Face to Face
Wheeljack was actually having a decent morning.
He had gotten a fair amount of stasis the night before and he had been keeping up on his Energon, so that probably contributed—and he was actually making some progress in replicating the original shield that Prowl had stolen from Lockdown. The weather outside was good, the last of the winter chill finally snapping away.
The only thing that bugged him was the quiet.
Bulkhead, Optimus, Prowl, and Bumblebee were on patrol—and Sari had gone with them, insisting that she stay involved as a member of the team and that they needed to learn to appreciate air support. Speaking of which, Optimus was still alluding to the idea of flight being useful for his next run-in with Megatron—and Wheeljack didn’t disagree. So, the Wrecker would have to start thinking of something. Maybe the upgrades the Optimus back home received from the Forge of Solus Prime could give some inspiration…
Ratchet was on space-bridge duty. Bulkhead, with help from Sari and Wheeljack, had rigged the systems to scan for Omega Supreme.
They were hoping to find him before Megatron finally managed to take control.
But things were quiet.
Practically all combat on Earth had ceased.
With the SUV and the Headmaster in custody, Powell getting sued within an inch of his life, Meltdown melted, Blackarachnia and Lugnut missing, Wasp more-than-likely destroyed, Swindle in the wind and only a threat when there was a financial opportunity, all but one of the Starscream clones accounted for, so many Decepticons captured and most bound for prison, those who remained free falling back across the universe, and Megatron and Starscream’s severed head transwarping around the galaxy randomly with Omega Supreme…
The one left that Wheeljack was really worried was Shockwave. The spy -turned- assassin still hadn’t been caught, and he had the Magnus Hammer as well as standing orders to get Wheeljack on his dissection table.
Who knew when that pleasant little fact would come and rear its ugly head?
Wheeljack was shaken from those thoughts when a call came in. The ID was Professor Sumdac’s.
“Yo.” He raised a finger to activate his commlink, an optic-brow raised. “What’s up, prof?”
:Wheeljack, I’m sorry—but I don’t know what’s happened, and-: The man sounded worried. :Oh, dear… Look, you’re very good in a crisis and I didn’t know who else to call! I mean, I could have called Optimus or Bulkhead or Sari—but they’re on patrol and Sari’s training, and I’m not sure exactly how serious this is. My opinion may be completely different from yours, after all! And-:
“Oh, frag—this ain’t gonna be good,” Wheeljack murmured, then he sighed and closed his optics. “Easy, prof. Easy. It’s okay… Why don’t you just tell me what happened, alright?”
:Very well. Um… My security system picked up a massive disturbance on the roof,: the Professor began. :When I checked it- Well… Captain Fanzone was there, and he was getting chased by several malfunctioning aerial police drones. I really should take another look at those. Anyway: suddenly, the space-bridge activated, and he was sucked in—and Ratchet went after him! Now, I don’t know where they are or when they’ll be back or what anyone is supposed to do! The monitor says that Ratchet’s on Cybertron, but can Captain Fanzone even breathe there?!:
“Uh…” Wheeljack’s optics had gone wide, and he was at a loss. “Err… How long has it been since that footage was recorded, prof?”
:About twenty minutes.:
“Uh-huh.” The Wrecker cringed. “Let, uh… Let me worry about Captain Fanzone, okay? Don’t stress out, just-… I’m on my way.”
:But can he BREATHE, Wheeljack?!:
Wheeljack hung up, unsure of what else to do.
The decent morning was over.
Professor Sumdac blinked, surprised.
“Why did you bring him?”
“Good a chance as any to get rid of ‘im,” Wheeljack replied, dragging Soundwave over to the lift that would bring them up to face the space-bridge portal. Laserbeak was actually duct-taped to the Decepticon’s chest. “Now.” He looked at the professor, frowning. “If we’re not back in two hours and you don’t hear from me, call Prime and tell him what happened.”
“Thanks, prof.” The Wrecker nodded, then he took a deep vent as he looked up at the space-bridge looking above him. “Alright, then.”
Professor Sumdac frowned. “What is it?”
“Nerves, I guess,” Wheeljack admitted, then he sighed. “… I haven’t gone through a space-bridge since I came here. That didn’t go well.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” The human asked, growing even more concerned.
“Hm.” The Wrecker closed his optics, then he nodded. “Yeah. I am.” He made his way over to the monitor, and he started to get to work. “Huh. For some reason, I can’t lock onto the same signal they used to get on Cybertron. I’m gonna hafta try-” He blinked as something suddenly popped up on the screen. “What the-?” The pop-up turned out to be an incoming video call, and he recognized the face. “Oh. Hey.”
:Wheeljack?: Jazz asked, perplexed.
Wheeljack smiled awkwardly. “Sorry about that. I, uh… I still need to learn more about how these things work opposed to mine. My bad.”
:Alright, come on: why are you requesting a receiving code from the Elite Guard Command center, Wheeljack?: The cyber-ninja asked.
Wheeljack held a finger up. “In my defense, that was not what I was tryna do.”
Jazz sighed. :You’re lucky I was the one closest to the monitor! Things are tense here, real tense—and all space-bridge use has been prohibited.:
“What?” Wheeljack blinked.
Jazz glanced around, then he looked back at the screen. :Can’t really talk about it.:
“Are you alright?” Wheeljack asked, worried.
:Huh?: Jazz blinked. :Oh, uh… Yeah.: He nodded shakily. :Yeah, I’m fine.:
“… Jazz, we’ve got a bit of a situation,” Wheeljack admitted. “The space-bridge we’ve built here in Detroit went haywire and pulled a human in. Ratchet went after him, and I think they’re on Cybertron. I wanna come after them—and drop off a few captured ‘Cons, if I may.”
:Hm.: Jazz seemed uncertain. :I’m not sure if that’s the best idea. If you’re caught-:
“It shouldn’t take long,” Wheeljack pressed. “I’ll be in and out.”
:… I must be outta my mind,: Jazz muttered, but the receiving code appeared on the screen.
Wheeljack nodded. “Thanks, Jazz. I’ll see ya in a minute.” The call ended as the space-bridge went active, and the Wrecker looked down at the professor. “We’re in business.”
“Be careful, Wheeljack,” Professor Sumdac insisted as the mech ran over to the lift and raised to be level with the portal. “That Cybertron is no doubt different from your own!”
“No doubt,” Wheeljack agreed, then he grabbed Soundwave and looked at the portal. “But if they’ve cut off transportation, I gotta get the doc-‘bot and the cap home safe.” He glanced down at the human. “Two hours.”
Professor Sumdac nodded, his expression grave, and Wheeljack took another deep vent and braced himself. Then, with a running start, he leapt into the space-bridge portal.
Wheeljack landed on his feet, with Soundwave landing with an undignified CLANG! on the metal ground next to him. The Wrecker stood up straight and glanced at the complaining Decepticon with a smirk, then he blinked as his optics found his surroundings and then widened.
“Whoa,” he whispered, finding that the more-open area he was currently in was surrounded by massive structures.
That was nothing new, except for the fact that they weren’t in ruins and the windows were glowing. It was alive.
This Cybertron was alive.
It never died.
“Wheeljack?” A voice asked, suddenly snapping him out of his head
Wheeljack blinked, then he turned his head and saw the new arrival. “Hey, Jazz.”
The cyber-ninja walked over and crossed his arms, and he looked at Soundwave and Laserbeak with a raised optic-brow. He looked more tired than usual, and less easygoing.
“Those the ‘Cons?”
“Sure are,” Wheeljack agreed, walking over to grab Soundwave with one servo and hoist him onto his feet for Jazz to see.
“Soundwave: superior!” The Decepticon immediately shouted. “Autobots: inferior!”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack deadpanned, and he glanced at Jazz and shook his head. “Just a tip: no computer privileges for this guy.”
“Heh.” That got Jazz to smile, but it quickly slipped away. “You know for sure that the doc-‘bot and the human ended up here?”
“Professor Sumdac saw it on the surveillance footage.” Wheeljack nodded, then he gestured to Soundwave. “And… I wanted to get this pain in the aft outta the Plant anyway, so-“
“Classic Wheeljack,” Jazz decided, then he shrugged. “Well, alternate Wheeljack.”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack glanced around. “I’ll be keepin’ my head low while I’m here, just in case. Not sure if one planet’s big enough for two of us.”
Jazz shook his head. “Honestly, we could do with a few more of you during times like these.”
The Wrecker looked at him, surprised. “What?”
“… I’ll take care of this.” Jazz decided, gesturing to Soundwave. “And… if you wanna meet him…” He pointed over to a building. “Enter the building. Go down the hall, take the lift—security code is 1984-2007-2010—and go down into the lower levels. Fifth down. Once you get down there, go down the hall again. Two lefts, then the door at the very end. Passcode is 03-14-2009… That’s his private lab. And when you enter, duck.”
Wheeljack froze, his optics wide, then he glanced over at that building in disbelief.
He was so surprised, he didn’t even acknowledge that last part of the instructions.
He had never really considered-…
“Weird, huh?” Jazz asked quietly, seeming to understand. “Meeting yourself in another life.”
Wheeljack frowned, then he looked at the younger mech. “… Would you do it?”
Jazz blinked. “You’re asking me?”
“Yeah. I mean… look at what my universe did to ‘Wheeljack’,” the Wrecker told him. “Would you wanna meet a you from my reality?”
“… Yeah.” Jazz nodded, and the smile he put on that time was genuine. “I think I would.” He took Soundwave from Wheeljack, gripping the stasis cuffs and seeming as though he intended to drag the large ‘Con to prison in order to provide this opportunity, then he hesitated and raised an optic-brow. “… Hey, uh… You know him?”
“No.” Wheeljack shook his head, completely honest. “I’ve just heard of him.”
Jazz smiled awkwardly. “He alive?”
“… No one knows,” Wheeljack said, again being honest. “He was last seen alive, but… it’s hard to say, since the Exodus.” He paused, then he looked around again “… It’s all so alive.”
It felt silly, to Wheeljack—getting so caught off-guard by a Cybertron that never went dark, even though it was hardly perfect.
All the same, he couldn’t help it—not when, after eons of drifting, he only had about a year on his world before he was sent away again.
He had been in an alternate universe longer than his revived home.
“Hey.,” Jazz said gently. “Take your time.” He grew somber again. “But seriously, do keep your head low—okay? You look like a war-frame, and… like I said: things are tense.”
Wheeljack glanced at the cyber-ninja as the younger and smaller mech turned away. “You’re really okay—right, kid?”
“… As okay as I always am,” Jazz replied quietly, then he looked up at the Wrecker. “Be careful, Wheeljack. And, uh... If I find them first, I’ll do all I can for the doc and the cap.”
Wheeljack frowned. “Are they in trouble?”
“Nothing serious, but only ‘cause it’s-” Jazz sighed. “I dunno, Wheeljack. Sentinel’s been… different, since our last visit to Earth: a bit more on-edge, but… it’s the council that’s causing real trouble. Not Alpha Trion, but the others. For them, Sentinel’s pretty much just a loud figurehead.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ultra Magnus commanded respect,” Jazz told him, turning back to face the Wrecker again. “He had the Magnus Hammer. That’s been a symbol of authority on Cybertron for seven billion years, passed from one Magnus to another.” At that, Wheeljack’s optics widened. “In writing, the Magnus must respond to civilians—but they are the supreme commander of the military and the chair of the council. Couple that with a hammer that controls the weather, the same that forged the vessel for the Allspark, and -well- they don’t listen to anyone they don’t want to.” Jazz glanced around, checking again to make sure that no one was listening in on his conversation. “Ultra Magnus held that title for twelve million years: the entire war, and all of the time since.”
All of this was news. “Frag.”
“Sentinel isn’t like him,” Jazz went on. “He’s young and doesn’t have the experience, or even just the hammer to command respect. He wants to earn approval from Cybertron, someone, and… there are ‘bots who know how to use that.”
Wheeljack grew tense. “Is he alright?”
“I dunno,” Jazz confessed. “He barely talks to me anymore, aside from giving orders. He’s buried in work, and the whole thing with Shockwave and Blackarachnia has gotten him real paranoid—more than usual. It’s affecting his judgement.”
Wheeljack grimaced. “And that could be touchy before, at best.”
Jazz brought out a data-pad from his storage-compartment, and he held it out. “Have a look.”
:Citizens of Cybertron!: A video began playing, one full of music and flashy images. :Decepticons are in our midst! Neighbors, friends, even your own model could be a spy!: It was pure fear-mongering propaganda. :Do your duty and report any suspicious activity to the Elite Guard! For your protection, all potentially subversive gathering places must remain closed. Curfew remains in effect. Remember, Decepticons will stop at nothing to destroy our way of life! Don’t let THIS-: And there was a clip of Ultra Magnus, on life-support. One of his servos had been torn off. :Happen to you. As your Magnus, I will continue to defeat the Decepticon scourge and bring peace and security to Cybertron! I’m Sentinel Prime, and I approve of this message.:
“Oh, for-” Wheeljack raised a servo to his forehead, and he closed his optics. “Hm.” He opened his optics, and his face fell as he lowered his servo and looked around. “… Hm.”
“You’re worried,” Jazz decided.
“… I’ve seen a world on the eve of war,” Wheeljack said quietly. “I won’t lie to you…” He looked down at the younger ‘bot, his expression grim. “This is lookin’ pretty close.”
Jazz nodded in agreement. “Wait ‘til you take a walk on the streets.”
“I don’t plan to be here long,” Wheeljack said, then he frowned. “But when we go… maybe you should consider comin’ with us.”
Jazz blinked. “And leave Sentinel and the twins?”
“It’s not ideal, no,” Wheeljack admitted. “If we can get anyone else out, we should try.” His optics narrowed. “But if what you’re tellin’ me about the council is for real, I don’t want you kids here when this all goes up in flames—any of you.”
“It’s our planet,” Jazz protested.
“… I know.” Wheeljack nodded. “I know it’s your planet, your home… but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. And someone should care about whether or not you’re safe.” Jazz blinked, then he looked away. “I was younger than you are now—relatively, at least—when my war started… I only survived long enough to get full-grown because my friends and mentors looked after me, ‘cause I was a kid.” He shook his head. “I don’t think they’ll do that, here… And I don’t want to see you get killed for a political power-struggle between rust-buckets. You deserve better.”
“Hm.” Jazz nodded. “You’re probably right, but… nothing’ll change if we all just run away and quit. We might deserve better, but—sometimes—you gotta work with what you’ve got.”
“But right now, no one’s listening,” Wheeljack reminded him. “… You have the right to step back from a bad situation and be okay for a while, kid. That’s not the same as runnin’ away or quittin’… Trust me, I know.” Jazz looked at him, surprised, and Wheeljack nodded. ��I know, Jazz.”
“… Let’s meet back here in an hour,” the cyber-ninja said quietly. “If neither of us have run into Ratchet and the captain, we’ll go look together. I’ll make up some kind of excuse.”
“Alright.” Wheeljack relented. “I’ve rigged my scanner to let me know when Ratchet’s signal is close. I’ll give you a call if I find somethin’.” He frowned. “But think about what I said.”
Jazz nodded, and the two of them parted ways.
Jazz went to deliver Soundwave and Laserbeak to prison (likely with a thrown-together explanation for the “capture”, poor kid), and Wheeljack-…
Wheeljack was going to meet his alternate.
Wheeljack followed Jazz’s directions to navigate his way through the labyrinth that was the headquarters of the Ministry of Science—with the added thrill of having to duck behind corners every time he thought someone was coming, since there was apparently something wrong with his frame. He didn’t want to know what would happen to him if he was caught walking around.
Finally, he arrived at that door on the level five floors below the surface—and the data-screen outside confirmed that it belonged to Wheeljack. He input the code, and the door opened—allowing the Wrecker to step inside.
He paused, squinting, then his optics went wide as he suddenly realized- “Oh, slag.”
He ducked just before an axe swinging down from the ceiling could cleave him in the center of his chest. Had he been much shorter, it would have been aimed for his head.
“Heh.” Wheeljack stood up and stepped around the axe, grinning as it raised back into place and the door slid shut behind him. “Not bad.”
“Why, thank you,” a voice replied, and Wheeljack immediately jumped. “Whoa, whoa! Easy there, kid.” The Wrecker turned his head to see who was speaking, and his optics widened again. “Heh. Flighty little thing, aint’cha?” A chuckle. “I say ‘little’ in reference to your age… maybe. I’m not exactly sure how this works.”
“… Huh.” Wheeljack blinked, then he turned to face the other mech. “…That is-“
“Creepy?” The other mech crossed his arms. “Exactly what I was thinkin’.”
“… I was actually gonna comment on the mustache,” Wheeljack admitted.
The other mech deadpanned. “Hm. Nice beard, or is that a piece of shrapnel stuck to your chin?”
“You wanna talk about chins?”
“Like you’re one to talk.” At that smug comment, Wheeljack growled in annoyance—and the other mech just looked him up and down… before he smiled.“… Heh. Well, I’ll be damned. Another me.” The fans of his helmet flashed. “A relatively younger, taller… more battle-scarred me.”
Wheeljack blinked, then he gestured to the fans of his own helmet. “You’ve got the-“
“I’m guessin’ that there’s a story there,” his alternate decided, then he walked over to a work desk covered in data-pads. “Heh.” He sat down, and he gestured. “Well, pull up a seat.”
Wheeljack hesitated. “… You sure?”
“Why not?” The other mech asked, then he snorted: “You’re one of my ‘special Elite Guard assignments’, after all… And even if you weren’t, I think we have a lot to talk about.”
Wheeljack just looked at him, then he grabbed a chair and dragged it over to the other side of the desk. He sat down, and he just looked at… Wheeljack… for a moment, then he raised an optic-brow as he looked at the data-pads.
The area of the desk directly in front of his alternate was relatively clear, allowing him to work and get to his supplies and tools. There were other surfaces around the room for bigger and more-complex tasks, it was a truly large and well-supplied lab—safe, beneath the ground.
Suffocating, away from the sky.
Wheeljack knew he’d never survive.
Half of the desk they sat at was home to designs for starships and weapons, stacked and sorted neatly.
The other half of the desk had fewer data-pads, all scattered and more organized. Those seemed to be projects he worked on in his limited free-time, off the books—gadgets to ease everyday affairs for ordinary ‘bots, medical technology. They were just sketches and notes, but they told a story.
“… Fightin’ the good fight?” Wheeljack asked softly.
“Just… doin’ what I can to make the best of it, because I know that someone else in my position might not care to,” the elder Wheeljack replied quietly, folding his servos on his desk.
Wheeljack nodded, then he glanced at the data-pad sitting right in front of his alternate self. “Hm. You’re researchin’ space-bridges.”
“A request from Ultra Magnus,” the elder Wheeljack admitted. “He wanted me to figure out how to open a portal to an alternate reality… Your alternate reality.” He smirked. “I assume you caused quite a lot of trouble for him.”
“Eh.” Wheeljack crossed his arms and rolled his optics. “He deserved it.”
“Heh.” The elder Wheeljack nodded. “That, he did.” He sighed. “… The twins are fond of you, so is Jazz. They’re some of the good young ‘bots in the Elite Guard. They’re not too entrenched in the system, haven’t let power go to their heads.”
Wheeljack frowned. “Where I’m from, the Elite Guard was nothin’ like this. It’s like it’s just been… twisted.” He sighed. “My commander was once the head of the Elite Guard, and he’s one of the best mechs I’ve ever known. Another friend of mine, a good kid, received all of his trainin’ in the Elite Guard. It-…” He shook his head. “It wasn’t like this. And even at its worst outside of wartime, my Cybertron was never some sorta… military dictatorship. Hey, it was bad—there was inequality and corruption—but-… But this-…”
“This is a nightmare,” the elder Wheeljack said, then he nodded. “I know, kid... That’s another reason why we need to talk.” Wheeljack raised an optic-brow. “Those ‘bots you have with you back on Earth, they aren’t just any maintenance crew. You’ve seen it, haven’t you?” He leaned forward. “It’s the stuff of stories, those specific five just… stumblin’ into place like they did.”
Wheeljack tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“Think about it,” his alternate said. “You know that Field-Tech Ratchet was crucial in Project Omega. You know that Optimus Prime would’ve been the next Magnus if he hadn’t been screwed over. Prowl is one of the last great cyber-ninjas in the galaxy, a prized pupil of Master Yoketron—and, from what the reports say, skilled in processor-over-matter. That’s not a common ability, and to unlock its full potential on the fly? That’s somethin’ else.” His optics narrowed. “Bulkhead is our chief expert in space-bridge technology. And that Bumblebee kid had a wrench thrown in his life by a Decepticon spy, but he was still the only one with the sense to discover that there was one infiltratin’ in his class and he didn’t stop until he was sure that he had caught the bastard.” He leaned back in his seat. “Those five so-called washouts are either some of the most important ‘bots to walk Cybertron, reservoirs of untapped potential, or both—all of them… Don’t you ever wonder about how they all ended up on the original Omega Sentinel together?” He snorted. “‘Cause Ultra Magnus didn’t give them the credit they deserved, so it sure as the Pit wasn’t planned. Frag, the cyber-ninja wasn’t even supposed to be there.”
Wheeljack glanced down, then he looked at his alternate in bewilderment. “Well-”
“Then, the Allspark chose them,” the other Wheeljack went on. “And then, you came along—and you chose them, too. Even if this alternate universe was selected at random by the incident that brought you here, you could have ended-up anywhere in the cosmos—but… you fell into the city where those five, their Omega Sentinel, Megatron, and the Allspark were conveniently already waitin’ for you to get involved. Go ahead and stop me if I say somethin’ incorrect.”
“… You’ve done your research,” Wheeljack said at last. “But it’s hardly science—and your Primus is apparently just an expression, so it ain’t divine intervention.”
“Heh.” The relatively older mech grinned. “Yes, our Primus is just a story… but our Allspark isn’t. That counts for somethin’. And even if it didn’t, you don’t believe in luck?” At that, Wheeljack shifted in his seat. “… Those five are some of the best ‘bots in the galaxy, and they were cast aside. Now, they’re on the front lines—and you watch over them.” The other Wheeljack frowned. “You have to, because… at the rate things are goin’… I truly believe that they’re our only chance.”
Wheeljack raised an optic-brow again. “Why’s that?”
“… They got away,” his alternate replied. “And they let the universe change them. They learned, and they grew. They’re not buried in this system anymore, not like the rest of these kids who were young or weren’t even protoformed yet when the war began… so they don’t remember anything else. They don’t have those words runnin’ through their heads.” He took a deep vent. “… They got a chance. They took that chance. And I hope that they can bring what they got out of it home, when it’s all over. We desperately need it.”
“Hm.” Wheeljack glanced down, then he took a deep vent… and he looked back at his alternate. “… I think you’re right about them.”
“Call it a hunch,” Wheeljack said. “But the lineup, it ain’t entirely random. I mean, there are some big differences, but… I know it’s a team that’s meant to save worlds: Earth, Cybertron.” He put on a small grin. “Count on it, will ya?”
“Heh.” The elder Wheeljack smiled. “Strange as it is, I find myself inclined to.” He blinked as the scanner on Wheeljack’s outer forearm suddenly opened, beeping rapidly. “What is it?”
“Ratchet’s signal,” the Wrecker realized, looking down at the screen. “I rigged this to tell me when he was close.” He blinked as he watched the little red dot move about. “He’s drivin’.”
“… Beneath us,” Wheeljack said. “Hm.” He looked at his alternate with a raised optic-brow. “… Up to fight the good fight?”
“… Heh.” The elder Wheeljack smirked, and he stood up. “Like you’ve even gotta ask, kid… I’ll get my shock-blast cannon.”
Wheeljack blinked. “Your what?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Wheeljack followed his alternate into the tunnels that apparently ran as a labyrinth of passages beneath the surface of Cybertron, just as they did back on his own version of the world.
The engineers made their way through the tunnels, following the scanner’s lead, and they eventually arrived in a large chamber.
“A laboratory,” Wheeljack realized, looking around curiously at the stalls and the raised platforms crossing the space. “And it looks like you fellas were buildin’ somethin’ real big.”
“Several big things, actually,” his alternate told him. “This is where Project Omega was born. The lab has gone untouched for over a million years.”
Wheeljack glanced at him. “Yeah, Ratchet told me about all of this. You were in on it.” He saw his alternate’s face fall. “You wanted a schoolteacher to be the one Omega Supreme learned from.”
“… Yes.” The elder Wheeljack nodded, managing a small smile. “You figured it out, then?”
Wheeljack gave a little grin. “Ratchet figured it out, actually. He sure respects you for it.”
“Hm.” The alternate glanced away. “I didn’t do it to be respected. In fact, before I found a way to spin it, I figured that it was a sure-fire to get me thrown into the-” He glanced up as he heard something. “Someone’s comin’.”
Wheeljack drew his swords and slid his mask into place as a cracked-open door at the other side of the lab was pulled open, then he blinked as he saw- “Doc-‘Bot? Cap?”
“Wait, Wheeljack?” Captain Fanzone asked as Ratchet deactivated his magnets. “What the Hell are you doin’ here?!”
“Lookin’ for you two!” Wheeljack replied, walking across a raised platform to meet them. “The prof called me and said you’d been sucked through a space-bridge and Ratchet had gone after you! Until now, I couldn’t even be sure you were alive!”
Ratchet squinted. “Why in the Pit would he not be alive? I’m not incompetent!”
“He needs to breathe, and some questions were raised-” Wheeljack groaned, raising a servo to his forehead and failing to notice how the human’s eyes had gone wide. “Look, just forget it. I’ve already made arrangements with Jazz. He’s gonna meet us back at the bridge I came through and get us back to Earth.”
“We can’t leave, yet,” Ratchet protested while the captain walked over to examine several oil-barrels stacked on the edge of the room. “Wheeljack, this has gotten complicated. Lives are on the line, possibly all of Cybertron.”
“What?” Wheeljack blinked—not noticing how his alternate self walked past behind him to join Fanzone, his optics narrowed. “What exactly is goin’ on here, Ratchet?”
“I think we should move this party elsewhere,” Captain Fanzone suddenly spoke up, and the Wrecker and the field-tech glanced at him. “Call it a hunch, but—between the fresh tracks and these oil cans—I think someone’s been livin’ here for a while, and I’m not sure if we wanna be around when they come back.”
“I’m inclined to agree with…” The elder Wheeljack glanced down at the man. “Was it ‘Cap’?”
“Thanks for bein’ the first one since I got here, ‘sides Jazz, who hasn’t wanted to step on me,” Fanzone said, crossing his arms. “The name’s Fanzone, Captain Fanzone.”
“Wait, Wheeljack?” Ratchet blinked, then he stood up straight and saluted. “Sir.”
The elder Wheeljack smiled. “At ease, Ratchet.”
“Uh…” Fanzone raised an eyebrow as Ratchet relaxed. “Is Wheeljack like your guys’ equivalent to ‘John’? What’s this about?”
Wheeljack glanced at him. “I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m from… elsewhere, cap.” He gestured to his alternate. “This is the version of me who is actually from around here.”
“Oh.” Fanzone blinked. “Huh… Kinda forgot you weren’t-“ He cleared his throat, and he nodded. “Alright, then… Which one of you is the bigger troublemaker, or are you equal?”
“There’s no need for-“ The alternate Wheeljack blinked as Ratchet pointed at him, then he deadpanned and crossed his arms. “Really?”
“Huh.” Wheeljack blinked. “Really?”
Ratchet nodded. “Oh, yeah.”
“… I gotta up my game,” Wheeljack decided.
Ratchet pointed at him. “Do not.” The field-tech then sighed. “Look, look—enough.” He walked past them and across a platform to a control console. “If I can log in, I might be able to reach Omega. He’ll listen to me.”
“Omega Supreme?” Both Wheeljacks asked as they and Fanzone joined Ratchet, then the two engineers exchanged surprised glances.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,” a voice cut in, and Wheeljack’s Energon ran cold.
While the others turned around to face the voice, he remained still—unable to move.
“Shockwave?” Ratchet asked.
“You know this thing?!” Fanzone asked.
The field-tech activated his magnets, his optics narrowed. “Not personally, but we’re about to get real familiar!” He grabbed Wheeljack’s arm and coaxed him to step a bit to the side. “Kid, it’s okay. Just get behind me.”
“Huh?” Wheeljack blinked, his mind a haze. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think. “I-I-…”
“Wheeljack…” Ratchet frowned, then he looked at the alternate version. “Sir?”
“I have him,” the other Wheeljack said, grabbing the relatively younger mech’s arm and nodding.
“How sweet,” the menacing voice cooed, and Wheeljack finally looked up to see the figure before them and the glowing hammer in his servos. A single optic was fixated on him. “But it’s not going to do him any good.”
“Says you.” Ratchet stepped forward, glaring. “That’s Ultra Magnus’s hammer.”
“Considering his current condition, I don’t think he’ll mind,” Shockwave said, then he raised the hammer and swung it.
Both Ratchet and Fanzone had to dodge, and the elder Wheeljack pulled his younger alternate self back to steer clear of the battle.
Ratchet dodged again, and the hammer broke the control console—but the field-tech did not focus on their own lost opportunity. “Hope you weren’t planning on calling home!”
“Before long, this will be home,” Shockwave said with chilling surety. “And thanks to your Omega Supreme, the Autobots will be nothing but a skid-mark on the data-files.”
That made the elder Wheeljack blink, then his optics narrowed as he released his younger self in order to retrieve the cannon he had brought along from where it was secured to his back.
“You may have Omega Supreme, but he would never attack Cybertron!” Ratchet insisted, keeping Shockwave distracted while the Wheeljack from his reality worked.
“That’s the beauty of activation codes,” Shockwave insisted. “They wipe clean all that unpleasant morality.”
Shockwave swung his hammer at Ratchet again, but the field-tech raised his magnets and caught it within their field.
“If you think you’re getting those codes outta me, you’ll have to download them from my cold, offline processor!”
“And have you corrupt them with a magnetic virus? No, thank you!” Shockwave retorted, trying to get the hammer free from the magnetic field. “I’ve studied your files, Ratchet. I’ll be going to the source for those codes, the original source!”
Ratchet’s face dropped.
Taking that opening, Shockwave released his grip on the hammer—and the field-tech screamed as he flew over the ledge of the platform.
Shockwave then caught the hammer, and he glanced over the edge.
“I’ll be sure to give Omega Supreme your regards, before I reboot him! And as for your ‘kid’…” He turned and looked at his next target, his optic glinting. “… Hello, Wheeljack.”
The Wrecker just stared at him. ‘Move, move, move, move!’
He didn’t move.
Why couldn’t he move?!
It wasn’t even his Shockwave!
“Hi,” the other Wheeljack greeted for him, having propped-up his cannon on his shoulder.
He smirked, then his optics narrowed as he fired.
A sparking projectile flew out of the end of the cannon, and it struck Shockwave’s chest and sent him dropping to the floor with a howl of pain.
“Ratchet?!” Fanzone took the opportunity to run over to the ledge, and his expression filled with relief as he saw that the field-tech was using his magnets to lift himself back up onto the platform.
“I’m getting too old for this,” Ratchet told him, then he looked at Shockwave as the Decepticon started to recover. “Oh, no.”
“Alright, that’s our cue!” The other Wheeljack shouted, and he grabbed his younger self’s servo and started to pull. “Come on, kid! Run!”
Wheeljack blinked, then he nodded shakily—and Ratchet picked Captain Fanzone up before all three of the Autobots ran.
“Okay!” Fanzone shouted, trying to sound frustrated but unable to mask his concern. “Why is this now a race AND a protection detail?!”
“Megatron put a bounty on Wheeljack’s head!” Ratchet explained quickly, gesturing to the Wheeljack he meant. “The ‘Cons want to capture him and experiment on him!”
The captain blinked. “Okay, that’s just fucking awful. Why the Hell do they wanna do that?!”
“He’s from another universe!” The alternate Wheeljack reminded him.
“Oh, for-!” Fanzone groaned, closing his eyes. “It’s always something!”
Once the group had gotten some distance and hopefully lost Shockwave in the tunnels, they stopped to collect themselves.
“What is going on?!” Fanzone demanded as the Wheeljack he knew slid down a wall and into a seated position. “I mean, seriously: what?! One of you almost got murdered back there, one of you almost murdered the almost-murderer with a giant taser-gun, and-!” He glanced at the young Wheeljack, who had closed his optics and was taking deep vents, and his face dropped. “… And I wanna know what’s goin’ on.” He looked up at Ratchet. “What are we up against?”
The other Wheeljack looked up from a data-pad he was checking. “Right now, Omega Supreme—the first Omega Sentinel, and the last one still conscious and capable of achievin’ robot-mode—is hoverin’ in our atmosphere, havin’ been commandeered by Megatron. However, Megatron cannot control the Sentinel unless he has the activation codes which would force Omega Supreme to imprint upon him, and—given his domineerin’ personality—obey his every command… or possibly assassinate him. But then, we’d have a giant Megatron.”
“Okay, bad.” Fanzone frowned. “What did the cyclops back there mean when he said that he was goin’ after the codes’ original source?”
“Her name is Arcee,” Ratchet explained. “She was an intel-‘bot during the war, transporting the activation codes for Project Omega when her memory got wiped. She’s been pretty much comatose ever since, but… Shockwave must think he can somehow get her back.”
“And take the codes,” Fanzone concluded. “So, the Council is taking its time with coming to a decision of what to do about the big fella—the hostage—in the sky while all of this happens under their noses. That’s just great.”
“And Sentinel is on the move,” the elder Wheeljack said, gesturing to his data-pad. “He has ordered all non-essential Energon to the Metroplex. He’s preparing Fortress Maximus.” He noticed that the other Wheeljack looked up with wide optics. “And… my young counterpart is lookin’ just a bit concerned, now.”
“… Metroplex and Fortress Maximus,” Wheeljack muttered, then he looked at the two relatively older mechs. “They, um… They alive?”
Ratchet frowned. “I mean, they’re populated areas.”
“No, I mean-” Wheeljack sighed. “Forget it.”
“No.” The elder Wheeljack was starting to grin, his optics shining in absolute delight. “No, what did you mean?!”
“Priorities!” Fanzone cut this off, then he looked at the younger Wheeljack worriedly. “You, uh… You doin’ alright there, champ?”
“I’ll live,” Wheeljack insisted, looking at him with a frown. “Sorry ‘bout that, cap.”
“No need.” Fanzone rested a hand on the Autobot’s leg. “I see it all the time. You just, uh… breathe, ‘cause you… apparently need to?”
Wheeljack chuckled quietly. “Not like you do, but… alright, then.” He looked up at Ratchet. “What happens if Omega Supreme gets blasted? Please, given prior battles, tell me-”
“What, that there’s not a good chance that the transwarp energy he has absorbed will cause a chain reaction leading to the destruction of the planet?” Ratchet asked dryly. “After you planted a grenade in his neck that one time, while he was taking a stroll in the Detroit River?”
“… Yeah, tell me that,” Wheeljack said awkwardly, and his elder alternate chuckled while Fanzone rested his face in his hand.
Ratchet shook his head. “Nope.”
“Great!” Wheeljack rolled his optics, then he sighed. “So, if we fail… Omega Supreme gets blasted and Arcee gets kidnapped. If Omega Supreme is blasted, Megatron and Starscream go with him—but also most-likely the whole planet. If they get Arcee, the ‘Cons can activate Omega Supreme, wipe his memories, and just blast Cybertron themselves. Right?”
Ratchet nodded. “Yep.”
“We’re fragged,” Wheeljack decided.
Ratchet nodded again. “Yep.” He walked over and extended a servo. “But not without a fight.” Wheeljack reached up and took the field-tech’s servo—and the elder mech pulled him back onto his feet and steadied him. “Easy, kid.”
“Thanks, Doc-‘Bot,” Wheeljack said quietly, and his elder alternate rested a servo on his back.
Fanzone didn’t like this.
There was one hostage already being held by the enemy, another vulnerable target waiting in a coma someplace, and… a friend of his… walking around with a target on his back.
Wheeljack—not… Cybertron’s Wheeljack, their Wheeljack—had baggage, that had been something the captain had learned.
But he’d never seen this sort of reaction from the ‘space cowboy’, as a lot of folks back in Detroit would affectionately call him.
That Shockwave guy caused it, and that was the guy who was now hunting him.
Then, that Jazz guy was still tailing them at a distance. The captain was still trying to figure out what that ‘bot’s goals were.
It was a bad situation, and they were driving into it at full-speed—and Fanzone still felt like there was something he was missing.
“… You don’t know how to beat him, do you?” The other Wheeljack asked, catching the captain’s attention. “Shockwave.”
“No.” The younger mech shook his head. “No, I-… Back home, I was never able to beat him. He was too much.” That explained it. “All I ever managed to do was scare him off, and only once for real.”
Fanzone frowned. “Well, how’d you do that?”
“Well, I-” The young Wheeljack blinked. “Huh… You don’t think-?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Ratchet cut him off. “If we hurry now, we might not even have to deal with Shockwave.” He looked at his Wheeljack, his teammate—his ‘kid’. “And you listen here… I don’t want you dealing with him at all, whatever happens. You understand?”
“Famous last words, Doc-‘Bot.”
“Shuddup, kid.” Ratchet rolled his optics, then he looked down. “Now, we need to find a way into the Cybertronian Central Infirmary.” Both Wheeljacks opened their mouths. “Quietly.”
Both Wheeljacks closed their mouths.
Fanzone snorted, then he looked up at the field-tech with a smirk. “I think I’ve got an idea.”
Turns out, hustling a scumbag who made black-market deals on the streets while threatening him with organic contamination will not always get you the best results. Unfortunately for Ratchet, the two Wheeljacks, and Captain Fanzone, this did not occur to them until they had arrived at the doors to the restricted ward of the Cybertronian Central Infirmary.
“Ugh! Access denied?!” Ratchet demanded. “You gotta be kidding me!” He threw the faulty keycard over his shoulder, frustrated. “This is-!”
“Give me a nanoclick.” the elder Wheeljack insisted, stepping forward and looking down at the access-panel. “I’ll get it open.”
The younger Wheeljack picked Fanzone up and held a servo in front of him like a blast-shield, already planning ahead.
“Looks like some ‘bot sold you some bogus codes,” someone cut in before they could go any further, and Ratchet activated his magnets.
“Relax.” Fanzone held a hand up, and the field-tech looked down at him. “If he was going for the collar, he’d have done it by now.” He looked over at where Jazz was standing. “Been following us since the tunnels. I may not have built-in scanners, but I know how to spot a tail.”
The cyber-ninja sent a grateful look towards the police captain, then he approached the group.
“The Elite Guard need to get it through their thick plating that destroying Omega Supreme is just plain wrong!” Ratchet said, barely noticing in his rant that Jazz had gotten out a keycard and placed it into the access-panel.
Then, the field-tech’s face dropped and his optics went wide as the door slid open and Jazz put the keycard into his servo.
“Preaching to the choir, brother,” the cyber-ninja said quietly, gently coaxing the astonished older mech through the door.
“Jazz?” Wheeljack asked him.
The younger mech looked at him and put on a weak smile. “I thought I told you to keep your head ducked.”
Wheeljack blinked, then he put on a grin. “You know me, Jazz.”
“Two of us, technically.” The elder Wheeljack slid over to stand by his younger counterpart, and he nodded at Jazz in approval. “Don’t worry, I took out the cameras.”
“Heh.” Jazz crossed his arms. “That’s Wheeljack, for you… Always trying to do the right thing, in his own way.”
“… Be careful, kid,” Wheeljack insisted as his alternate walked through the door.
Jazz nodded. “You, too.”
Wheeljack nodded back, then he followed the others while still carrying Fanzone.
Odds were that they were running short on time.
When they arrived at the correct hospital room and entered, the two Wheeljacks quickly shut the door and the elder of the two got to work sealing it while Ratchet and Fanzone approached the unconscious Autobot on the berth.
“Arcee?” The field-tech tried, looking crestfallen as he gazed down at her. “It’s me, Ratchet.”
Wheeljack blinked, then he turned away from the door. “Wait… That’s Arcee?”
Ratchet glanced at him. “What is it?”
“She’s so… pink,” Wheeljack admitted.
Ratchet raised an optic-brow. “And?”
“Where I’m from, she’s mostly blue—y’know, ‘cause it’s the color of- Oh…” Wheeljack nodded. “Okay, yeah—that makes sense.”
“What are you going on about, kid?” Ratchet asked dryly as the Wrecker shook his head before starting to move about the room, opening the cupboards and drawers to rummage about.
Wheeljack paused in front of a monitor and glanced back at the field-tech as he seemed to distractedly tinker with the machine. “Well, y’know—she’s pink here, and she’s blue back home. Energon’s pink here, and it’s blue back home. Coincidence? I think not.”
Ratchet blinked. “… Wait-”
The Wrecker suddenly went tense—and he glanced back at the door just as his elder alternate stepped away from it, having finished sealing it shut. “… Get back.”
“Kid?” Ratchet blinked. “What is it?” The Wrecker just moved to stand before the door and held an arm out like a shield, and his alternate blinked before nodding and stepping back—his shock-blast cannon raised. “Kid?”
“… He’s here,” Wheeljack announced, and he raised his other arm to protect his face just before the door was blown apart.
Wheeljack grunted as a large piece of shrapnel sank into the armor of his extended arm, then he glanced back at the wide-opticed Ratchet.
“Yeah, uh… About what you said earlier? I think I gotta deal with him, now.”
“Thank you, Ratchet.” Shockwave stepped into the room, gaining everyone’s attention. “You just saved me the effort of searching for her myself.” His optic moved to gaze at the Wrecker. “Ah, Wheeljack… The more-interesting Wheeljack.”
“Hey!” The elder alternate complained.
“No interruptions this time.” The Decepticon loomed over the younger Wheeljack. “At last, we meet—face to face.” He tilted his head. “You’re shaking. Something has you very frightened.”
“… Oh, yeah.” Wheeljack nodded. “See, you’ve put me in a bind.”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack actually smirked. “See, here’s how the logic was explained to me… King ‘Con’s in the atmosphere, with an Omega Sentinel. We let him stay there, he could use Omega Supreme to wipe out all Autobots if you get back to him with the codes. We shoot him down, planet could go with him. Either way, we’re fragged.” He pointed at Shockwave. “But as long as he’s waitin’ for you, I think there’s time to -well- think.” He moved his servo to instead point back at Arcee with his thumb. “And you’re not leavin’ without her. So, that’s our bind. We can’t let you leave. And so, make sure you don’t get her, I’ve created another bind.”
Shockwave’s optic narrowed. “What, pray tell?”
“… I rigged this whole room with explosives and unstable Energon,” Wheeljack replied, and his allies all looked at him in disbelief as his detonator slid out of his wrist and into his servo. He grunted in pain when it happened, as it was the arm that had the shrapnel shard—but then he looked at Shockwave again. “You play any tricks, we all go up in smoke. This fight takes a turn, I just blow us up anyway. No one gets the codes.”
“What?!” Fanzine’s eyes widened. “Was that what all of that rummaging was?!”
And that got a reaction out of Shockwave.
The Decepticon shifted back a step, suddenly on-edge and uncertain, and he looked down at Wheeljack. “No one gets the codes… and everyone in this room dies.”
“… Yeah.” Wheeljack nodded, strangely calm. “Everyone dies. Scary, right? But -y’know- the planet lives.” He smirked as Shockwave’s optic widened. “Heh. You didn’t count on that.” The Wrecker’s optics narrowed. “I’m a soldier, pal. Soldiers make tough field decisions all the time.”
Wheeljack hated being called ‘soldier’.
In fact, Ratchet could remember a story the Wrecker told that involved how annoyed he got when his commander would insist upon it.
What was happening?
“Not to kill themselves and take their friends with them,” Shockwave argued.
“… You’ve never actually met a Wrecker, have you? That’s the job,” Wheeljack said, still eerily calm. Shockwave stepped back again, and the Wrecker chuckled. “Look at that… It was always hard to read my Shockwave’s face, not that he was the emotive type. But you? You look scared. Heh.” The Wrecker waved the detonator, acting almost playful. “Tell you what? Put the hammer down and step back, and I take my thumb off the trigger. Whaddya say?” Shockwave’s optic narrowed again, and Wheeljack grew serious in response. “Hey. Think logically, for a moment… You’re no use to anyone dead.”
It was quiet.
Shockwave seemed to mull things over.
Wheeljack’s servo shook, but his expression did not waver. Ratchet wondered how serious he was.
“… Hm.” The Decepticon finally nodded. “Very true, Wrecker—and you are of greatest use to me alive.” When he stepped forward, Wheeljack’s free servo flew up and wrapped around the handle of one of his swords. Shockwave’s optic glinted. “And I think that I shall be leaving this place with both of you, intact.”
Ratchet activated his magnets. “You’re not touching him, or her.”
“Oh, I think I am,” Shockwave said, then he looked at Wheeljack. “See, logically… you wouldn’t be worried about me, if this room was actually rigged to explode. Death, yes—but not me. You would have all of the insurance needed to ensure that neither you nor the intel-‘bot ended up in my servos, Wrecker… but your fear betrays you.” He looked at the servo Wheeljack still had wrapped around the handle of his sword. “If you really held the cards you claimed, you wouldn’t have gone for your blade. You would have reminded me of your leverage, threatened me… but you didn’t. You got ready to protect yourself from me.” The Wrecker’s optics widened. “You were bluffing—well, but not well enough. You and Arcee will be coming with me.”
“No, they won’t,” Fanzone stated as he moved to stand at the foot of Arcee’s berth.
“Who is to stop me?” Shockwave asked, then he gestured to Wheeljack. “He’s shaking. You know he won’t beat me. He’s terrified.”
The elder Wheeljack aimed his cannon. “He doesn’t have to beat you, ‘Con.”
“Oh, so: you will?” The Decepticon looked at all of them condescendingly. “An old field tech, a frail little organic, and a washed-up old guild scientist who has ripped himself apart and welded new parts back so many times that you have to wonder if there’s any of himself actually left.” He shook his head. “I’m truly intimidated.”
“… Yeah, I think you should be,” Wheeljack said quietly, lowering his servo from his blade.
Shockwave turned his gaze back on the Wrecker, seeming amused. “And why is that?”
“Because you ain’t as smart as you think you are.” Wheeljack smirked, raising his detonator. His free servo went to his hip and tapped twice, and Ratchet suddenly realized that there was no grenade there. “I wasn’t bluffin’.”
Eyes and optics widened as the Wrecker’s thumb pressed the trigger.
The monitor exploded, the blast throwing Shockwave to the floor and obscuring the room in smoke, and Wheeljack put his detonator away before he activated the opposite arm’s cannon.
“Not entirely, at least!” He shouted, then he looked back at his allies. “Come on!”
Ratchet grabbed the back of Arcee’s berth and started to wheel her out. “Kid, if we survive this-!”
“I know, I know!” Wheeljack gestured, coaxing the field-tech with the berth and the captain as well as his alternate out the door. “Let’s go!”
The Autobot and the captain made their way down the hallway, with Wheeljack drawing one of his swords and deflecting blasts sent their way by an angry Decepticon tank as they went.
“Remarkable!” The elder Wheeljack noted, looking at his younger alternate with a broad grin. “What kinda alloy is that?!”
“Can we talk about this later?!” The younger engineer asked as they turned a corner and Ratchet slid the berth with Arcee and Captain Fanzone through an open door.
“New plan,” the field tech insisted. “Stay here.”
Fanzone deadpanned. “Like I got a choice.”
Ratchet glanced at the elder Wheeljack. “Sir, can you act as the last line of defense?”
The older engineer blinked, then he grew serious and nodded. “With my life.”
“Hm.” Ratchet watched the mech step into the room and heft his cannon, prepared for a fight that would no doubt come, then he looked at the younger version. “Kid, you should-”
“Not happenin’.” Wheeljack shook his head even as the floor shook with the motion of the approaching tank. “You need backup.”
Ratchet frowned. “But-”
“Ain’t this a little bigger than this?” Wheeljack asked quietly, gesturing to the side of his head with his sword. “… I’ll be okay, Doc-‘Bot.”
Ratchet didn’t know if he believed it.
From the look on his face, Wheeljack probably wasn’t sure either… but he wasn’t wrong.
Cybertron, maybe even the universe, hung in the balance. They needed to win this fight.
“… Fine,” Ratchet relented, then his optics widened as the relatively younger mech suddenly spun around and deflected yet another crimson blast with his sword. “Whoa!”
“See, I told ya! Backup!” Wheeljack insisted as the field-tech reached over and shut the door, and the Wrecker took aim at Shockwave as the arriving Decepticon transformed to face the two of them. “Frag, I’ve changed…”
“Hm.” Shockwave took the Magnus Hammer into two servos. “The Wrecker is understandable. Records state that—in this reality, at least—they were always reckless, especially with their own lives… But you, field-tech? You’re fighting rather bravely for nothing more than a shelved piece of empty hardware and a lost creature that was never meant to be here in the first place.”
“Ouch,” Wheeljack remarked, deadpanning. Ratchet glanced at him, and the Wrecker just smirked and shrugged. “But hey, can’t argue.”
“Yes, I most certainly can,” Ratchet told him—then he looked at Shockwave again, his fists clenching as he activated his magnets. “You’re not touching either of them.” His magnets sparked as his optics narrowed. “And for the record, she’s got a name: Arcee… And if you think you can bring her back, then maybe I can too.”
“How noble.” Shockwave swung the hammer back, preparing to strike. “Pity you’ll never get the opportunity to find out!”
Wheeljack shifted his cannon back into a servo and gripped his one drawn sword with both servos, getting ready to try and block the strike—but Ratchet moved first.
The energy from his magnets struck the hammer and lifted it up, magnetizing it to the ceiling while Shockwave yelled in surprise.
Given that the Decepticon didn’t want to let go of the weapon, he was left dangling there with his legs kicking—for a moment, at least.
“Nice shot!” Wheeljack admitted as he and Ratchet quickly moved to stand on either side of the Decepticon and box him in, with the Wrecker drawing his second blade.
Ratchet looked at the relatively younger mech with a smirk. “You’re getting slow.”
“Haha.” Wheeljack grew serious as Shockwave fell to the ground and started to recover, the Wrecker pointing one of his blades to hold him at bay.
However, Shockwave’s focus wasn’t on him.
“Ugh.” He sat up, looking at Ratchet with that one unblinking optic. “You’re a tough old model, aren’t you? Maybe it’s time to retire!”
Ratchet blinked, then his optics widened as the Decepticon lunged. The Magnus Hammer swung at him and knocked him through a wall, and he landed on a pile of rubble as dust filled the air.
The field-tech’s vision blurred and his audial receptors filled with static—then, the next thing he knew, he was hearing metal clang against metal. He sat up, his optics wide, to see that the brawl in the hallway was only just getting started.
Wheeljack’s mask had slid into place, and he looked livid. The blades of his swords were on the handle of the Magnus Hammer, as Shockwave had used it to block an attack.
The Wrecker must have attacked the Decepticon within seconds of Ratchet being struck—a blind reaction, solely instinctual.
Shockwave, however, seemed unconcerned by what he had brought upon himself.
“Looks like it’s just you and me, Wheeljack—and you’re all out of tricks.”
“Oh, I think I can still surprise you,” Wheeljack disagreed, his voice cold.
“Hm. Trust me—you, in fact, cannot,” Shockwave said dryly, and Wheeljack’s optics widened. “Oh? Now, that got a reaction.”
“Kid!” Ratchet shakily got onto one knee as Shockwave took that opening and used it to pull the hammer back and swing it at the Wrecker.
He figured that he was about to see Wheeljack get hurt, or worse.
But something flashed in Wheeljack’s optics as the hammer swung at him, and he stepped back before swiftly ducking as Shockwave swung the hammer again at his head.
And it went on like that.
No matter how hard the Decepticon tried, he couldn’t hit the Wrecker—not with the hammer—and the motion was throwing him off-balance. The weapon was too big.
“Heh.” Wheeljack actually started to grin, finding that he didn’t even have to use his weapons—the double-agent was making himself tired, and quickly growing frustrated. “Well, look at that.” He reached up and caught the handle of the hammer, and Shockwave tensed. “You don’t even know how to use this thing, do ya? You think it’s just ‘swung it around’, nothin’ to it?” He chuckled. “Oh, now—that’s just sad.”
The Wrecker suddenly tugged the Magnus Hammer aside so that he could rear a fist—still wrapped around the handle of a sword—back and punch Shockwave right in his optic.
“AGH!” The double-agent wailed, gripping his optics and staggering back—and Wheeljack smiled deviously as he spun one of his blades.
“Now, we’re gettin’ somewhere,” the Wrecker decided, and Ratchet watched in disbelief as the younger mech strode towards the recovering Decepticon. “‘Cause see, the more I think about it… my reality’s Shockwave would think you were the most melodramatic loser he ever met. I mean it, he’d be embarrassed for you—with all of the villain monologues and givin’ your plans away while the enemy still has time to stop ya.” He snorted. “And he had to deal with sharing a rank with Starscream, the fraggin’ king of that type o’ nonsense. Frag, now I’m crunchin’ the numbers, you’re actually pathetic by comparison.”
Ratchet’s jaw dropped.
Shockwave looked up at Wheeljack, his cracked optic flickering as he growled in growing rage. “I dethroned Ultra Magnus.”
“Thanks,” Wheeljack said bluntly. “This version sucks. And apparently, he’s been the head of this military dictatorship for twelve million years.” The Wrecker squinted. “The frag?”
“Oh.” Shockwave had not been expecting that reaction. “Uh, well-”
“Gotcha.” Wheeljack spun around and slammed a foot into Shockwave’s midsection, sending the Decepticon falling back onto the floor, and he pointed a sword at that cracked optic. “By the way, my guy? He cloned dragons. Top that.”
Ratchet’s jaw was still hanging slack, then he actually barked out a laugh.
He wasn’t sure what this was doing for the kid’s mental health, but it was something!
“I-…” Shockwave was at a loss, then his optic narrowed. “Hm… You’re rather good against a hammer. Did someone teach you that?”
“Heh.” Wheeljack spun his other blade, nodding. “Yeah, actually. And you really are sloppy.”
“Perhaps I am,” Shockwave conceded, still gripping the weapon, then the hammer sparked.
Wheeljack blinked, then his optics went wide just before a bolt of electricity flew out from the Magnus Hammer and struck his chest.
Ratchet blinked, and the Wrecker was flying through the hole he had made in the wall—and making it bigger—and striking a wall on the opposite side of whatever hospital room the two Autobots had ended-up in. Wheeljack grunted as his back hit the solid surface hard enough to dent and crack it, then he fell to the floor—his blades clattering as they slipped for him servos.
“Agh…” Wheeljack tried to pushed himself onto his servos and knees, but his arms gave out and he fell down again.
Ratchet stared at him in dismay as Shockwave strode past him without care and approached the fallen Wrecker.
“Not fond of electricity, are we?” The Decepticon murmured. “Fascinating. I had my theories after what was reported of your reaction to stasis-cuffs, but this is the proof.” He got down on one knee and grabbed one of Wheeljack’s helmet fans, turning the Wrecker’s head to get a good look. “You will be a wonderful study.”
Wheeljack gritted his dentas, his fists clenching ad he glared up at Shockwave, but he seemed to be having trouble moving otherwise.
“Don’t touch him,” Ratchet insisted, but the rage wasn’t in his words.
They were losing.
They may have already lost—with Wheeljack down, and a human and an old engineer being the only things between Arcee and capture.
Ratchet had already lost Omega Supreme. The Council could have already voted to shoot him, so it may have been forever—not that ‘forever’ would last too long after the blast struck.
He had already lost Arcee too, failing to help her after she lost her memories. That would likely be forever, if Shockwave succeeded in his goal.
He hadn’t lost Wheeljack yet. He wouldn’t lose him, not another ‘bot he could’ve saved.
Not that kid.
“Oh, hello.” Shockwave had noticed the patient at the center of the room. “What’s this?” Ratchet looked at the patient as well, and his optics widened. “Well, if it isn’t my old boss: Ultra Magnus?” The Decepticon left Wheeljack so that he could approach the unconscious mech. “Hm. Perhaps I should finish what I started.”
Shockwave raised the hammer, summoning more lightning—and Ratchet found himself reacting.
He pushed himself to his feet, his EMP generator sliding free from his arm and priming, and he raised the device and took aim at the immediate threat: the Magnus Hammer itself. The blast landed, and the hammer went dark—causing Shockwave to lower it and look back at him.
Ratchet didn’t even hesitate in firing again.
The blast struck Shockwave’s chest and knocked him through the wall, and Ratchet reached out and caught the Magnus Hammer—his optics narrowed as he glowered at the cloud of dust where the Decepticon had disappeared.
He looked down at Ultra Magnus with a frown, then he blinked before his optics widened. “Kid.”
Ratchet ran over to the Wrecker, setting the Magnus Hammer aside so that he could carefully turn the younger mech over onto his back and get a good look at his more serious injuries.
Wheeljack hissed at the sharp movement, then he looked up at Ratchet as his battle-mask slid away to reveal a weary grin. “I’m alright.”
Ratchet did not listen—instead focusing on the shrapnel in the Wrecker’s arm and the scorch-mark on his chest, wondering about the side-effects of such a powerful electric shock in a mech with a heightened sensitivity… not to mention all kinds of trauma… when it came to-
“Hey.” Wheeljack reached up and grabbed his wrist, and Ratchet blinked. “I’m alright.” Ratchet looked at him, and he saw the weak smile on the Wrecker’s face. “I said I’d be okay.”
“… I know,” Ratchet said softly, then he smiled at the other mech. “You did good, kid.”
Wheeljack beamed, then he grunted as Ratchet helped him sit up and then stagger to his feet. The field-tech kept an arm around the Wrecker, who had an arm slung around his own shoulders.
“You, too,” Wheeljack admitted, then he saw the Magnus Hammer in Ratchet’s other servo. “So, uh… Does this make you king, or-?”
Ratchet rolled his optics. “Shuddup, kid.”
“What’s going on, in here?!” The two blinked as Sentinel of all ‘bots suddenly ran into the room, his lance and shield ready, and his optics went wide as he saw the scene. “Whoa!” He pointed his lance. “Drop the hammer, and-!”
“Easy, Sentinel.” Wheeljack raised his free servo, then he pointed to the newest hole in the wall. “Shockwave. Decepticon. Multiple attempts of kidnappin’ and murder.” He pointed at Ultra Magnus. “Ratchet just saved him.” He pointed back to the hole. “And stopped him.” He raised an optic-brow. “Wanna add an arrest to your ledger? The ‘Con who attacked Ultra Magnus? Let’s all calm down for a minute.” Sentinel blinked, then he lowered his weapons. “Atta’boy.”
“Shut up.” Sentinel scoffed, then he walked over to the two older mechs and looked up at the Wrecker. “… You look terrible.”
“Like your color-scheme?” Wheeljack asked dryly.
Sentinel rolled his optics. “Ugh.”
The facility suddenly shook, and Wheeljack looked back at the hole in the wall with wide optics. “Uh-oh. That’s trouble.”
“Oh, ya think?!” Ratchet asked in annoyance as he helped his relatively younger teammate over to the hole in the wall. “For Allspark’s sake-”
Wheeljack glanced back. “Uh, swords? We’re leavin’ my swords. I’ll probably need those.” He looked forward, deadpanning. “Great.”
“Here.” Sentinel caught up to them, the Wrecker’s swords in-hand—and he reached up and put them in their proper place on the Wrecker’s back before readying his own lance again. “Try not to get yourself killed. You’re not that far off.”
“You wish,” Wheeljack retorted, and Ratchet almost thought he saw the young Prime smirk.
There were more-important things to focus on.
When the dust cleared, Ratchet assumed he would see the worst.
Instead, he saw… something…
“Whoa.” Sentinel blinked. “Is that-?” He suddenly pointed his lance, his optics wide. “And that’s-!”
“Yeah, that’s Shockwave,” Wheeljack agreed with a shaking nod, his optics wide. “And… I guess that’s the alternate me.”
The elder Wheeljack stood between Shockwave, who was down on one knee and recovering from some sort of attack, and Arcee’s berth—with a wide-eyed Captain Fanzone still standing on it.
The old engineer smirked, his shock-blast cannon resting against his shoulder, as he glanced towards the three newly-arrived Autobots.
“I was assigned as the last line of defense,” he teased, then he looked towards Shockwave as his optics narrrowed. “Hm. Now… what was it you called me, you little Decepticon punk? Oh, yeah.” He held a finger up. “I think the gist was a washed-up old guild scientist.”
Shockwave looked up at him, his shoulders raising. “Out of my way.”
“Mm.” The elder Wheeljack squinted. “… No. No, I don’t think so.”
Shockwave went to lunge at him, but the engineer took his shock-blast cannon in two servos and swung it like a bat—smacking the side of Shockwave’s head and sending him dropping to the floor. When the Decepticon looked up at him again, the elder Wheeljack tossed his damaged cannon aside with a chuckle as a panel on his shoulder opened up and a truly shoulder-mounted cannon slid into place.
“What the-?! Hey! Cannons are illegal!” Sentinel shouted, frustrated.
The elder Wheeljack rolled his optics. “So is your color scheme. Prioritize well for just a fraggin’ moment—will ya, kid?”
“Hey!” Sentinel shouted as the younger version of Wheeljack laughed.
“Heh.” The elder Wheeljack smirked as the end of his cannon started to glow orange. “Now… Pay attention, ‘cause this old ‘bot’s gonna teach you some new tricks.”
Shockwave stood up, his own cannon shifting out and into place onto his arm. “You should have stayed in your lab.”
“Meh.” The aged engineer shrugged. “This just seemed like more fun. Besides, now that there’s another me runnin’ around, I can’t go outta style—now, can I?” He held a servo out. “Sword!”
Wheeljack blinked, then he smirked as he drew one of his swords and threw it. The elder version of Wheeljack caught it, and he grinned.
Shockwave raised his cannon and fired, but the elder Wheeljack raised the sword and deflected the blasts while the cannon on his shoulder automatically took aim and returned fire.
“Oh, I gotta get me one of those,” Wheeljack said, his optics wide as he watched this.
Ratchet looked up at his teammate, annoyed. “Don’t you dare! You’d blow yourself up, tryna make somethin’ like that work!”
“Yeah…” Wheeljack chuckled as Shockwave stepped back and used his free arm to try and shield his face. “Oh, this is priceless.”
“We haven’t won yet,” Ratchet reminded him.
He shouldn’t have jinxed it.
Shockwave pointed his cannon up at the ceiling and fired, causing the battle-weakened structure to crumble on top of the elder Wheeljack, Captain Fanzone, and Arcee. The Decepticon then strode over, removed some of the rubble, and retrieved Arcee—who still remained unconscious.
“Oh, slag!” Wheeljack raised his free arm, but the large piece of shrapnel imbedded there ended his attempt to activate his cannon with a hiss of pain.
Sentinel noticed this, then he stepped forward to face Shockwave and raised his shield and lance. “Release the Autobot, now!”
Shockwave turned his optic on the young Prime, who froze under his unblinking gaze before his optics narrowed again—and he let out a yell and charged. Shockwave merely raised his cannon-arm and swatted the young mech aside, then he activated a pair of boosters in his feet and blasted off—using his cannon to shoot holes in the ceiling for him to escape through.
Sentinel recovered and looked up as the elder Wheeljack finally wrestled himself out of the rubble and took aim, but the engineer cursed and shook his head. “He’s too far. I can’t fire without the risk of hittin’ her instead.”
“He-… He escaped!” Sentinel managed, looking at the elder Autobots in alarm.
Ratchet nodded, his expression grim as he gazed up as well. “And he’s got Arcee.” They had lost, then. “If he can get those activation codes out of her-” He blinked as Sentinel immediately raised a finger to his commlink. “Wait-”
“Jetfire, Jetstorm: open fire!” Sentinel ordered. “Take down Omega Supreme!”
The elder Wheeljack’s face immediately dropped, and Ratchet’s optics widened. “What?!” His optics narrowed. “You’ll blow us up with him!”
“Ugh.” A tiny figure suddenly popped out of the rubble. “This is why I hate machines…” Captain Fanzone, battered and tired, crossed his arms and turned a disappointed glare on Sentinel. “Certain machines more than others.”
“Cap.” Wheeljack frowned down at the weary officer. “You alright?”
Fanzone looked up at him. “I’ll live, for the next five or so minutes until the planet explodes.”
“… It shouldn’t take this long. We should be dead, by now,” Wheeljack murmured, glancing up.
“You’re complaining?” Fanzone asked dryly.
Wheeljack frowned. “The weapons system was ready. When ordered, they should’ve immediately opened fire. Assumin’ we’re not about to see a coup, there should’ve been a real big bang.” He glanced at Ratchet. “Can you-?”
Ratchet offered him the Magnus Hammer, and Wheeljack blinked before taking it so that the field-tech could free a servo to retrieve his scanner. He checked it, and he blinked in surprise before looking up at those around him.
Wheeljack kept his distance as everything was sorted out, after Omega Supreme vanished and took the Decepticons—and Arcee—with him.
Maybe it was how tired he was, or maybe it was him feeling out of place on a world that wasn’t his own Cybertron. Maybe it was the fact that one of the two old mechs who had showed up to get him, Ratchet, and Captain Fanzone home to Earth introduced himself as Perceptor.
He really was still alive… but different.
Whatever it was, Wheeljack stood at a distance as Ratchet and Fanzone did all of the talking with Sentinel, Perceptor, Jazz, and the second old mech: Alpha Trion, who was also still kicking.
However, Wheeljack wasn’t alone.
“… Well, looks like it’s over,” the Wrecker finally spoke up. “For now, at least.”
“Yeah.” His elder alternate nodded. “Things didn’t go to plan, but… I’m just glad you’re safe, kid.”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack looked down, frowning. “For now.” He glanced at his alternate. “I don’t have the best luck with these things.”
“Maybe not.” His alternate gave a small smile. “But who knows? Luck can turn.”
“… Yeah.” Wheeljack gave a little grin in return. “I guess it can.” He heard a disturbance below, where the energies of four space-bridges were making a portal, and he blinked as he saw the cause of it. “… Huh.”
His alternate had a blank face. “Is that Field-Tech Ratchet… with that human captain… stealin’ the Magnus Hammer?”
“Uh…” Wheeljack nodded. “Yep.”
The elder Wheeljack raised an optic-brow. “There goes Jazz, after them.”
The Wrecker nodded again. “Yep.”
“… You gonna-?”
“Yep.” Wheeljack shrugged as he looked at his alternate, who snorted and clapped a servo onto his shoulder. “Heh.”
“Hm.” The relatively older mech smiled, then he nodded. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Wheeljack told him. “And… you, too.”
The other Wheeljack sighed. “Thanks, kid. Stars know I need it.”
Wheeljack raised an optic-brow. “Stars?”
“Oftentimes seems like they’re the only ones watching, around here,” the elder Wheeljack told him. “But… that’s all they ever do. All they’ll ever do.” He squeezed his younger alternate’s shoulder. “The action’s up to us.”
Wheeljack blinked, then he frowned and nodded… before putting on one last smirk and giving a playful, two-fingered salute. “Sir.”
“Stop!” His alternate laughed, and Wheeljack grinned before turning and running over to the ledge. He leapt up and landed on the inclined wall, sliding down onto the platform below and running across it to reach the portal.
“Hold on! Don’t shut it down!” The Wrecker shouted, making the three mechs left standing there—Perceptor, Alpha Trion, and Sentinel—look at him in alarm. “Catchin’ a lift!” He waved as he passed them. “Hey! Bye!”
“Wheeljack!” Sentinel clenched his fists at his sides, looking at the mech in frustration.
Wheeljack turned back just before he reached the portal, still grinning. “See ya around, kid!” He frowned. “And watch yourself, okay?”
Sentinel blinked, surprised, then he frowned.
That was the last thing Wheeljack saw before he let himself fall backwards into the space-bridge.
Wheeljack fell out of the portal, flipped, and landed in a crouch before turning around and resting his servos on his hips.
“And he sticks the landin’… this time.”
“Do I wanna know how it was when you first came here?” Ratchet asked, he and Captain Fanzone turning away from Jazz to look at the Wrecker.
Wheeljack cringed. “Fell out of the sky. Hit the water. Nearly drowned.” He chuckled. “Wouldn’t that have been fraggin’ dark?”
Captain Fanzone crossed his arms. “Maybe, if anyone ever found your body.”
Wheeljack’s face dropped. “Holy-”
“Just kiddin’,” Fanzone insisted. “… We would’ve found it when we were looking for Sari, back during the second Dinobot Incident.”
“That’s not comfortin’, cap!” Wheeljack insisted, then he sighed and shook his head before glancing at Jazz. “Well… looks like the gang’s all here. But what exactly’s the situation?”
Ratchet gestured to the cyber-ninja. “It appears that Jazz wants to stay.”
“Hm.” Wheeljack smiled at that, then he glanced at the field-tech with a smirk. “… Dibs on not explainin’ any of this to Prime.”
“Oh, for-!” Ratchet went to get angry, then he just sighed as Fanzone chuckled. “Ugh.”
“Heh.” Jazz grinned, then he crossed his arms and turned to face Wheeljack. “… I thought about what you said.”
“Good.” Wheeljack walked over and rested a servo on the younger mech’s shoulder. “Welcome aboard.” The cyber-ninja in white beamed. “You’re just in time for Movie Night.”
“Nice!” Jazz grinned, then he raised an optic-brow. “Uh, what’s Movie Night?”
“Well, see-” Wheeljack blinked as he heard someone clear their throat, then he and the others all turned their heads.
Optimus stood there, his arms crossed and a look that was a mix of frustration and disappointment etched across his face.
Bumblebee, Bulkhead, Prowl, and Sari stood awkwardly behind him.
“Oh, uh…” Wheeljack waved. “Hey, Prime.”
Optimus raised an optic-brow, his expression not wavering. “Hm.”
“Heh.” Wheeljack lowered his servo. “Uh… How long have you been standin’ there?”
“An hour,” the Prime replied.
Wheeljack squinted. “Wh-?”
Professor Sumdac stepped out from behind the Prime and rested his hands on his hips. “You NEVER CALLED!”
“… Whoops.” Wheeljack blinked—and Jazz, Ratchet, and Captain Fanzone all looked at him. “Yeah, that’s my bad.”
“Talk,” Optimus insisted. “Now.”
Wheeljack blinked again, then he awkwardly looked at Ratchet. “… I already called dibs, and you stole the hammer.”
Ratchet rolled his optics. “Ugh.”
Optimus only seemed to just then notice the Magnus Hammer, and his optics widened.
“You did WHAT?!”
After all of the explanations were made, there was a reasonable amount of existential dread and fear for the future, and Jazz even got to have his first Movie Night after moving into the Plant…
Wheeljack found himself at Ratchet’s door, late after everyone else had called it a night.
It had been quiet while he was getting patched-up after that long day, but he figured that the two of them still had a lot to talk about.
“Hey, Doc-‘Bot?” He asked after knocking, peeking into the room. “You, uh… You okay?”
“Hm.” The field-tech glanced up from his desk, irked. “Not now, Wheeljack. You wouldn’t-” He sighed and looked away. “Ugh… Actually, I don’t know if you would.” He gestured, and Wheeljack hesitantly entered the relatively older mech’s room. “… You ever meet someone like that?”
Wheeljack blinked. “Huh?”
“Someone who was sort of just there, at first,” Ratchet began, and Wheeljack crossed his arms and leaned against a wall. “An assignment or something else… but then, they became something special to you—even when they weren’t there anymore, and you weren’t sure they ever would be again.” The field-tech’s fists clenched. “And it just… burned you inside, when they got hurt. And you spend your life wishing you’d known them better.” He sighed, closing his optics. “Damn it… It’s hard to put into words.”
Wheeljack blinked, at a loss for a moment because how in the Pit was he supposed to answer that?, then something clicked in his head and he squinted. “Wait a second…” He blinked again, then he pointed. “Do you-? Did you-?”
“What?” Ratchet blinked, then he scoffed and waved the idea off. “No. I barely knew her.”
Wheeljack raised an optic-brow. “Hm.”
“She’s just… important to me,” Ratchet tried to explain. “Another ‘bot who I wish I could’ve saved.” He looked away. “I could’ve saved her.”
“… You really wanna try and bring her back?” Wheeljack asked quietly. “Make what happened with Lockdown right?”
“As right as I can,” Ratchet told him. “I can never bring back everything that she lost, all of the time she’s missed and the suffering that will cause her… but I might never get the chance to even try. She’s-… She’s gone.” He closed his optics and hung his head. “Both of them are.”
Wheeljack frowned. “… I’m sorry.”
“Hm.” Ratchet opened his optics and looked at him. “I know. You don’t talk about it much, not in the specific words, but… I know you can relate to the loss of a sparkling, and special people… and even just those folks gettin’ taken or hurt.”
Wheeljack’s optics widened at that, then he looked away. “… Yeah.” His servos gripped his arms. “Yeah. Sparklings, special people—I’ve lost way too many of those, and.. I miss the ones I’ve left behind.” He shrugged. “I might not get it exactly, but… you’re right. I’ve had people I care about get hurt before: things I’d do anythin’ to go back and fix, things I was too much of a coward to stick around and help them through when gettin’ revenge wasn’t enough, things that I was-… I was right there.” He closed his optics. “I could’ve stopped it. I should’ve stopped it.”
“Your Ultra Magnus,” Ratchet recalled quietly, and Wheeljack opened his optics to look at the field-tech. There was a peculiar expression on his face, like he had just placed the final piece into a puzzle he hadn’t known he had been solving. “… When I was talking about Arcee earlier, who were you thinking about?”
Wheeljack blinked. “Huh?”
“When I was talking that way about Arcee, the way you thought might’ve been-…” Ratchet turned in his seat to look at Wheeljack. “Someone actually came to mind.”
“What?” Wheeljack actually laughed at the idea. “Oh, no. No, no, no.” He shook his head. “No. No way… No, I never had time for that. And even if I did, we’re here to talk about you-”
“No, you came in here to do that thing you do for the kids where you try to make them feel better after they spend the day going through the wringer,” Ratchet disagreed. “Well, joke’s on you, Wheeljack: I hold relative seniority, and you went through the fraggin’ wringer too. We’re here to talk about both of us, and it looks like we’re going in this direction.” The field-tech frowned. “Unless you want to talk about Shockwave?”
Wheeljack blinked, then he scoffed. “Those are my options? Discuss my non-existent love-life or talk about the guy who tied me down to a lab-table and went through my head?”
Ratchet’s optic twitched. “My worry lies in the fact that this is actually a debate for you.”
“… Can I opt out and instead select the secret third option where I leave and we suffer in silence until the team handles the whole ‘talk about your emotions’ thing for us?” Wheeljack asked.
Ratchet smirked. “Do you want the team around when I bring this up again?”
Wheeljack’s jaw dropped, then he raised a finger and pointed. “… Touché.”
“… What do you mean before, that you didn’t have time?” Ratchet asked him.
Wheeljack huffed, crossing his arms again. “Why are you readin’ so much into this? You just said that you didn’t think that way about ‘Cee. Why do I have to feel that way about anyone?”
“You don’t, kid,” Ratchet conceded, then he smirked. “But you’re certainly on the defensive.” Wheeljack shot an annoyed look at him. “… What are you thinking about, Wheeljack?”
“… Ugh.” Wheeljack closed his optics, then he opened them again to look at the field-tech. “Look, I actually never had the time for these things. I spent my whole life fightin’ to not have to fight anymore: fought to live when I was on my own, fought for my right to be educated, then fought for my right to be taken seriously once I was. There was no time. My priorities were elsewhere.” He shrugged. “Then, I was alone again—up until I became a Wrecker. The family baby first, then the ‘war-hero’.” He looked away. “I took in five kids, and few wanna get in on that baggage.” He looked at Ratchet, who raised an optic-brow. “… What’s the look?”
“No comment. Just pattern recognition,” the field-tech replied. “Carry on.”
Wheeljack huffed, annoyed. “Point is: the dates weren’t exactly linin’ up, Doc-‘Bot, especially with how protective the other Wreckers were over me. Now, that was a whole other thing-”
Ratchet snorted. “Kid-”
“But I was part of a family, and it seemed like I even started a new one of my own—without a partner,” Wheeljack went on, and Ratchet blinked. “And it just-… It never really mattered, not even when I was young.” The Wrecker glanced away awkwardly. “I’d flirt to tease, or to make an enemy slip in a fight. But… I never actually had the time for anythin’ real. There were other priorities, other pressures, other factors.” He looked at the field-tech. “And I was okay with that. I got along just fine. I never felt like I had to go lookin’. That always seemed… weird, for some reason.”
“… But someone came along,” Ratchet theorized quietly. “Someone different, who I reminded you of, with how I was talking earlier.”
Wheeljack glanced away again. “Forget about it. It’s nothin’. Even if it was somethin’ like that, they wouldn’t know. Like I said, I never-”
“Kid,” Ratchet pressed, and he started to grin when the Wrecker glanced back at him. “… Someone actually came to mind.”
“… So what if someone did?!” Wheeljack asked defensively, and the field-tech chuckled. “Ugh.” He looked away again. “… Yeah, fine. Whatever. I guess someone did, for a minute. Weird.” Ratchet just shook his head, still grinning, and Wheeljack shot another look at him. “Ugh, but it’s like I said! I never really-… Y’know?” He looked down. “And what happened, it-…” He gave a bitter smile. “Heh. It was rockier than you think… They’d never actually think that they were anythin’ special to me, whether it was somethin’ like that or not—and hey, I’m not exactly a charmer.”
“Hm.” Ratchet calmed down. “… You don’t have to say ‘they’, kid.” He gave a little grin. “We know by now that I’m not as clueless as Prime.”
Wheeljack glanced at the field-tech, then he put on a little but genuine smile. “… Him.”
“Heh.” Ratchet sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I knew a few hims in my day, among others.”
Wheeljack’s optic-brows raised. “You got around, huh?” He glanced away again. “Well… not me, obviously.”
“Precious,” Ratchet said, and Wheeljack huffed. “I’m just teasing… Some ‘bots like to search around, some ‘bots aren’t comfortable with that and choose to wait for the right one to find them—if there was ever going to be one. Some ‘bots really just don’t need or want that kind of thing.”
“Please, don’t give me The Talk,” Wheeljack insisted, and Ratchet snorted again. “Seriously, it might not even be the same talk.”
Ratchet raised an optic-brow. “Beg pardon?”
“Multiverse, Doc-‘Bot,” Wheeljack reminded him. “We’ve seen biological differences.”
Ratchet chuckled. “I can still hear Bumblebee screaming, that night he discovered that your optics glow in the dark. Classic.”
Wheeljack rolled his optics. “Oh, yeah. That was fun.” He sighed. “… I usually don’t—need or want that sort of thing, I mean. I don’t trust easily, lettin’ folks in is hard. It-… It never would even crossed my mind with a stranger.” He raised his shoulders a bit. “I’d have to know the ‘bot, to know that they-…”
“That they were safe,” Ratchet concluded. “And… I’m guessing he was.”
“… Bit late now to be seein’ it,” Wheeljack said, frowning. “No, I-… I think I started seein’ it a while ago, but… priorities.” He looked away. “And before that-… Pit, we were always at each other’s throats. Then, one day… he got hurt.” He closed his optics. “I just know I could’ve stopped it, but I didn’t… and I never wanted to let him down again. It bothered me, whenever he was upset—because he wasn’t like that. He was… unwaverin’.” He opened his optics, and he smiled. “And as much of a hardass as he was, he was an optimist. Never thought anythin’ was impossible. He’d call me reckless, but… nothin’ ever stopped him. He was just as bad, just better at actin’. I think he even fooled himself.” His face fell again. “When he was at his lowest, I-… I had to help.”
“But you still think you could have done or could do more,” Ratchet noted.
Wheeljack hummed. “I’d be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t still drawin’ up new ideas, sometimes—in my head, if nowhere else… tryna help someone I might not ever even see again, if we’re bein’ real.” He chuckled softly. “And who doesn’t have the best memories of me, not really. For the longest time, I-… I was such an idiot.”
“… We’re both idiots,” Ratchet reminded him quietly. “I’m chasing ghosts.”
Wheeljack glanced at him. “They’re not gone yet, Ratchet. We’ll get them back.”
“Hm.” Ratchet nodded. “Maybe… And maybe, we’ll get you back.” He put on a weak grin. “And you can ask your him out.”
“Heh.” Wheeljack raised his servos, giving a nervous smile. “Easy, now. I never actually said it was like that. I thought we were just goin’ with ‘bots who fit your description: special. A-And I told you, I’ve never- I never-”
Ratchet smirked. “Precious.” The younger mech huffed again and looked away. “… I think I know who he is. You’re not subtle. You talk about him all the time, more than anyone else in your reality.” Wheeljack looked at him like a deer in headlights. “Hm… Whatever this is all about, he is special to you—one way or another.” He raised an optic-brow. “Maybe… think on that?”
“… Nah,” Wheeljack decided very quickly, and the field-tech groaned. “I’ve got enough on my plate. How many kids am I jugglin’ at this point, with a war and a need to build a fraggin’ portal into the multiverse at some point?” He shook his head. “Yeah, no. No time for that scrap.”
“Hey,” Ratchet chided. “… There’s time, right now—between storms. And when was the last time you thought about something just because you wanted to?” He shook his head. “Your own future. Not a fight, not a struggle. Just… living.”
“I’m more of a day-to-day planner,” Wheeljack said, then he looked at the floor. “You, uh… You never know what’s gonna happen.”
“No, you don’t,” Ratchet agreed.
Wheeljack looked at him. “Well, then—what about you? What are you plannin’ on doin’, when all this nonsense is over with?”
“Can’t go back to the way things were, no matter what—not now,” Ratchet admitted. “So, if… we somehow end up with the best case scenario and we beat the Decepticons, crack open the multiverse so you can have it both ways, and fix everything and help everyone we need to… I think there are a lot worse places I could end up than here on Earth, looking after things.” He gave a small smile. “Repairing what needs repaired, saving who needs saved, keeping in contact with my new family and maybe trying to rebuild some old relationships… and then just… watching Sari Sumdac grow up for as long as I can.”
Wheeljack blinked, then his expression softened. “… Sounds like a damn good retirement plan, Doc-‘Bot. You’ve more than earned it.”
“What about you?” Ratchet asked him. “Your… best-case scenario retirement plan? What is it?”
“I’ve… never really had one,” Wheeljack admitted, frowning. “Even when I was younger, I just… a assumed I’d have to work for what I got until I dropped. And…” He shrugged. “I dunno. I don’t think I ever imagined survivin’ the war.” He looked at Ratchet. “I know they’ll still need help rebuildin’ by the time I get back to my Cybertron. Damage was just that bad. But… a career, a family? Tryin’ that again? That was never really in the cards for me after the war started, so…” He looked down again. “I managed to find this family without a partner, so I guess I still don’t need one for that. I’ll be fine. As far as a career goes, I’m a jack of all trades at this point. I’ll find somethin’, somewhere where someone needs somethin’ done.”
“That’s not living, kid. That’s doing the bare minimum, and less than you deserve,” Ratchet chided, then he tilted his head. “But alright, you’re bad at planning the future. Alright, then… Why is this guy so special?” Wheeljack rolled his optics again. “Come on. What’s a good memory?”
Wheeljack looked at him, annoyed, then he sighed and looked at the floor again.
“… Whenever we caught on that the other one wasn’t refuelin’, we’d lob a canister of Energon at each other’s heads,” he murmured. “It became this… weird routine, between us two.”
Ratchet raised an optic-brow on instinct, and he was pretty blunt. “Sounds weird.”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack chucked, then he hummed quietly. “… I started it. I did it durin’ the war, at a low point. He was tryin’ to keep us from starvin’, and I wouldn’t let him starve himself. And… he did it when I was at a low point after. I had buried myself in work, to avoid thinkin’ of things that were new and hurtin’.” He took a deep vent. “And we just… started doin’ it. Back and forth. Aggressively encouragin’ self-care.” That made him smile. “Heh. Stupid, I know.”
“Hm.” Ratchet found himself smiling at the Wrecker. “No. Special.”
“… I never finished fixin’ his ship,” Wheeljack said quietly. “He let me fly it, and… I got shot down. I was fixin’ it, while I was workin’ on the bridge. Now, I wonder if he’s managed without me.” He huffed, still smiling. “He probably has. Next to me, he’s the best with ships—better than Doc, though I’d never say that to his face.”
“Doc’s.” Wheeljack looked at Ratchet, smirking. “He’d probably kill me.”
“Heh.” Ratchet nodded. “Yeah, he probably would… What’s he like, anyway? The other me?”
“Oh.” Wheeljack blinked, then he shrugged and grinned. “Cranky. Bit of a pessimist. Control freak. Library of lore. Team doctor.” It looked like the field-tech expected him to end it there. “… He used to be a big scientist but learned to be a medic for the war.” At that, Ratchet blinked in surprise. “Easily startled. I probably gave him a spark-condition the first time he flew with me.” Wheeljack glanced up at the ceiling. “Acts like he doesn’t care about the humans, but would die for them—especially Raf. That’s the little one. He was thirteen when I left, one of the best hackers and programmers you’ll meet. The doc loves that kid.” He looked at Ratchet, and he nodded. “Doc even said he would stay on Earth to watch over the humans, after we revived Cybertron.” He sighed. “Things changed after Prime-... He goes back and forth. Stretches himself too thin. And he doesn’t wanna lose anyone else.” He met the field-tech’s optics. “He’s a good guy. Just… tightly-wound. And he blames himself for too many things.”
“Hm.” Ratchet crossed his arms. “You mentioned that he was a friend.”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack smiled. “I annoy him, but… yeah. We’re friends.”
“Heh.” Ratchet grinned, then he frowned. “… What about Arcee? What’s she like?”
Wheeljack hesitated, then… he held a servo out. “She’s ye high, but could probably kick my aft any day of the week.” Ratchet chuckled. “Seriously, she’s-” The Wrecker calmed himself. “… She’s no teacher, or intel-‘bot. She’s good at gatherin’ information in a bind, but Bee was our scout. No, ‘Cee-… ‘Cee is a warrior.” He sighed. “One who’s been through a lot, but-…” His grin returned. “Heh. As long as she’s alive, she’s fightin’.” He looked at Ratchet, and he nodded. “She’s a friend, too. She didn’t get everythin’, but… she reached out to me, in a tough time. She didn’t have to, but she did.”
Ratchet smiled. “Sounds like you admire her.” The Wreckrr shrugged and nodded in agreement. “Heh… Wait, really?”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack nodded again. “I do. And… it seems like, no matter the universe, one thing’s for sure.” His expression turned serious. “She’s a fighter… And personally, I think she’ll come home—and come back.”
Ratchet blinked, then he sighed. “You can’t know based on your version. After all, just-… Just look at the Ultra Magnuses.”
“Yeah.” Wheeljack looked down, his exprsssion darkening a bit. “That’s been a real twist. There’s practically no resemblance.” He hesitated, then he looked at Ratchet again. “… But she’s pink.”
“… Heh.” The field-tech’s weak smile returned, and he nodded. “She’s pink.”
Wheeljack grinned. “She’s a fighter.”
“Y’know what?” Ratchet sat back in his chair, a bit of the weight leaving his shoulders. “I actually think you might be right, Wheeljack.”
“It happens more often than people think.”
Ratchet sighed. “But even the best fighters need help, sometimes… Arcee and Omega Supreme, they won’t get home on their own.”
“… Imagine for a second if they did,” Wheeljack suggested, and Ratchet blinked as the Wrecker grinned. “She wakes up, takes out all of the ‘Cons, rescues Omega, and just… shows up.”
Ratchet blinked again, then he chuckled. “That’s going a little far, kid.”
“Maybe.” Wheeljack shrugged. “But sometimes, folks can surprise ya.”
Ratchet looked at the Wrecker. “… If Arcee, with or without help, restores Omega Supreme and comes with him to Detroit… you agree to think on that special ‘bot of yours, and a future where you do something for yourself.” He shrugged. “Even if it’s just settling down in a place you like… fixing what needs fixed… and getting to watch the ones you care about live.”
The Wrecker blinked, surprised, then he glanced at the floor. He had really, really never thought about these things before—and in his time away, he was missing getting to see Miko and even the other kids growing up.
What did he want from his future, in some… best-case scenario? A quiet life and a family? Was that even possible, for him?
“… Oh, a wager?” Wheeljack raised an optic-brow as he looked up again, putting on a smirk. “Why do I get to avoid these processor-fryin’ topics only in the worst-case scenario?”
“‘Cause you’re a pessimist and you like those odds,” Ratchet decided, and Wheeljack snorted. “Or you don’t… and you take the bet anyway.”
The Wrecker blinked again, and he looked away and cursed quietly in a language Ratchet wouldn’t understand… then he chuckled and looked at the old field-tech again, nodding. “Alright, fine…
It’s a bet, Doc-‘Bot.”