/Internal Comm. Systems/
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters or concepts, they belong to Hasbro. :)
The Xanthium moved slowly through the strange galaxy, reverse thrusters pulsing gently, scanners turned on full. Onboard, the Autobots discussed in quiet Cybertronian of the strange readings from the ship's current position.
Some mechs had only half their attention on that particular quagmire, but were reminiscing on old friends, left but never forgotten, and wondered on their well being. It was a pointless venture, but somehow the Autobots could not help themselves, guilt mixing with duty and small petrified hope for their old friends and allies.
Some bots had never met their allies, only heard stories, some unconvinced, or thought the story stretched. But no one argued with Prime. Not unless they wanted to be reprimanded with a vocaliser that could scare Unicron and add a dent in their helm courtesy of Ratchet a few breems later. And no one could doubt the absence of Jazz, WheelJack, and Ironhide, or the team's strange new armor and alt modes.
/Sir, I have an energy flux in quadrant 4/ Bumblebee sent to Optimus through the general Autobot frequency, because without radio broadcast, he was once again voiceless.
:Thank you Bumblebee. Navigation, set coordinates and activate space bridge: replied Optimus in deep Cybertronian. The ship began to recharge for the space bridge jump, optics flickering to scanners, the Autobots shook themselves from contemplation and began prep for any encounter, Decepticon or not.
With a boom that should have been audio-shattering, but was silent in the vacuum of space, the ship disappeared.
In a blaze of light like a star, the Xanthium reemerged in a strange new atmosphere. :Prime, there is a gas solution in this quadrant, with pressures and temperatures similar to_: Topspin's report died in his vocalizer.
:Strange, any gravitational fields?: Prime answered, trying to ignore his churning tanks and highlighted memory files.
:Yes, a slight field, pulling towards the energy source, no danger reported: supplied the bot, all Wreckers being highly knowledgeable in space conditions with their advanced engineering processors, for once forgetting his accent.
Prime made a snap decision. :Core team, integrate frame 67Beta foreign environment upgrades, them meet me at the docking port: With a glare challenging any bot to object to his inclusion on the mission, especially Ratchet, he walked to the ship's lab to be outfitted with the others.
In a few breems, the entire Allspark retrieval crew was in the port airlock, desperately trying not to watch the memory files of the last time the entire crew had gathered inside the airlock doors, leaving their friends behind. Ratchet was the first to speak up. :Are we leaving or not!: he snapped, making Bumblebee flinch. After a concerned glance at the young scout, Optimus nodded and released the airlock.
As the Autobots floated out into the empty space, thrusters firing minutely, processors ran diagnostics from everything from the energy signature to vital signs, to atmospheric composition, and pressure tables. What they found pulled them up short.
/Am I glitching? Is that Allspark energy?/ Sent Bumblebee with wide optics. :No, you're not glitching; I just defragged your processor last orn: Ratchet quickly answered, then paused. :What I'm wondering is why I am receiving a vitals reading in our parsec, that is not coded Cybertronian:
Quietly Optimus checked what he noticed upon entering the quadrant. The Matrix hummed in his chassis, energy gathering and sending signals to his processors. What he knew was enough to fry his logic circuits.
The Matrix sensed a presence that had held and used its energies before. As far as he knew, Optimus was the only Cybertronian to have held it still online. That could only mean… No, that was impossible. They were many billions of "light-years" away from that galaxy; it was impossible.
/Ratchet, I have a situation/ Optimus sent over his private comm. Ratchet immediately turned to face Optimus, scanners flashing, half expecting his leader to be in pieces. Failing to see that he answered /What is it Optimus?/Cycling his air, Optimus collected and sent a databurst to Ratchet recording his readings and only known conclusions. Ratchet's optics widened and Optimus thought for a minute that he might glitch like Prowl after an illogical statement.
Ratchet did not even have time to try to reply before being interrupted by Sideswipe, who was, like the rest of the team, oblivious to this new predicament :Hey, I don't know about you, but this stuff seems like fog to me:
:Impossible: Ratchet immediately rebuked, :There is no dihydrogen oxide in this sector, nor in any of the surrounding sectors, reprogram your optics!:
:No, he's right: sent Roadbuster :This looks like fog, but it 'aint fog, they're hologram nanites:
Silence reigned for a breem as the two bots processors stumbled over the information. Bumblebee gently propelled over to the "fog". :Bumblebee don't touch that! It could be_: screeched Ratchet, But it was too late.
The astrosecond Bumblebee's servos touched the nanites; they pulsed with a bright, bluish white light. All bots froze and stared at the "fog" as it moved and shifted, coiling and sending out tendrils of nanites, taking readings.
~Bee?~ a voice whispered in a scratchy tone, roughly familiar. ~Is that you?~ said the voice, its tones slightly warming.
Silence shook the Autobots for multiple spark-beats. Lubricant watered in Bee's optics. "Sam?" croaked out of Bumblebee's mangled vocal processor, filled with static and wavering.
~It is you! How are you… Oh.~ the voice paused, speaking in a language none of the bots had heard in orns, except in their memory files. ~You must have been exploring deep space on patrol. And then came across strange readings.~
"Samuel" Optimus finally spoke. "How are you speaking to us? Did you create new technology on Earth?" Even overwhelming his sense of curiosity was his need to know all was well.
"Sam," he asked, his question breaking any forthcoming reply, "How are you faring on Earth, is everything alright? Are you safe?" Optimus couldn't help the desperate tone reaching his vocals.
All was quiet for a moment, no bot even daring to cycle their air. Sam's words broke through the silence like breaking ice.
~Earth is lost.~ his quiet tone betrayed deep hurt and regret.
A few vocalizers glitched as the Autobots worst fears were realized, none even able to speak their horror.
"Then we must return at once! If we immediately return to the ship and make a jump, we could be in the solar system in at least 6 lunar cycles!" spoke Ratchet desperately, optics flickering to Optimus, fear and guilt freezing his spark.
~Ratchet, you don't understand~ Sam's voice spoke quietly ~There is nothing left to save,…and no one left to help.~
"No." Sideswipe whispered "It can't be." Even Skids and Mudflap were silent, desperation written across their faceplates.
Hologram nanites flashed and conformed into multiple flat sheets, replaying colored memories across them. Death and devastation were the only sight, building smashed apart like sandcastles.
~After you left on the rebuilt Xanthium, the Decepticons returned. Led by Thundercracker, they had their revenge upon Earth, knowing we were helpless against them without you.~ Sam remised, screens showing red optics glaring with hate as the wreaked devastation upon the Earth,…and its people.
~Commander Lennox and his team gave their lives to launch all Autobot remains into space, hoping you would find them, and for their fallen comrades not to be desecrated by the Decepticons. Major Lennox died with his wife and child in his arms, next to the launch console. None of the team survived.~ Images of the event scrolled across the nanites, obviously seen from a video screen, even as tears obscured the images as they faded away.
Without anecdote, the Autobots saw through Sam's eyes as his family split apart while running in hopes of leading the Decepticons away. Sam's memories were obscured by trees as the drones reached his parents. The view turned to see Mikaela's filthy face staring at the spot, absolute horror filling her features even as tears ran in rivulets down her dirt-streaked face, still running.
The last memories showed her face, as the concrete cracked between them, she obviously screaming Sam's name as he turned to see his assailant. A Seeker, Thundercracker, with blood red optics came forward, almost in slow motion, servos descending.
Sam's vision turned red, then black, then white.
Bumblebee's mangled, tortured scream ripped through his vocal processor.
Optimus bowed his helm, lubricant leaking from his optics, a display of emotion never before seen in the Autobot leader. Ratchet could not move, so buried in his grief. The Wrecker's processors replayed their memories of Epps, his exuberance, how full of life he was. How he was gone.
Sideswipe remembered the beauty of Earth, which was no more. Jolt and Mirage shuttered their optics, each trying to comprehend, and then not wanting to. Skids and Mudflap brought their servos to their helms, and tried to stop the pain.
They had lost so many comrades, so many worlds. Their war that had spread to all known universes, and ended so many lives. This was more than they could take, they had left Earth to keep any remaining Decepticons unaware of its existence, to protect from above. That was why they were patrolling in deep space, tracking, searching for remaining threats. They had failed.
~I understand why you had to leave, I really do, but I wish it had not cost me my home and family.~
Bee's curled, shaking form, with cries grating from it, was brushed by gentle fingers. Bee looked up, optics onlining, to see a holoform of Sam, smiling at him. Then Sam looked up.
~Be happy Autobots, it was not your fault, and now they are free, do not mourn what you cannot reverse. They would not have wanted it.~
Optimus raised his helm helplessly, "How can you even begin to forgive us Sam? You know what we have done, how can you forgive us?"
~ I have felt the passing of every single human life since I offlined, and have felt their joy, their peace, and their thanks. They are free. Do not think of them in sorrow.~ Sam paused, humor flickering on his features, ~Especially Mikaela. She wanted you to know that you were the best family she could ever have. A sentiment I share.~ The worn bots looked up, small hope growing from complete and utter hopelessness.
~Optimus, listen to me, I know how to online Jazz, WheelJack, Ironhide, Arcee, and all those you have lost. Bring me to them.~ He stood, ~But first, you are going to need a craftsmech to fashion a frame~
Bee chirped in question, and Sam smiled. As Sam's holoform faded away, and the nanites offlined, they parted to reveal a glowing, pulsing spark.
~Even out of death there is life~ he whispered, Sam's voice fading.
~Consider it a gift from the Primes~