THANK YOU ALL FOR READING! :) This is the very last chapter of Fallout and is a direct sequel to Chapters 25 "Last Hope" and 40 "Fortitude." The machine is ready…
Seriously, thank you all for taking the time to read this. This is my longest project to date and definitely the most fun out of all my fan fictions. I've exceeded the expectations I had for myself as a writer over the course of this past year and your kind support has gotten me to this point, I'm sure.
The sequel is next, titled Fallout: Apocalypse. Hopefully, the prologue and first chapter will be up within the next few weeks! The plot will be larger (huge even), there will be MANY new characters, ALL questions will be answered… and things will change. Not for the better, but far from the worst. Be prepared for an immediate overdose of drama. D: I can only hope that you will enjoy Apocalypse as much as you enjoyed Fallout.
Until next week, thank you all so much again. Thank you Shantastic and Kelly for beta-ing this monster for so very long. I hope you all enjoyed this crazy ride as much as I did!
Disclaimer: Transformers © Hasbro/Dreamworks. The original characters in this story are mine, however.
Warnings: character death, violence, foul language, disturbing imagery
The end of the end of the world was upon them. Kass had told him that cheerfully, one day in the middle of cleaning the lab. She had been joking, because no matter where they went, Earth would be the same. But this trip could spell the end of their apocalypse, she had reasoned with him, because they could go somewhere better, somewhere with a future.
Bluestreak wanted a better future, for himself and his family.
He, for one, thought this was their best plan, since it was the only one they had. He honestly believed that it would work, because Wheeljack was confident, and it seemed that everyone else was happy to go. They were going to Africa, a place Bluestreak knew next to nothing about, but that was okay. It was better than where they were, so that was good. It was really, really good.
Everyone was nervous and Bluestreak couldn't blame them. He found it difficult to recharge at night when he realized they were leaving the only home he had left. Well, he reasoned, the only physical home he had left. His actual home was with the other ten survivors, of course. Where they went, he would go too, and that was enough. That made him able to face the coming challenge of leaving Europe and the place that had drawn them together.
He didn't quite understand how space bridges worked, since he wasn't a scientist. He trusted Wheeljack implicitly to get the science right, at any rate. It didn't matter to him how it worked (though those five sparks powering it made him shudder and want to run the other way); as long as it worked and it saved them, he couldn't care less about numbers.
Not everyone felt the same, he learned late into the project.
He had worked off and on for the two months they were there on whatever project Wheeljack needed his help with, but Bluestreak never actively chose to hang around the lab. When he did go to check on the lab out of curiosity one night, he found someone else was still there. They left the lights on most times, even when no one was there. It made it less creepy, at least for the humans. After his captivity and near death in Kass' old camp, Bluestreak had never been comfortable in a cave of any sort. He was surprised to see that he wasn't alone that night.
"Barns?" he called out, seeing the brown haired man pacing slowly on the desk Wheeljack had shoved off to one side. It was far from the machines, but covered with bits of supplies and datapads.
"Hello, Bluestreak," Barns replied, glancing up at him. He smiled even though he looked exhausted. It was a bit late for the human to be up. Then again, the young man had been working as Wheeljack's assistant. No wonder he was in the lab, even without Wheeljack there.
"What're you doing?" the gunner asked, tilting his helm at the young man.
Barns held up what had to be the smallest datapad Bluestreak had ever seen. "Just, ah, going over these notes Wheeljack gave me. I cannot read most of the data, but…" The human hummed. "Numbers are numbers."
"I didn't think you had that training, Barns," Bluestreak said, impressed. He had been told humans needed outside educational influence to become things like inventors or physicists like Wheeljack. Then again, perhaps it was like art and Kass; it was instinctual too.
"I'm no scientist," Barns said with a short laugh. He looked out at the lab with dark eyes. "I want to help though."
"You have helped!" Bluestreak said, smiling brightly. Much more than Bluestreak had; Wheeljack raved about Barns' problem solving skills, even if he couldn't hook into the computer.
Barns nodded and made a vague sound. "Hmm."
Bluestreak watched as the human put his datapad down and just stared out at the empty room. Something shifted in the air, an emotional change; Bluestreak frowned deeply when he saw how tightly Barns was clenching his fists. It wasn't anger. It was…
"Barns, are you okay?" Bluestreak asked, very concerned as he stepped closer.
There was a tense pause. Bluestreak could see Barns' shoulders hunch up quite like his own doorwings might under stress. "I'm afraid the science is wrong," the man said quietly and through clenched teeth. His accent was even stronger than normal.
Bluestreak frowned more. "Wheeljack is sure it's okay though," he said. He didn't know why there would be a problem. Wheeljack told them over and over how it was going to be a success.
Barns inhaled sharply and moved toward the edge of the desk. He crossed his arms against his chest, still defensive. "I know. I know. And I trust him," he said, nodding. "But I'm… afraid of things going wrong."
"They won't," Bluestreak said.
"No one can promise that," the human countered, shaking his head. "Even Wheeljack said that things could go wrong. So much power, such a distance… it is dangerous."
Bluestreak offered his hand the moment the young man walked over to the edge of the table. He gently lowered Barns to the cold ground and the young man just… stood there. He didn't seem able to look away from the one spot on the far wall, though Bluestreak was certain his friend wasn't actually staring at anything in particular.
"I…" Barns began, but then stopped. Bluestreak leaned closer with a whine.
The human looked up at the mech and smiled. It was sad, scared look though. Bluestreak was always surprised by the complexity of human emotions and how they could show so much with only a simple gesture. Watching Barns now made Bluestreak feel uneasy.
"I don't know if we're going to be okay," Barns said. He said it with the same smile, but his entire body language seemed defensive. Scared.
Bluestreak didn't exactly know what to say about that. They were all scared, Bluestreak included. It was natural to be afraid. They were facing a challenge and a future none of them had ever dared to anticipate. Part of Bluestreak sometimes agreed with Jazz, that they were moving too quickly, too soon, but… what choice did they have?
It was either move on, trusting in Wheeljack and the plan…
Or be destroyed like Kass's camp. Die like those scientists in the crypt. Die like Kevin.
Bluestreak shuttered his optics and then reopened them, bracing his spark.
They had no choice. We do.
"I'm sure we'll be okay, Barns," Bluestreak said, smiling gently. He crouched down near his friend, so they were almost eye to optic. "We're going to be okay."
He couldn't promise anything, but in his spark he was sure. He could believe in Wheeljack's scientific ability. He lived his life believing that his family would survive—together. That's all he could offer anyone, including himself.
Barns' smile never quite got happier. "I hope so," he said softly.
She was scared. They all were, but some nights Kass felt like she couldn't breathe. The cavern grew smaller and tighter every day they spent there. They had long since passed the move-out date they had planned on and the snow wasn't too bad outside now. Spring, at least their pitiful version of it, wasn't far off either.
But here they sat, planning a trip to Africa. A permanent trip. Through a space bridge—alien technology so advanced that none of the people in her whole family could understand it, except Wheeljack. A piece of equipment created by a group of dead 'bots; one that was powered using those 'bots actual sparks. All of these facts seemed to scream for attention inside Kass' mind, to the point that she didn't know what to think first. All of the unknowns and uncertainties became ghosts haunting her thoughts. But she tried, she really did try, to be strong and not appear to be upset. Everyone was on edge as the days stretched on and on—both because of the lengthening days and because of the increasing tension. It was unsettling for them to stay in one place so long—the wanderlust causing them all to be short with each other. It amused her to realize that staying in one place was more alien to them than the actual aliens in their midst.
They needed this to work soon. Kass prayed Wheeljack could hurry.
She herself couldn't do much to help, outside of the mechanical repairs Wheeljack instructed her to complete. With him and Barns working out the math end of the equations to figure out how to warp space or whatever the plan was, Kass was more than happy to mend wires and meld metal. It was all she could do.
One day, she found herself without that work and was left sitting by the fire. The repairs were almost done and that was exciting—but now she had to wait. It didn't matter if she sat with Bluestreak or another of her more talkative friends. None of them were much for talking lately anyway, or for games or reading or for any of their usual simple entertainments. They all just sat there if they didn't have a job to do—sat there alone with thoughts that were enough to drive them insane.
"He's hiding something," Arcee said one day, sitting quietly with Kass by the fire. Kass chuckled, despite her riotous stomach. Her nerves were always shot lately.
"He's just scared," she said patiently, knowing the femme was talking about Wheeljack. "I am too." That was an understatement.
Arcee rumbled lowly. "I just hope… Africa will be a better place for you humans," she said in a quiet voice. She sighed.
Kass glanced up at her and nodded. "And you guys too," she added. Theoretically, things would be okay for both species. Theoretically.
"Still." Arcee shocked Kass by reaching out and resting a scraped pink hand on Kass's shoulder. The femme was only a few feet taller than the human woman she smiled kindly at. "You are still sparklings to me."
"Aww, Arcee." Kass smiled at her friend, moved. Arcee was generally very reserved, so it was surprisingly nice when she did voice her feelings about the others. "It'll be okay. 'Jack's doing his best and we are too."
"I wish we could help. The science is not in my processors unfortunately," Arcee replied. She smiled tightly and placed her hand back on the ground. "You four are being strong."
"Of course." Kass stood up and gazed around the camp, images of the south she'd seen in books popping up in her mind. "Someday soon, we're going to be sunbathing in Africa. And we're going to be together…" Kass swallowed. It was always easier to imagine than to believe, but she tried. She turned and tried to be brave for her friend. They needed to be strong for each other. "And we're going to be better off than we will be sticking around here."
"If it doesn't work…" Arcee trailed off.
"We'll still be together," Kass finished for her, taking a steadying breath. She grinned confidently at the femme, despite her nervous stomach. "And that's what matters." That was all that mattered.
Arcee's green optics were gentle. "Of course," she agreed.
Kass glanced out the cavern exit and saw another snow storm flashing by. The wind howled and the cave grew smaller.
After hours of working alone on the system and space bridge power cells day after day, Wheeljack could always tell when one of his friends were approaching. The sound of footsteps approaching the lab doors and then crossing the stone threshold were loud enough clues to let the scientist know he was no longer alone. He had long since memorized the distinctions of each of his friends' foot patterns, of course, so the identity was also easy to establish.
Wheeljack focused on the monitor screen as he finished up another diagnostic routine. He was so close to finishing the project. He just had to double, triple and quadruple check everything.
"Hello, Wildrider," he said, aiming to be pleasant. He had been grumpy and exhausted all week and he knew it must have shown. He didn't want to worry his friends so much, despite the pressure to finish quickly and perfectly.
"Pryvet," Wildrider replied calmly. He stepped up close to the worktable and peered out at the machines. He looked down at the monitor flashing all of the cyphertext only the scientist could read. "Vhat is this?"
Wheeljack chuckled as he let the other mech peer closer. It wasn't as if the other mech could really tell what it said. "Oh, just some more calculations. Barns actually figured this part out. He's helped a lot," he said, honestly proud in the intelligent human boy. Barns could have been a physicist or an engineer, if he had had the opportunity to be trained. "We're almost ready, if you can believe it!"
"To go through bridge," Wildrider muttered. He moved away and stared curiously over at the rest of the room. The white launch pad was the largest and most obvious object in the room. The red-and-black mech stared at the pad intensely. "Used bridge on moon base once. Long ago."
"Yes. I've only seen two in my lifetime. They're quite difficult to build, even in times of peace and prosperity. Particularly daunting with such few resources during a war," Wheeljack said, smiling behind his mask. He looked at the almost indecipherable work. "Perceptor was a genius to build all this. I wonder who helped him."
Wildrider hummed. "Ve are to go to Africa?" he asked.
"Yes." Wheeljack forced himself to look up at the other mech. He was very quiet and that never boded well. This time, it wasn't because of some sort of trick. Wheeljack could tell Wildrider was quite serious. "Do you… are you alright with that, Wildrider?"
"Of course," Wildrider scoffed. He puffed out his chest, oh-so human in behavior. "Everyvone is going, so I must go too. Ve are Gestalt."
"Ha, yes," Wheeljack replied, smiling tightly behind his mask. "It'll be one wild ride, so I shall be glad you are coming with us for that then, my friend."
Wildrider laughed loudly at the poor joke. "Yes, I agree."
Silence returned to the lab and Wheeljack tried to focus on the coordinate mapping on his datapad. It was hard to keep his processors on the data when he could feel Wildrider's piercing gaze on his back. He didn't have to ask what was wrong or wait long for an answer.
Wheeljack paused and then looked up. "Yes?" he asked, peering up to the mirrored green optics staring at him so intently.
"I never had creator," Wildrider said. He smirked as he leaned on the table. He tilted his helm, considering the scientist. "You are… good replacement."
Creator. Father. It was the same. Wheeljack stared at the ex-Decepticon in shock. It wasn't surprising Wildrider felt that way about the scientist; Wheeljack himself had realized long before that he'd effectively adopted both Danny and Wildrider by default. He just… never expected to hear it from Wildrider himself.
It was enough to make a spark break.
"…Thank you, 'Rider," Wheeljack managed, earfins flashing lowly. "You are precious to me as well."
"Precious," Wildrider repeated. He stared out at nothing before surprising Wheeljack with a short laugh. It wasn't his normal cackle. It almost sounded like a sane, tired laugh—the type Wheeljack heard from himself or Jazz lately. Wildrider glanced at the scientist with a wistful look. "I have never been precious to anyvone."
Wheeljack reached out and touched Wildrider's shoulder. Ages ago, that move would have scared both of them; now, it was second nature. "You are to all of us," he said firmly.
Wildrider grinned. "If ve die, that's okay," he said, glancing over at the back of the room, at the platform that would whisk them away. "I have never feared death. Especially not now."
Something twisted deep within Wheeljack's spark. "Everything will be okay, 'Rider," he said gently. He let his hand drop.
"Yes," Wildrider replied, nodding. He smirked at Wheeljack with confidence and trust. "It vill."
He walked away, his heavy footsteps echoing across the cave. Wheeljack looked up at the machine and smiled behind his mask.
Yes, it would.
Hope needed kindness, but as Danny grew older and understood what else her heart needed to get by, she realized it also needed strength. She had to be able to brave the insurmountable task of getting up every morning, to look up at the dark grey sky, and still say, "I am here and I am alive." It never got easier, but that was alright, because she had the strength to do it anyway. Her strength came from her friends and theirs came from her.
However, that cold winter's evening challenged her strength and subsequent hopes one last and difficult time. It shook them and pushed them—but Danny would not give up that easily.
She wasn't sure what to make of their newest and hopefully last venture in post-war Europe. They had seen so much, done so much—suffered so much. They had all lost friends and family, but they still had each other. They were still progressing despite the odds. It had taken them all these weeks to get where they were and it was still terrifying. Danny knew they had to keep going and she also knew they could.
And then it all ended with Danny and Barns snuggled together on their beds, staring at each other in silence. The fire crackled and Rachel and Kass were already asleep. Danny had taken to curling up next to Barns, closer than ever before, in the last few weeks.
The most telling sign that things were serious was the fact Barns let her lay there, so close to him. He let her take his hands and hold them. Some nights, when the lines around his eyes were tighter and his eyes were more bloodshot than usual, he took hers first. That was one of those nights.
"You're tense," she pointed out quietly. She felt better when her hands were caught up in his. He was bigger, like a mech, but soft. Touchable. Human.
"Wheeljack is not sharing all of the data with me," Barns muttered back. He closed his eyes in exhaustion.
Danny frowned. She didn't like the fact Wheeljack had practically gone solo with the whole machine thing too, but he was their only real scientist. "Well… we can't process it like he can," she offered. That was the truth. All she had been able to do was cut cables and make sure 'Jack hadn't neglected his health too much.
"I know." Barns sighed heavily and buried his face further into his pillow. "But this is more than that. He makes me nervous. His nervousness," he said, his voice muffled.
"Can you blame him?" Danny asked teasingly.
"Non," Barns admitted with another sigh. He glanced upwards at the ceiling. "I cannot."
They lay like that for a few more minutes, but Danny knew Barns was still thinking furiously. The lines around his eyes made her feel guilty for not being in there with them and helping more. They were working so hard for all of them, for a better life. They were nothing less than heroes in her eyes. She owed them the world.
"What're you thinking about?" she asked quietly.
Barns looked up at her with almost the same brown eyes she had. "Many things," he replied.
"You can tell me," Danny said, meaning it. She could have stared forever into his eyes.
For another few minutes, Barns just stared at her. She could see the building emotion and tension in his shoulders and eyes. He had something important to say. She waited and gave him the time to speak, like he always did with her. He gripped her hands tightly.
"If we… do not make it…" he began, struggling. He kept his eyes bravely on hers, however. "I don't want to go without letting you know that…"
Danny smiled with understanding. "I love you," she said simply.
Barns smiled back and a thousand different emotions passed through his eyes. "I love you, too," he said. He spoke quietly, but the words were as loud as an avalanche over her heart.
For a second, she wanted to cry and then laugh and then—just smile. "Knew it," she said, her teasing tone choked with emotion. She forced herself to just smile.
That made Barns laugh. "Ha…" He ducked his head to hide his own grin.
"What made you say it now?" she asked, curious.
Barns laughed a little more. "I am afraid I will not have a chance to tell you later," he replied. He traced patterns on the back of her hand, eyes far, far away. "I… do not want to die with regret in my heart."
That made her sad, though she knew it wasn't Barns' fault. It had crossed her mind several times over the last few years, wondering if there was ever a good moment to tell him how she really felt, because they were always living a last moment, honestly. It felt better that he had brought it up first though. He had always been so guarded. Now… it felt like a deathbed confession. Love was love, though.
"I'm glad you told me," she whispered. She leaned closer to touch her forehead to his. Their eyes were so close. "But we're not going to die."
"No?" Barns asked, eyes filled with good humor.
"Nope. We are going to survive and we—," she began, grinning now, stumbling over her emotions. "We are going to find a new home. A better one. All of us." Because they were survivors. Because they were strong.
Barns smiled kindly and closed his eyes. "Yes. We will," he agreed softly.
Danny almost jumped out of her skin and the entire moment was taken over with an icy adrenaline rush. She rolled over and saw Wheeljack standing by the entrance to the back passageway. His mask was missing again and he was smiling softly at them. At the sound of his voice, everyone had roused and was watching him with varying degrees of interest and alarm.
"'Jack?" Jazz prompted, sitting upright. He had started to get up, but hesitated.
Wheeljack also paused. "It is ready," he said, his voice echoing across the room with almost supernatural power. "By tomorrow, we will be ready to go. The power cells just need to charge one more night."
"Oh, Jesus," Rachel whispered. She dropped her head to her knees and just breathed. Kass reached over and gripped her shoulder tightly in support. Vortex, behind them, just stared on in shock.
Jazz finally got to his own feet, looking unsteady. "I-I thought you said it would be ready in a few… days," he began lamely. He and Thundercracker wore similar stunned expressions.
Wheeljack shifted on his legs. "It's… ready now," he said, voice trembling and dipping into static almost. He clasped his hands together and smiled though.
"I… okay…" Jazz glanced around at the speechless group and seemed to struggle to collect himself. "We—we should… get ready…?"
"The sooner the better, Jazz, but get some rest while we have the time," the taller scientist said, chuckling quietly. "We will need it, believe me."
"At dawn, then?" Kass asked. Her voice was so fragile sounding now. Danny could hear her own blood roaring in her ears.
Wheeljack nodded stiffly. "Yes," he said. He smiled and his earfins flashed lowly. "Get some rest in the meanwhile. I'll recharge after I double check some things."
"I'll start packing now," Barns countered, standing taller. He grinned down at Danny, who kept her hand in his. "Rest can wait."
"Like I could recharge anyway after that," Arcee added, chuckling. The others agreed. Wildrider began chuckling to himself. Jazz just offlined his visor and seemed to be praying. Everyone just moved.
Danny braced herself and tried to remember how to breathe as she tried to help Kass get everything together. This was happening. It was happening.
Briefly, a small and hysterical bubble of laughter built up within her chest.
No matter what awaited them on the other side—
No matter if they lived, died, or fell somewhere in between—
They had to do it.
They had to believe that yes, things can get better. That hope… even in this world… could still exist.
Because they weren't just survivors. They were alive. They were friends. They were family. And families had to believe in the hope of a better day, no matter what.
Reaching out to clutch Barns' hand tightly within her own, Danny looked up at her guardian and smiled.
"Let's do this."
Wheeljack smiled back and the eleven of them, eyes and optics gleaming, began to move, getting ready to walk down the pathway to their future—
To be continued in Fallout: Apocalypse.