Wow! Finally a new chapter, after like 3 years? I'm so sorry if it seems like I'd abandoned this story, but I haven't. School has drained me of any creative drive I possibly had and I'm fighting tooth and nail to get that back. I admit I was uncertain on what direction to take it in, but I think I might be getting somewhere with it. I'm adding more characters, maybe some more sub-plots so this isn't just a Sam/Barricade story. I hope you enjoy this little chapter, and that the next one doesn't take so damn long!
Thundercracker came online slowly, deliberately powering up his systems to their lowest function in an effort not to arouse attention to himself. He had always done this, coming online slowly enough that others wouldn't be aware until he was ready for them to be. It had become enough of a habit that he did it naturally now, but this time he had reasons. Big, angry chartreuse reasons that were more than likely lurking around nearby.
He could recall, now, Starscream's abrupt deactivation by Barricade. Hm. That was an interesting development. He had been under the impression that Barricade was gone, dead like the rest of the original few Decepticons that had come to Earth to aid Megatron. Apparently not. And now the traitorous glitch was aiding the Autobots. He shouldn't be so surprised; Barricade had always been a bit of a wild card.
But now Thundercracker had to think about some things. With both Megatron and Starscream dead, the Decepticons clustered in the Milky Way were without an immediate figurehead. Sure, there were others who would gladly take up the mantle-certainly Strika would want to maintain some level of control, and perhaps Shockwave or the Predacons would feel crazy enough to try and take up the reins. He doubted Jhiaxus would care, as long as he could keep killing Autobots. Just thinking about the murderous jet made Thundercracker's armor want to shudder in on itself. He hated Jhiaxus. But they were all far away, in distant galaxies, some not even aware that their great leader Megatron was dead. Thundercracker had tried to follow Starscream's path of madness to destroy the Autobots on Earth, but it had ended yet again in defeat. Well, Bumblebee was dead. He was pretty sure of that. That was all he had seen before a sharp blow to his helm knocked him offline.
He didn't know where Skywarp was, either.
He inched his way down his spark-deep connection to his trinemate and flinched almost immediately. Starscream's link was cold, empty. He could finally feel it echoing in his spark, that hollowness which meant that a bond was dead.
Thundercracker honestly didn't know how to feel about it.
Starscream had long been lost to madness, determined to be greater than Megatron, yet falling laughably short with every attempt. It was almost amusing that as soon as Megatron was no longer in the picture, Starscream had gone and gotten himself killed. Thundercracker had long been distrustful of his trinemate, despite how very against his core programming it went. Of the three, he had always been more emotional, what the humans called a "heart over mind" type of mech, and over the thousands of years of war he had had plenty of time to think, draw conclusions, grow distant. Perhaps the others had noticed, but had determined that Thundercracker would never defect, never leave his trine. He had thought so, too, but now he wasn't so sure. Starscream was gone, and Skywarp…
He reached out again, searching for Skywarp, and found him subdued, but alive. Forced stasis, perhaps. Of course they would be in Autobot custody, kept as prisoners until Prime could be bothered to think of what to do with them. He could hear muffled voices somewhere nearby. He hadn't dared online his optics yet to check his surroundings, and kept his fields tucked in tight to avoid attention for as long as possible.
The voices got louder. Ratchet, he identified immediately. The other voice was quieter. The harmonics were subdued, but powerful. Prowl...hm.
"I know you're awake, Thundercracker," Ratchet sighed loudly as he strode into the room, voice weary.
Thundercracker cursed and onlined his optics. The harsh red color contrasted with the two pairs of glittering blue gazing back at him. Their fields lashed uncomfortably against him; one colored with open curiosity, the other sharp and bitter with contempt and distrust. He sneered at them, for lack of any other reaction.
Ratchet eyeballed him, arms akimbo in a way that left Thundercracker feeling quite exposed. He belatedly noticed he was strapped to what was hopefully just a standard medical table, and many of his systems had been medically overridden for shutdown. His weapons, for one, were currently useless, as were more than a few of his motor functions. He fought the rising flare of panic and snapped his eyes back to Ratchet, who was watching him with a bemused expression.
"Where is Skywarp?" he finally asked, his voice raspy as ever. Hook had graciously offered to fix the calloused nodes on his vocalizer, but Thundercracker quite liked the effect. He also hated Hook.
Ratchet smiled thinly. "He is safe, like you. Strapped to a table and unable to move, just how we like you." He paused, moving to rifle loudly through a large metal container. Not for the first time, Thundercracker wondered where exactly he was. The room he was in was fairly barren, with several metal boxes strewn about, and bits of massive medical equipment waiting to be installed were shoved into the corner. The beginnings of a med-bay, it seemed. He must be in the Autobot's new base, wherever that may be, and he filed that information away for later. Prowl had noticed his wandering eyes and was sending him threatening vibes. "Now," Ratchet suddenly continued, jolting Thundercracker out of his thoughts, "since you're awake, I want to look you over a bit. Skywarp was in better shape than you so his auto-repair fixed most of the damage. But you...some of your circuits in your torso are fried. I capped them while you were out, but some of them need to be replaced. It won't take long."
Ratchet came at him wielding a bundle of color-coded wires, the tiny delicate tools in his massive fingers already whirring. "Um," Thundercracker said eloquently, blinking nervously at the wires. "You're operating on me?"
Ratchet raised a brow ridge at him. "I am...I thought I made that clear. If you're going to be a baby about this I can always have Prowl hold you down." Thundercracker's eyes snapped to Prowl, whose fingers were twitching eagerly.
"Uh, no...I just didn't think Autobots repaired Decepticons, much less had the resources to do so," Thundercracker muttered, still eyeing Prowl warily. "Why are you doing this?"
The wires were plopped down next to him on the table while Ratchet began to prime the delicate tools built into his hands and fingers, checking them one by one. "Prime's orders. He can't stand to see any Cybertronian injured when it can easily be repaired, and, surprise, you're no different."
"Let me guess...we're all his children and he loves us very much, even if we're bad?" Thundercracker sneered, still giving Prowl the hairy eyeball.
Ratchet offered a mirthless smile and ruthlessly ripped back the torn plating on Thundercracker's torso, prompting a strangled cry from the Seeker. "Indeed. This war is hurting him more than he will ever admit. Too many deaths that could have been avoided, too many lives lost when there is always the possibility for life. So he saves any that he can, and hopes for the best."
"How touching," Thundercracker hissed. Ratchet was snipping the burnt wires and quickly replacing them with the new ones, his hands efficient and well-practiced. The process was not painful in the least, though it was slightly uncomfortable getting the new wires installed in their ports. Thundercracker just didn't like seeing his insides displayed to him so openly. He grimaced and looked back to Ratchet. "And what do you ask in return, hm? Secrets, enforced labor, a ceasefire? My allegiance? Pah! You're all fools."
Ratchet snorted and tugged none too gently on a particularly stubborn wire, making Thundercracker wince. "We require nothing from you, Except, perhaps, that you try and behave yourself while you're here, but even I'm not stupid enough to hope for that. I'm repairing you on Prime's orders, and once you and Skywarp are medically cleared we're letting you go. Off the planet. Autobots aren't in the habit of taking prisoners."
Thundercracker's scowl deepened as Ratchet closed up the paneling on his torso and neatly welded it shut with a spot welder in his forefinger. "Then you're even more foolish than I thought," he muttered.
"Probably so," Ratchet responded waspishly before turning his back to Thundercracker, a borderline rude dismissal that rankled the Seeker, though he wisely remained motionless as Prowl's sharp eyes were still locked on him. "But you'll be out of our hair soon. Your self-repair systems will take care of the rest in a few hours and then we'll send you both off. Good riddance."
Prowl smirked but said nothing, and did not follow Ratchet out of the room. He stood guard over Thundercracker, much to the Seeker's dismay, his optics never wavering. Thundercracker briefly calculated how high his probability of killing Prowl and escaping were, with or without Skywarp, but for some reason all fight and fire he'd had in him before was strangely absent. He pondered about that next, unable to feel much of the hatred that had fueled him for years. He wasn't sure why, but it also didn't bother him as much as it probably should have. The probabilities his processor chirped back to him also weren't high enough for him to try anything even if he wanted to. Prowl would probably blow a hole through his spark as soon as he tried to swing his legs off the table. Actually, he realized, he still couldn't-Ratchet had never released his overrides. He frowned.
He had so much to think about.
"...Optimus, are you sure about this?"
"No. But I have to try. For Bumblebee, for Jazz, and...for Sam."
"This is, and I'm not exaggerating, probably the worst idea you've ever had."
"Possibly. But I'm too selfish to allow them to die. I was so sure there was no possible way to...but I think I've found a way. I have to try."
"But what if...what if it takes you as payment? The Allspark does not give without taking. You know this more than anyone, Optimus."
"Yes, I've thought of that. I would gladly give my life for any of you...any of you. If it is a sacrifice I have to make, then...so be it."
Wheeljack threw his hands up into the air in frustration. His EM fields were fluctuating sorrowfully, attempting to meld with the sturdy fortitude of Optimus's. He could come up with no outcome that would not end in disaster. "I don't know, Optimus. I can't stop you, none of us can, but...you're sure you've thought this through? We...we need you."
Optimus sighed deeply. "No, I haven't. I don't know how I know this, but I think I will be alright in the end. Yes, it will take something from me, but not...me. It won't take me from my children."
Wheeljack shook his head angrily, the panel of lights lining the sides of his neck flashing in a dazzling array of colors. "You can't possibly know that, Optimus! It defies logic, it defies...everything," he ranted, mouth open to continue, but a large hand on his bicep halted him. He stared into his Prime's sad eyes, but those comforting fields wrapped around him warmly, reassuring him.
"Trust me. Please. I will be alright."
"But what if they aren't alright?" Wheeljack argued back. "What if they come back not fully themselves, or in pain, or worse? So much could go wrong with this, Optimus. Messing with the Allspark just...it just isn't done. Unless you're Perceptor," he huffed, a wistful smile pulling at his face plates. "And what about the others? All the rest that have died. Will you bring them back, too? It wouldn't be fair to just...let only a few return."
"That is something I will think on further, if this works. For now, I can't even be sure I will succeed."
"I just…" Wheeljack sighed, fiddling with some wires in his wrist and picking at the casing. It was a nervous habit, and one he consistently tried to break, but he was like a human with a nail-biting tic. He just couldn't seem to leave them alone. "This has never been done before. And you don't even have the whole Allspark, just that little shard. It could burn out, or not have enough power to fuel this at all. Will we have to build new bodies for the sparks? How will they manifest? How-"
"Wheeljack," Optimus cut in sharply, effectively ending the tirade. "Those are all valid questions, my old friend, but they can be discussed later. For now, we will consider what is in front of us."
Wheeljack snorted. "This is the most ridiculous thing...if Ratchet knew about this he'd manually shut you down, you know that right?"
Prime smiled ruefully, his face plates pulling up in such an attractive way that Wheeljack's spark sang a bit. "I do know that. That's why he doesn't know." He strode away, motioning for Wheeljack to follow.
"Where are we going?"
"To use the Allspark for one of its intended purposes. I want you to be there, in case something happens. More than that, though, I want you there to ground me. It may try to keep me there, inside of it...you may need to call me back. Can you do that for me, 'Jack?" Optimus's voice was so quiet and serious that Wheeljack forcefully shuttered his optics to keep excess liquid leaking out.
"Yes, Optimus." It was all he could manage.
Bumblebee had been thoroughly repaired by Ratchet. The gaping hole in his chest was no longer there, the spark chamber carefully rebuilt, and it was only after Ratchet had fixed that a few weeks ago that Sam had even seen the body. At that moment, it merely looked like Bee was in recharge. Wheeljack nearly looked away, but forced himself to take in the stiffness in Bee's joints, the cold lack of an EM field or a burning spark singing in his chest. He sincerely hoped this would work.
Optimus had already taken the shard from his cache, and was clutching it in his hand. The shard fit neatly in his palm, far longer than it was wide, and nearly touched from the tip of Optimus's fingertips to his wrist. Even such a small piece of the Allspark seemed to glow with an otherworldly presence that called to Wheeljack's spark, soothing him. It would be enough, he decided. It had to be.
He watched as Prime clutched the shard in both hands, standing beside Bee and closing his eyes. The room was quiet at first as Wheeljack watched intently. He realized belatedly that Optimus was moving his lips in a soundless chant, one that slowly and steadily grew in volume until it seemed to be all around the room. It was an archaic form of Cybertronian, words the First Forged spoke, now pouring out of the Prime. The Allspark was likely feeding him the words while Optimus slipped deeper into his trance. He realized, now, why Optimus had wanted him there with him.
Silvery-blue wisps of light crawled off the shard to swirl around Optimus's body. Wheeljack had truly never seen anything more ethereal and beautiful, nor more terrifying. The physical build-up of energy was making the room crackle with power. Wheeljack could feel it beginning to invade his insides, vibrating inside of him. He never took his eyes off of Optimus, though, searching for any signs that his leader had gone to deep into the Allspark. He could hear a subtle hum of voices suddenly worming their way into his processor, calling to him in the whispered archaic language that he hardly understood, but he knew they were calling for him.
The pull was extraordinarily strong, growing stronger by the moment. You need to pull him, now. If it's affecting you like this, he will be too far gone soon. Get him. Now! NOW!
Wheeljack shook himself and surged forward, grasping Optimus's arm in a desperate and foolish maneuver that could have potentially fried him into oblivion. He slid unharmed into the energy field, however, and his touch sent a rolling jerk through the Prime.
"Optimus," he spoke, his voice too quiet. "You need to come back. Now. It's pulling you too far. You need to come back. You need to save Bumblebee. Find him, pull him back to us. Don't go searching for the others. I know it's...tempting, to find your old friends, speak to them. I know you can see them all, everyone that has gone on. It's painful...I could hear their voices, I know...I know...but you have to come back. Please. Optimus," he whispered, then snapped. "Optimus!"
Dazzling blue eyes snapped open and that noble head arched back, mouth open in a scream that Wheeljack could hear in his head so clearly and painfully. The energy began to coalesce from Optimus's body into a spinning ball of sunny light, remarkably resembling the star that gave such complex organic life to the planet they were on. Wheeljack's breath hitched. He knew that ball of golden light quite well.
He watched as it dashed into Bee's body, settling back into the guarded cache in the chest where it belonged. Bee's chest plates snapped back close with a muted snck, and then everything was still for a moment.
Optimus was no longer glowing, still clutching the shard. He was shuddering, and Wheeljack realizing he was barely remaining online.
"Optimus...are you alright?"
"Yes...yes...I am very tired...but I want to...see," Optimus groaned, his voice barely above hearing range.
"It went inside of him. I don't know what you did, or what happened, but…I think it worked." His own voice sounded amazed. He turned to look at Bumblebee, and then he knew it worked. Wheeljack could feel the sudden shift, the presence that hadn't been there before. Fluctuating fields feeling out the room, awake even before Bee himself was. It had worked, and Optimus was still alive.
"Go to sleep, Optimus. I'll be here when Bee wakes up to explain everything. You need to rest." Wheeljack helped the Prime to one of the empty berth tables, helping him settle on it. Optimus hadn't even fully lain down before his optics shuttered offline and he slumped down. He patted a large hand with a rueful smile, wondering how long it'd be before Optimus woke up again. A feat of that magnitude would probably put him out for a few days, at least.
He whirled around to see Bumblebee, awake and very much alive, staring at him with those expressive aquamarine eyes. "What...the hell did he do?" The poor mech looked so lost and bewildered that Wheeljack couldn't help but to laugh.
"I can't believe it worked! Bee, you're alive!" Wheeljack bounced towards Bee, nearly tumbling on top of him. Instead, he swept the younger mech up into an embrace, which was heartily returned. "Imagine what this could mean for us!"
"I...I don't...why did he do it?"
Wheeljack leaned back, frowning. "Wait. Did you come willingly?"
Bee scoffed. "Don't be silly, of course I did. And Optimus would never take any of us without asking. It's just...that was incredibly...well...even I could feel him beginning to slip into the stream. He almost let me go. How did he even do it?"
Wheeljack's faceplates tightened with displeasure. "He asked me to be here, in case something like that happened. I think he knew exactly what he was doing, he just didn't tell me."
"What did he look like?"
"Beautiful, Bee. Covered in light, he looked like a sun. He could give life to us all."
Bee trilled happily, leaning into Wheeljack's reverent touch. "Will they all be like it was for me? If he has to do this every time...I don't know if I like that idea. He'll burn himself out trying to resurrect everyone, you know how he is."
"He absolutely would, so once he wakes up I'm forcing him to explain everything. I also want to know how this will work for new-sparks, if it'll work at all...it's all so new. I don't even know where to start, Bee! I wish Perceptor were here."
Bee smiled softly. "Me too." He paused, eyeing Optimus's prone form, then turned to Wheeljack with that mischievous spark that Wheeljack had feared they'd lost forever. "Hey, since he's down, are you gonna be the one to explain this to Ratchet?"