep, he wasn't just imagining that energy. It was real. Barely there, almost like a ghost signature, but recognizable nonetheless. "Don't think this is weird or anything, but it's like I can feel the Allspark around here."
Sam's lips lifted a fraction. "Makes sense. This is the place where Megatron was killed by the Allspark."
"That was here? Right in this very spot?" Wide optics traced around eagerly, though there were no signs of the years-old battle left in the area. No signs Megatron had ever been here in the first place. The park was winter-dead and the buildings were square and whole. A typical, unexciting scene.
"Not this very spot," Sam moderated, waving his hand into the main area of the park. "Around this general area somewhere."
A shiver worked its way down Hot Rod's back. "It's weird to think Megatron is dead now. All my life he was this evil tyrant, and now he's gone. Just... gone."
Sam opened his mouth to say something, but reconsidered.
"It was a human boy who killed Megatron, wasn't it?" Hot Rod wondered, rubbing his arms for warmth when it felt like his internal temperature plummeted. "He was the one who shoved the Allspark into Megatron's chest. It burnt up on contact."
A curt nod served as an answer.
He glanced over his shoulder, feeling as if someone were watching them. "The Allspark's not gone, though. I heard some of the others talking about it being reincarnated in the human boy."
Sam looked expectant for a moment, but when Hot Rod simply stared back at him blankly, the alien rolled his eyes and turned away.
"This section of the city was too damaged to invest in repairs, so most of it was knocked down and turned into a monument park in remembrance of everyone who died in the battle." Sam moved between the two statues into the opening of the park. It was a fairly large space, the ground raised on a hill built up from covered debris below. December was not the prettiest time of the year; even though Nevada was not prone to snow, it did get cool, and the grass was looking a little dry. The perimeter was dotted with different pieces of rubble, scorched brick and twisted metal mounted on displays with their own plaques.
"It's all pieces from the buildings that were knocked down," Sam said, following Hot Rod's curious gaze. "The statues are from the building that Megatron knocked down trying to get to the Allspark. It's amazing how some of the statues survived when the rest of the building was reduced to dust. Come on, let's get deeper into the park."
Hands shoved into his pockets, Sam wandered down the meandering stone path. Hot Rod was careful where he put his feet as he followed a couple steps behind. A short walk around a wide bent in the path, passed a copse of decorative trees and shrubs, a massive monument stood proudly as the focal point of the park.
The monument itself was a strange, alien thing of clear, bright crystal that twisted upwards like it was a living thing. There were no marks upon it to say it had been made by human hands. The tops of its many sharp points stretched high above Hot Rods head, glittering dangerously under the weak winter sun. It looked almost like a vortex caught frozen in time, a whirling dervish with multiple twisters reaching up into the sky, twisting over and over on itself in impossible ways.
Drawn to it, entranced by it, Hot Rod wandered close enough to stand in its shadow. Light fractured through the body, scattering into rainbows. He sucked in air tinged with the ghost of power. He had only met the Allspark once, on the orn he had been created, but he remembered the awe of standing in its presence. This was that same humbling majesty.
Sam followed at his side, staring that the monument with an indecipherable expression.
"When the Allspark was destroyed, it released a massive amount of energy," the boy elaborated without a prompt. "Funny thing is, the only thing the Allspark destroyed was Megatron. Nothing else was harmed." A smirk appeared, almost self-deprecating. "Instead of destroying, the Allspark did as its been doing for a long time – it created. All the trees and grass and flowers you see around here weren't here eight years ago. They sprung up in the aftermath. And this-," Sam nodded to the monument, "was dug up right beneath the spot where the Allspark died. All that power somehow compressed and heated all the carbon in the earth below. It made this diamond tower."
"I've never seen anything like it," Hot Rod murmured.
Sam nodded sadly, reaching for the structure. "I don't see why the Allspark's death has to be so pretty. I kind of wish it was ugly, or not here at all. I don't need this kind of reminder."
The devastated look on the boy's face kept Hot Rod from questioning him.
"Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to look like this in the end." He pressed his hand against the surface, making the many facets of the diamond light up bright blue under the midday sun. In a strange way, it felt as if the monument had been waiting for Sam to touch it. Two halves of a whole, one living and one dead.
Hot Rod's audios rang with a distant sound, what struck crystal sounded like when it sang. He shook his head, but could not shake off the ringing. The alien monument, a grave to the Allspark, was too beautiful to look away. Lit up like it was, it appeared alive, its glittering blue body rippling fluidly, its outstretched tentacles writhing.
When Hot Rod could resist no longer, he pressed his palm to the diamond twist. In that instant, the ringing in his audios became and shriek, the tingling in his frame morphing into a powerful surge. His frame seized, shooting rigid while his optics rolled back. A gunshot crack echoed in the park as Hot Rod's spinal column bent back, his frame contorting. Every light on his frame lit up with the rush of power. Pure Allspark power.
Not just a weak ghost of energy left behind in the final moments of the artifact's death, but a fresh dose of searing, off-the-charts power.
Before his mind could register anything else, he was weightless. Flying backwards through the air, wondering why the sky looked so blue. The ground jarred beneath him, shorting out his optics. A minor quake rocked the park. Gravel tore up his nice new paint job, followed by dry grass and dirt leaving behind deep smears of brown. Rodents scrambled in fright, dogs barking, cars screeching to a halt in the roads surrounding the green.
Sam jerked his hand away, looking unsurprised by Hot Rod's electrocution. "Sorry."
Coughing up dirt and dust, Hot Rod scrambled onto his hands and knees. His vision wavered, sparkling blue. In one wild astrosecond between blind blinking, he looked at Sam and did not see a humanoid alien staring back at him. In Sam's place was something else. Something huge. A massive vortex of power that stretched so high and so wide that it engulfed the sky. Spinning, howling, churning with power, it made the air scream with its immense power. It was a rip in reality, whipping frayed fabric in all directions. Blue lightning licked out in all directions, weaving throughout the howling hurricane, unfurling across the sky until it lashed the horizon. There was no end to the power, rolling on forever into the dark of space.
Hot Rod stared into the face of infinity.
In the next blink, he saw Sam, and Sam blinked back at him wearily.
"You!" he heard himself exclaim, not sure whether he sounded excited or horrified or both. Most likely both. "You! You're the boy! You're the-!"
"Allspark?" Sam cut in. "Yeah, that's me. I probably should have mentioned that earlier." He shoved his hands in his pockets, dropping whatever shield he had managed to cobble together to hide that incredible power.
Partially prepared for it, Hot Rod only stumbled back a single step before finding his aft in the dirt again. Staring at the creature now, Hot Rod cursed his own blatant stupidity. "Ultra Magnus is going to kill me! Kup is going to kill me!" He seized his head, burying his faceplate in his palms. "Optimus Prime is going to hate me forever! You should have said you were the Allspark! How could I not have known?!"
Sam arched his brows. "I thought it was rather obvious."
"Not to me, it wasn't!"
A long exhale laced with regret blew on the breeze. "I took advantage of your ignorance. For that, I am sorry. I needed a ride here and you... you were just sitting there." A bitter smirk crossed Sam's wasted face. "If you had known, would you have brought me here?"
"No! Of course not! Never!" Hot Rod exclaimed. "I never would have taken the Allspark off of base! Even I know what I bad idea that is!"
"Shh," Sam hissed, waving Hot Rod into silence. His expression morphed from one of contriteness to seriousness. "He's here."
What little warmth was left in the air drained away in an instant, leaving behind a choking vacuum. The sun above paled, the afternoon light turning grey and weak. Dry grass crunched in tune to the pattern of approaching footsteps.
"Sam," called a new voice, a familiar voice.
Sam turned, as did Hot Rod's head, and they both saw the newcomer. It was a crippled creature, pitiful, dressed in rags of a yellowed, piss-stained colour. Dirt coated its exposed feet, blackening the nails of the hands that clutched the rags close around its bent body. A mask covered its face, a blank slate pierced by two dark abysses that served as the narrow eyeholes, and a gaping mouth so black that it appeared to suck light right out of the air.
Upon its head was a twisted crown of dirty gold.
Hot Rod found himself recoiling from the creature before consciously recognizing his horror.
"W-what is that thing?" he stuttered, trying to control the wild urge to collapse into his alt mode and screech out of there. He choked on his own spark as it pounded so hard in his sparkcase the shockwaves reverberated up his throat. He had no reason to fear this creature, but his instinctive, visceral response was just that. Fear. Every ounce of his being revolted against the newcomer.
"That," Sam said without looking away from the ragged yellow figure, "is a god."
Hot Rod tasted congealed energon bubble up from his tanks.
Blue-patterned arms crossed over a wasted chase. A skeptical brow arched high. "One that looks pretty damn good for someone who got the shit kicked out of him last night."
The yellow figure inclined its head. "We gods bounce back rather fast."
"No accounting for shrinkage, right?" Sam jeered.
Upon those words, one dirty hand reached up out of the folds of rags, reaching for that terrible mask. With a gentle jerk, it pried away its face to reveal the monster beneath. Surging upward and outward, an indescribable entity took shape. Sulphurous yellow dotted by two burning red eyes. It grew taller and taller until it was even with the diamond monument. Soon, taller. Finally, it solidified into a looming metallic shape.
"Ah, there you are," Sam said, tilting his head back to glare up at the perverted form of his brother. In this form, battle damages from last night were still fairly obvious. "Nice trick. Too bad you couldn't turn back into your old self."
Hot Rod was having trouble comprehending what he was seeing. His processor simply blanked. Mind going silent. In the emptiness, a noise like a scream rose up and Hot Rod wondered what they was until he realized it was himself. He shook himself, gagging. The shape was wrong. The colour was wrong. Everything about the creature... god... monster was glaringly, screamingly wrong. But the underlying shape was there. A hint of the bot that once lived that that armour.
"B-Bumblebee?" Hot Rod choked.
The King in Yellow paid no mind to the noise. He only had eyes for Sam. "I see you came."
"Of course I did," Sam replied, daring a step closer. "You called."
Hot Rod sputtered, flailing, mind racing with desperate thoughts of what to do. Call for help! Yes. That's what he had to do! While the Allspark kept Bumblebee distracted, Hot Rod would send out a call to arms! Gather the troops! He needed to tell Kup, or Ultra Magnus! No, Starscream! Optimus Prime! And yet they were all too far away to help. Any help sent would be too late arriving, except to bury their still-hot corpses.
For the first time in his life, Hot Rod was completely on his own with no one around to bail him out of trouble. Yes, for once, he wasn't the one who got himself into that trouble, but now that he was neck-deep in it...
"Frag," he cursed bitterly. Only now did he realize what everyone else knew about him: he was a useless half-bit.
Cast in the dark shadow of the towering god, Sam glowed fiercely, oblivious to Hot Rod's identity crisis.
"I will always come when you call me," the Allspark uttered determinedly.
"You mean you will always come when Bumblebee calls," corrected the god, scowling deeply. "I am not Bumblebee."
"Yes. You are."
"You are intent on getting him back, aren't you?"
Sam's fists clenched. "Bumblebee sacrificed himself for the people he loved. I won't let him be used like this."
The King in Yellow canted his head thoughtfully. "And if he isn't in here to save?"
"Then I damn well will avenge him."
A soft laugh drifted on the cold breeze. "I was curious to see if your love for Bumblebee would have you do something stupid," the King mused. "Coming all the way out here was a very foolish thing to do."
Sam circled around, arms loose at his sides, weight balanced evenly between his feet. Light flickered between his fingers. "I could say the same thing to you. This is going to turn into a fight, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is." He withdrew a sulphur-tempered sword from subspace, its blade jagged and pockmarked from savage use.
More light flickered. "You didn't fare so well last night. So sure I'll let you live this time?"
"Your misplaced love for Bumblebee won't let you kill me. I, on the other hand, have no such love for you."
Quick as lightning, the god lunged. The great sword whistled through the air, cutting effortlessly through the ground. Sam dodged aside with similar effortlessness. His training for almost the past decade had been exclusively to fight beings twenty times his size. He did not need the Allspark's power for a fight like this, though he wasn't going to say no to a little power boost.
"Fight it if you want, but I know Bumblebee is still in there!" Sam bellowed.
"You are dreaming, Sam!"
"Maybe I am." A dark grin lit Sam's face, mad light dancing in his eyes. The light that spilled out from his mouth made him look frightening. Insane. It did not help when he opened his mouth and a bolt of blue laserfire shot out.
"No matter how you try, Sam, you can't save everyone. You can't save Bumblebee," said the god, deflecting with an expert twist of his blade. He shook it off, swinging again. "You can't stop what is coming."
"The hell I can't!" Sam swore, flinging to the side, rolling hard across the ground. He popped to his feet, running flat out. As wasted as his body was, he was still spry. He hadn't lost his ability to run or to fight.
"You are still so human. Stop thinking you can save everyone," the King admonished. "The Expansion is coming, boy. The end is nigh."
Hot Rod made a move to join the fray, to protect the precious vessel of the Allspark. This was a battle between a god and a titan. He had no idea where to jump in.
Sam lashed out at him with a blast of light. "Stay out of this!"
"This is insane! We need to get you back to base!" Hot Rod yelled, gripping his shoulder where the lash of light struck him. "You're going to get yourself killed!"
"This is between the Allspark and I," said the god, using a blast of his own energy to fling Hot Rod back to the outskirts of the park. "Stay down and maybe you'll survive this."
Sam intervened between the two of them before Bumblebee could decide to dispose of Hot Rod anyways. "Eyes on me, your majesty," he sneered, throwing a ball of white-blue fire.
The King in Yellow was surprisingly light on his feet. His skills with the sword were also damningly good. Sometimes when he moved, it was like seeing Bumblebee superimposed upon the god. The way he stood, the away he attacked, parried, and retreated. It was all Bumblebee. Or maybe Sam was only seeing what he wanted to see. Was he truly being foolish, hanging on to a dream?
The sword swung out in what should have been a killing blow. Sam dove to the side, dreading the worst. He felt the whoosh of air whistle a hair's breath above his head, swishing through his hair. Hitting the ground, rolling, rolling, Sam sprung up and caught the King's optic. The red jewels sparkled like fire, watching him with eons-old intensity.
Sam suddenly grinned, energon dripping between his lips. He wouldn't let go of the dream just yet.
Together, the King in Yellow and Sam danced to the tune of their deadly waltz. Giving, taking. Attacking, retreating. Never was there a more mismatched pair of dance partners, yet how well they fought! Like intimate strangers upon the battlefield. They were in perfect synchronicity, bobbing and weaving in time to the other, like two predators simply circling each other on the battlefield. Except for when they struck.
The god's sword was hungry for blood, each swing meant as a killing blow.
Each strike of lightning Sam threw had enough power to vapourize any mortal metal it touched.
"Tell me about the Expansion!" Sam demanded, sending a concentrated shockwave to knock his opponent back.
Earth and debris flew in every direction as Bumblebee pressed another attack. "Nemesis will use the power of the Allspark to rip a hole between this universe and the Dead Universe." He swept his hand, letting out a burst of energy that threw Sam aside. "Gods the likes of which you have never seen will spill forth into this world."
Sam landed hard on his knee, gritting his teeth against the crack of bone. "There are more like you?"
"We are the Old Ones who watch from the dark," replied the King solemnly. "We are many. We are legion."
"That's some Lovecraftian shit right there," Sam sneered, feeling no victory when he managed to shoot out Bumblebee's knee in revenge for his own. He scrubbed dirt and sweat from his face. "What's Nemesis supposed to be? Cthulhu?"
"Nyarlathotep, actually," was the snarled answer. "The Crawling Chaos."
"And The Bringer of Chaos supposedly dragged him into our world? I guess liked calls to like, huh?" Sam turned to the side and spat bright blue blood.
Seriousness flashed in the god's gaze. "Yes, Sam. Like calls to like."
Sam's eyes flared bright. He swore, diving back into the fray.
"Who are you supposed to be?" he demanded. "Are you Steven King to Nemesis's Lovecraft?"
"I am and have always been who I was in the beginning," was the gritted reply.
Sparks flew, igniting clumps of grass. "If you don't give me a damn name, I'm going to call you Pennywise the Clown!"
That inspired a low snarl, yellow armour bristling. "Magnum Innominandum."
Sam's gaze shot to the side. "Translation, Hot Rod!"
Hot Rod scrambled, zipping through the internet like a fiend. "It's Latin! It means 'Great Not-To-Be-Named'!"
A humourless laugh fell from Sam's lips. That explained what happened the first time he asked for the god's name. "You got any better names that are less of a mouthful?"
Red optics narrowed into fiery slits. "Hastur."
Hot Rod felt the sharp points of the wrought iron fence digging into his lower back, preventing him from crawling backwards any farther. "Frag. This is messed up. This is so messed up."
The sound of police sirens filled the air. Too little too late. There was nothing the human authorities could do. It was either Sam that would strike the death blow, or the King in Yellow would.
"Nemesis can't do anything without the Allspark's power," Hastur said, stumbling back after a direct hit to the chest. Armour disintegrated, black ooze gushing out across the torn grass. His wounds from the night before were reopening, rivers of tainted liquid miasma bleeding across his frame, slopping across the grass.
"Get in line. There are way too many Big Bad Gods looking for a piece of me." Sam was beginning to flag, his glow diminishing. The arcs of lightning that flashed around him were thinning. "Damn it," he hissed under his breath, heaving hard for air.
"It doesn't have to end like this, Sam. Take Nemesis up on his offer. We can spare you from the Allspark."
"Only to have you destroy my world in return? Bumblebee must be dead, because he'd never insult me with a bullshit offer like that!" He spat blue blood for further insult, igniting more grass upon impact.
"Bumblebee is dead." The sword swung wide, releasing a shockwave of power that threw Sam back. The clang of his small body hitting the fencing rang loud through the park. The metal bent upon his impact. Sam crumpled like a doll, landing face-first in the dirt.
"If I cannot convince you to come with me, then I will simply have to take what I came for." The god reached not for Sam, but for the monument. With a twist, it was dislodged from its moorings. "It's not a lot of power, but it is some." A black smirk appeared on that twisted faceplate. "You can thank Bumblebee's memories for reminding me this was here."
Sam swore, struggling to stand.
"No!" Hot Rod screamed, jolted into action. He flung himself at Bumblebee, bolting headlong through scattered debris.
"Idiot," the King scoffed, shifting the tip of the Allspark's death down and a little to the left.
Optics wide, Hot Rod couldn't stop in time to avoid it. He saw the spear of diamond positioned at his chest, his frame barrelling ever closer, and dread suffused him. The first touch of the Allspark's death was cold. Colder than anything he had ever felt in his life. It slid in like his armour was made of cobwebs. When it pierced his sparkcase, the cold was replaced by heat. Fire. His mouthplates hung open on a silent scream.
Sam's sprinting footfalls echoed loudly in Hot Rod's audios... Or was that the sound of his own spark pounding in his head? He tried to reach up and pull the monument out of his chest, but his arms stayed limp at his sides. Hot Rod felt hard cement crash against his knees the moment his legs could no longer hold him. There was no mercy in the red gaze that bore into him.
"Hot Rod! Oh shit, don't move! I'm gonna help you! Don't move, buddy!"
The touch of tiny hands on his leg raced new fire up his throbbing neural circuits. Blue overtook his vision as Sam scaled his frame, grabbing hold of his audio dial, hanging freely by one arm. Hot Rod watched in stunned silence as Sam twisted around, aiming his middle and forefinger like a gun. A bullet of searing light shot from his fingertips, accompanied by a thunderous boom. Bumblebee was too close to dodge, taking the hit straight to the chest. It burst out the other side, sending shrapnel in all directions.
The force of the hit also threw the god off his feet, taking the diamond gravemarker with him. Hot Rod shrieked when the monument twisted. A hideous grinding wrenched through his frame, seeming to turn him inside out. An instant later, an ear-shattering crack split the air. Hot Rod screamed again when he thought he had been cut in half, only to watch as the majority of the monument twisted away from him. Where tiny shards of diamond should have rained down, little blue sparks lit the air. Sprigs of green sprung up where blue sparks touched down.
Hastur snapped to his feet, black ooze gushing like a river down his front. "This isn't over, Sam."
"Not between us, it's not," Sam retorted sharply.
The ground opened up and swallowed the god, Allspark grave and all.
Hot Rod focused on the wavering spot of blue flickering in front of him. Liquid blue dripped from between his mouthplates. More blue leaked from the new hole in his chest, trickling little rivers squeezed out from the seal between his armour and the diamond spear piercing him straight through.
"Shit," Sam gasped, one hand to his head. His light was at an all time low. "I barely have any juice left."
"I think I'm dying," Hot Rod whispered weakly.
"No, you're not," Sam admonished, shifting his one-handed grip on Hot Rod's head. He stretched to the side until his feet found decent footholds in the armour. Swinging down carefully, he came eye-level with the damage and gave a low whistle. "It looks bad, though."
"How bad is it?" Hot Rod asked, squinting his optics shut. "Really bad, isn't it? It feels really bad."
"You have a piece of the Allspark's death shoved through your chest. Generally speaking, that's bad," Sam deadpanned. "Luckily, the Allspark is made of pure creation. Even a piece of its death can't kill you. I think."
"What do you mean you think?" Hot Rod blinked rapidly to clear his vision. "Am I dying or not? This isn't something you joke around with!"
Sam kneaded his forehead like the mother of all migraines was pounding between his eyes. "Do I look like the expert on Allspark matters? I'm just the guy who got stuck as the vessel. I didn't get an instruction book!" He sucked in a calming breath, counting to five beneath his breath. "All I can say is that I have this feeling you're going to be okay."
Hot Rod's chin jutted out, wavering while he put on a brave face. "...I feel like I'm dying."
"That's because you have a giant piece of diamond sticking out of your chest, plus I shot you, plus a god shot you. If you felt okay, there would be something wrong with you."
"I am starting to regret my decision to come to this planet." It took nearly all of Hot Rod's strength to lift his arms high enough to touch his chest. Blunt metal fingers prodded at the jagged diamond. Every little movement was like knives in his spark. "Ow. Frag. Primus. Can you get it out?" He sucked in a shaky drag of air. "We don't have to worry about Bum- er... um, Hastur coming back, do we?"
Sam stared at the ground. "No. He's gone for now."
Hot Rod eased back, gritting against the pain. "What... happened to him?"
"Bumblebee sacrificed himself to give us time. Nemesis wanted him so he gave himself up." He paused, shaking his head. "Nemesis woke up the thing that's been sleeping in him this whole time. What you just saw is apparently the original Bumblebee. He just happens to be a god."
"Frag," Hot Rod coughed raggedly. Excuse his bluntness, but he figured he didn't have to be eloquent while he was the victim of a stabbing.
Sam kept his eyes downcast.
Hot Rod grunted, nodding to his new hood ornament with a curt jerk of his head. "Am I going to end up radioactive from this? I won't turn into you, will I?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Hold still." Tiny human hands prodded at the jagged tip, jerking it back and forth, loosening it. "It's in there tight. Hold your arm across your chest so I can stand on it."
Hot Rod did as he was bid, allowing Sam to walk across his arm to stand directly in front of his chest. With two hands on the broken spike, Sam braced his feet against the metal and yanked with all his strength. Hot Rod arched back, mouthplates open on a silent screech as the pressure felt like it was forcing all his internal machinery to push outwards. The more Sam pulled, the dimmer his light became. He let up, hands on his knees to pant for air.
"It's really stuck in there," he huffed. It probably did not help that he was fresh from battle, weakened by the use of so much energy, and his body was a battered bag of blue-grey flesh.
"Yeah. I can feel that. Call a tow truck and drag me to base, will you?"
"Let me try one more time before we worry about that." Sam rubbed his hands down the front of his pants, clapped his palms together, rolled his shoulders, and then latched back onto the Allspark shard. "Make a wish," he joked, throwing his weight behind his efforts. He pulled until all the veins in his face stood out in sharp relief. His eyes screwed closed, teeth gritted. Blue energy crackled for an instant before he lost his grip. A human shriek rent the air as Sam jerked backwards into midair, arms pinwheeling perilously.
There wasn't enough time for Hot Rod to catch the boy. He remembered only vaguely trying to move in for the catch. He felt fire explode out from the wound, seizing his frame. He watched Sam's stunned expression while the boy fell. What Hot Rod failed to see was the way the diamond shard lit up, guttering like a candle being blown out after a child had made his wish. With a twist, it shot deep into Hot Rod's chest cavity. His vision wavered dangerously, static overtaking him. His last thought regarded why the ground appeared to be rushing up into his faceplate.
The next thing Hot Rod knew, a shoed foot was kicking him just below his left optic.
"Wake up," Sam hissed, kicking harder. "Wake up!"
Hot Rod groaned. Three tries later, he successfully shoved up onto his hands and knees. The world was spinning. Did the ground seem farther away than it normally did? Why were his optics on a magnified setting? His hands looked bigger than the last time he'd looked at them.
Sam gasped as Hot Rod came to loom over him. His pallid grey skin leached of what little colour he had left. Sam's expression was the worst of all, contorting into a mix of horror and confusion.
"What? What's wrong?" Hot Rod groaned, wondering why his voice sounded like a sandblaster had been taken to it.
"Oh shit," Sam replied.
"That doesn't answer my question," Hot Rod coughed, rocking his weight back and forth on his hands and knees. He felt heavier than he remembered.
"Um, well... there was an accident. Sort of," Sam began, looking anywhere but at Hot Rod. There was an I don't know what the hell happened quality to his voice. It was not reassuring at all.
"An accident." The word echoed hollowly in his head.
Dimly glowing fingers ploughed furrows through dark hair, tugging his scalp up along with handfuls of stressed hair. "I might have... fuck. How do I say this? I might have accidentally activated a piece of the Allspark's death. I don't know how I did it. It reacted with you."
"Reacted with me?" Panic rushed through him, overpowering his weakness. He reared back, suddenly disorientated. Everything was out of proportion. His frame didn't feel like his own anymore. "What happened to me?!"
Sam cringed, jumping away while Hot Rod whipped around in his panic. Lips flapping, no sound came out.
The silence only made his panic worse. Hot Rod started howling. "What's happened to me! Give it to me straight, Sam! I want to know what happened to me! What did you do to me?!"
"Okay. Shit. Okay. Both of us calm down and I'll... um... do something," Sam said, taking a deep breath to steady himself. "For starters? Don't freak out... anymore than you already have."
Hot Rod shot him a look of the utmost panic.
"Right. Yeah. Wrong thing to say." Sam cringed. "Well, long story short? I think you have to change your name to Rodimus from now on..."