EXCLUSIVE: Learn How Bumblebee Lost His Voice In This Short Story From ‘Exodus’ Author Alex Irvine

I feel pretty safe saying that this is the longest blog post that has ever run on MTV Movies Blog. It’s a special treat for you “Transformers” fans though.

Hitting stores today is author Alex Irvine’s “Exodus,” a “Transformers” novel set on Cybertron during a time before the epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons was waged. You’ll learn how Megatron rose to power, get to know Optimus Prime before he became a Prime… hell, before he was even called Optimus! You’ll see the war for Cybertron waged from its very beginnings on to its cataclysmic conclusion.

You’ll find none of that after the jump though. What I have for you here today is a short story from Irvine detailing how the Autobot Bumblebee came to lose his voice. It’s not a part of the book, so the only place you can read it is here, exclusively on MTV Movies Blog. For that reason, I hope you’ll forgive the extreme length of this blog post, since it’s all in the name of sharing a story about the mysterious fan-favorite Transformer.

By Alex Irvine

Optimus Prime stood in the shadowed study of the Archivist Alpha Trion. The point of Trion’s Quill tapped on the steel desktop where rested the Covenant of Primus. Here, in the back of the Hall of Records in Iacon, Alpha Trion had watched and recorded the history of Cybertron since the breaking of the Thirteen. Most recently the Quill told the story of the Autobots’ unlikely victory at Kalis. Optimus Prime had returned to Iacon riding a wave of hope—but his mentor’s mood was anything but encouraging.

“We hold Kalis, yes,” Alpha Trion said. “And Iacon. And here and there some other bits of territory. We guard the perimeter of the Well of AllSparks. Yet…”

Optimus Prime stood in silence, waiting for Alpha Trion to continue his thought. But the Archivist seemed to be thinking about something else, or at any rate was not continuing. “Can we win, Archivist?” Optimus asked.

He felt they could. But he knew that not every Autobot felt the same. At the moment, it seemed very important to know what Alpha Trion felt. There were times when Optimus Prime remembered being the data clerk Orion Pax, and he questioned the reasoning that had led the High Council to name him Prime. The civil war between Autobots and Decepticons was going poorly for the Autobot side. Megatron’s forces ran rampant over much of the planet’s surface, inexorably forcing the Autobots into smaller and smaller enclaves.

In part this situation was Optimus Prime’s fault. The war’s early battles had been a steep and costly lesson for him. Only now, in the aftermath of Kalis, was he beginning to consider himself a capable leader. Would it be too late to turn the course of the war?

“Can we win…” Alpha Trion repeated, seemingly to himself. After some time he returned a question. “Can we not?”

And Optimus Prime didn’t have an answer.

Of course they had to win. The future of all Cybertronians depended on it. “When I was a clerk I never had to worry about lives,” Optimus Prime said.

Alpha Trion chuckled. “It was never going to be any other way, Optimus,” he said. “I knew you were destined—“

“To trade the caste system for Decepticon tyranny?” Optimus said.

Again silence fell in Alpha Trion’s study.

“It could be,” he said after some time, “that the war does not end here.”

“I don’t follow your meaning, Archivist,” Optimus Prime said. Where else would the war end? The Space Bridges were collapsed. It had been teracycles since any Cybertronian had traveled to the stars or contacted the lost colonies and outposts that speckled the cosmos.

“I am thinking of the AllSpark,” Alpha Trion said. “It does not just give us life. It is the living record of all that has ever happened on Cybertron. It is our past, present and future. I would rather see the planet destroyed utterly than have the AllSpark fall into Megatron’s hands.”

“I will protect it,” Optimus Prime said.

Alpha Trion sighed. The tapping of his Quill on his desktop paused, then resumed, its tempo slightly slower. “That is the problem, Optimus. You may not be able to.”

Slow anger built in Optimus Prime. Was even Alpha Trion questioning his mettle, his qualifications? Even Alpha Trion, who had spoken to the High Council on his behalf? Optimus Prime stayed silent because he did not trust himself to speak. Then when he had mastered his emotions he said, “I understand.”

“I am not sure you do,” Alpha Trion said. “You take my words as criticism. In fact they are what I understand from the Covenant.”

The archivist tapped the Quill on the Covenant’s weathered cover. “Herein are the written records of our civilization,” he said. “I make additions here and there, but much is already on these pages. Including the future—but future events are difficult for me to understand as they are written. The Covenant does mention a dire threat to the AllSpark, however. The situation is desperate. I believe we must act.”

“Act how? We could ring the Well of AllSparks with every Autobot, and the Decepticons would overwhelm us. They have numbers. We survive by fighting smarter than they do.” Optimus Prime looked at the Covenant in a new light. He had thought it an archive, or Alpha Trion’s personal journal. To know that it extended into the future…

“Yes,” Alpha Trion said. “We must fight smarter. And where one alternative is a certain loss, a reckless gamble can be the smarter alternative.”

Optimus Prime would never have thought to hear Alpha Trion suggesting a reckless gamble as a military strategy. And when he heard what the Archivist was actually proposing, Optimus thought that everything on Cybertron truly must have gone insane.

“I believe we must initiate the AllSpark Failsafe,” Alpha Trion said. He spoke slowly and carefully, as he always did, but Optimus Prime could hear a weariness in his tone as well. This was not easy for the archivist to say. “We must eject the AllSpark from Cybertron to protect it from Megatron.”
“Eject…Archivist,” said Optimus Prime. “I can protect it.”

“This is no longer about you, Optimus,” Alpha Trion said. “It is not a criticism or a judgment. The situation is what it is, and it calls for appropriate action. If the AllSpark is lost, all is lost. You are Prime. You must do what is necessary.”

After a pause, Optimus Prime nodded. “Understood.”

“Know that you are in the right, Optimus,” Alpha Trion said. “Have you not noticed that even as the Well slows, and fewer and fewer bots emerge, more and more of them become Autobots? The AllSpark is speaking through this. Your cause—our cause—is just.”

“Where will the AllSpark go?” Optimus Prime asked.

Alpha Trion shook his head. “We must not know that. If we know, Megatron—or Soundwave—can find out. But if we do not know, if we rely on the AllSpark to signal you and call to you, then we have a chance to find it once this war is over and it is safe to return the AllSpark to Cybertron.”

“So we’re just going to fling it out into space. Somewhere. And hope we can find it again,” Optimus Prime said.

Alpha Trion nodded.

“The Covenant talks about this?”

Alpha Trion nodded again.

“I do not like it,” Optimus Prime said. “But I will do it. Tell me how.”

* * * * *

As Optimus Prime walked out of Alpha Trion’s study, he saw an incredible sight. Every data clerk in the Hall of Records—all of his former colleagues, subordinates and superiors—had come to stand in a double row outside the door, lining the grand corridor that led along the edge of the Hall to its main entrance facing one of the central plazas of Iacon. They had come to see their leader, and their example of the Autobot principle that each bot was in control of its individual destiny. They did not speak as he passed them on his way to implement Alpha Trion’s plan. If they had known what he was about to do, thought Optimus Prime, they might not have been so respectful.

The memory stayed with him as he shifted into alt-form and accelerated through the streets of Iacon to the Autobot command center at the southern edge of the city, where the great Energon conduits exited on their way to the Energon storage reservoirs below Kalis. The subsurface Iacon-Kalis route that followed the maintenance ducts alongside the conduits had long been a favored way for small Autobot strike teams to travel when the surface was dangerous due to Seeker patrols.

Now Optimus Prime called in a meeting of his most trusted lieutenants. Jazz was there, and Ratchet, and Ironhide, and the valorous Ultra Magnus. Also there was a young spark, a fiery warrior who had made a name for himself in recent battles and distinguished himself particularly in the Tagan Heights stalemate and the victory at Kalis. He went by the name Bumblebee, and he had risen through the ranks quickly. He was capable but raw, with the youngster’s tendency to get himself in over his head—but he also had the unteachable ability to see unexpected solutions to seemingly intractable problems. A can-do attitude went a long way toward keeping Autobot morale up when things looked bleak.

As they did now. The six Autobots gathered around a map display of the area stretching from the Well of AllSparks north almost as far as the pole, where the ruins of Six Lasers Over Cybertron lay, and east to encompass Iacon and the contested territories toward Nova Cronum. Autobot holdings were represented in blue; surrounding them, a sea of Decepticon red spread in every direction. “We’re down to our most secure bases,” Optimus Prime said. “You all know that. Megatron fights as if he would destroy Cybertron in order to control it, while we are fighting to preserve our home.”

He paused, considering how best to frame what he had to say next. “In the battle for the Tagan Heights,” Optimus Prime went on, “we destroyed what we were fighting over. Factories can be rebuilt. Cities, too. But there are some things that cannot be replaced. These we must protect at all costs.”

Optimus Prime rested a finger on the lower left corner of the map, over the Well of AllSparks. “The AllSpark itself is in danger. Megatron will try to seize and control it. If he does…”

“We know,” Ultra Magnus said. “What is the plan?”

“There are not enough Autobots to hold the Well itself if Megatron focuses all of his strength on it,” Optimus Prime said. “We are stronger bot to bot than they are, but there are too many of them. So. I have consulted with Alpha Trion, and we are in agreement. The AllSpark must be saved, and the only way to save it is to get it off Cybertron.”

“No!” Bumblebee said. Ironhide clamped a heavy hand down on his shoulder and Bumblebee held back whatever it was he had been about to say next.

“Listen to Prime,” Ironhide said.

He looked to Optimus Prime, and Optimus was overcome for a moment. Ironhide had been one of the most skeptical of the older generation of Autobots. For the first cycles of the war, he had openly questioned whether Optimus Prime had what it took to lead Cybertron. Now he had made a statement that he believed.

Optimus Prime inclined his head in Ironhide’s direction. “My thanks,” he said. “And Bumblebee, my thanks to you as well. You are a valued addition to our ranks. But yes. We must preserve the AllSpark.”

“What do we do?” Jazz asked. “Whatever it is, let’s get to it.”

“There is a failsafe process. We must go down into the Well of AllSparks and set it in motion.” Optimus Prime looked again at the map. “We will go subsurface to Kalis, and from there straight across to the eastern edge of the Well. Then down. No complications. We don’t stop to engage any Decepticon forces.”

“Seems like a big hurry,” Ironhide said.

Optimus Prime nodded. “It is. Alpha Trion hinted to me that Megatron would be moving to capture the AllSpark soon. That means we move now. Us six, together with the Wreckers. Ultra Magnus, you will take them ahead, clearing resistance as you find it. Jetfire is on his way now to provide aerial cover and reconnaissance.”

“We’re gone,” Ultra Magnus said. “Wreckers!”

Outside the command post, the waiting Wreckers snapped to attention. Ultra Magnus looked to Optimus Prime for any final orders. “We’re right behind you,” Optimus Prime said.

Ultra Magnus was already moving. “Roll out!”

As one, the Wreckers assumed their alt-forms, wheels and treads spinning before they made contact with the ground. Optimus Prime and his other four lieutenants followed, thundering through the entry ramp that led to the subsurface route to Kalis.

* * * * *

The Wreckers emerged from the tunnel first, deploying across the field of debris left over from an early battle in the way, when the Decepticons had attempted to conquer the city and its precious Energon reservoir. The Autobots had held them then, and Megatron had since turned his focus to consolidating more easily held gains. He would be back for Kalis sooner or later—every Autobot from Optimus Prime on down knew that—but for now, the main fronts of the war were elsewhere.

“Clear!” called Ultra Magnus. The rest of the Autobots came out and reassumed their protoforms, scanning the skies first for Seeker patrols. The sky was empty.

“Jetfire should be here any time,” Jazz said. “He was running the perimeter of the Well to see where any ’Con scouts might be.”

As if conjured, Jetfire appeared in the distance, making a beeline for the Autobot force. He was coming from the south, low and fast as if evading pursuit—but none of the watching Autobots could see any other contrails behind him.

“Speaking of,” Jazz said. “Looks like he’s in a hurry.”

It did look like that. Optimus Prime had a bad feeling about why. Before anyone else could say anything, Jetfire skidded to a stop in the debris field, already talking as he reassumed his protoform. “Cons coming through the Tyger Pax bypass!” he said.

Every Autobot turned to Optimus Prime.

There weren’t supposed to be any Decepticons in Tyger Pax. That was one of the few slivers of Cybertron the Autobots held comfortably. It lay just to the south of the Well of AllSparks, wrapping around the hooked terminus of the Well and extending part of the way up its western edge.

Megatron was coming for the AllSpark already, sooner than anyone had anticipated.

“If he gets into the Well, we’re not going to be able to start the failsafe,” Ironhide said. “That’s the first thing he’ll destroy.”

“If he knows about it,” Optimus Prime said, but even as he said it he knew they couldn’t take the chance. No plan survived contact with the enemy, and his plan was now inoperative.

“Someone’s got to hold the Decepticons until the failsafe process is going,” Jazz said.

“Right,” Optimus Prime said. “Jetfire. I need a diversion from you. Are there Seekers with Megatron?”
“There sure are. Starscream at least, and I thought I saw two others.”

“Then you need to loop around to the far edge of the Well,” Optimus Prime said. “We need Megatron to think we’re trying to get to that side. If we can get him looking that direction, we won’t need that much time.”

“You’ll need ground strength too,” Ironhide said. “Won’t do any good if he just sends Starscream over and heads in the south end of the Well himself.”

“Ultra Magnus. You and the Wreckers are going to need to cover the rim of the Well where we go in.” Optimus Prime looked over the rest of the team. “But we need a staggered defense, more layers.”

“I’ll do it,” Bumblebee said.

Ultra Magnus and his battle-tested Wreckers looked at the new bot. “What, just you?” the Wrecker leader asked. “You going to go solo with Megatron and whoever else is with him?”

“I sure am,” Bumblebee said. Then he looked at Optimus Prime. “That is, if you give the order,” he added.

“Go with the Wreckers,” Optimus Prime said. “When you get to the Well entry point, break off and head south. Harry them. Don’t try to take them on directly. What we need is time, not you dead. Cliffjumper, you’re with Bumblebee.”

Bumblebee sketched a salute. “Let’s roll,” he said, and flipped immediately into alt-form. Cliffjumper did too. The pair waited for final orders.

“You sure about this?” Ultra Magnus asked Optimus Prime.

“Unless you have a better idea. Jetfire, go,” Optimus Prime said. Jetfire did, leaping straight up and thundering away to the northwest. “Wreckers, I need you to hold your position one klik south of the Well entry point,” Optimus went on, addressing Ultra Magnus specifically. The Wrecker leader had a tendency to let battlefield events get in the way of orders. “Do not engage unless the Decepticons contact your position. Is that understood?”

“Understood,” Ultra Magnus said.

“Then go.”

Bumblebee revved and the Wreckers blazed away across the broken surface. The rim of the Well of AllSparks was just visible to the west. Everything south was the now mostly deserted city-state of Tyger Pax. Optimus Prime watched them go. A full cycle passed before he turned back to Ironhide, Arcee, and Jazz. “Time we got rolling too,” he said.

“There’s an AllSpark to launch,” Jazz said. “No time to dawdle.”

* * * * *

Bumblebee and Cliffjumper broke off from the Wreckers at their position, redlining all the way around the southern tip of the Well of AllSparks to the predicted intercept point Jetfire had given. Behind them the Wreckers were digging in, ready to defend to the last. You could count on the Wreckers. Bumblebee meant to prove that Optimus Prime could count on him, too.

On the outskirts of Tyger Pax, a broken road led from the southern terminus of the Well south to the city proper. And in the middle of that road, as Bumblebee skidded past its terminus, was the Decepticon Barricade, moving fast and coming out of his alt-form as he saw an Autobot target.
Uh oh, Bumblebee thought. There weren’t supposed to be any Decepticons this far up. This was a conundrum. He and Cliffjumper had orders to get in the way of the main Decepticon force, farther around the rim of the Well. But if Barricade got around to flank the Wreckers, they wouldn’t be able to hold against any frontal assault.

Bumblebee wasn’t one to let orders get in the way of what needed to be done. He assumed protoform, letting his momentum take him into a controlled tumble straight up to Barricade before the ’Con could react. “Hey there!” he said, unleashing a barrage from his hand cannons. “This is from Optimus Prime!”

The initial salvo knocked Barricade backward, but the ’Con hadn’t survived this long in the war by being vulnerable to anyone’s first shot; he rallied and blew Bumblebee off the road with a brace of missiles. Bumblebee crashed hard into the side of a hill and barely rolled away from the second volley that collapsed the hillside on top of him. Then, while Barricade was reloading, Cliffjumper was on him. Close combat wasn’t always Cliffjumper’s strong suit, but he knew what was at stake, and he bravely withstood Barricade’s counterattack until Bumblebee dug himself out and closed in on the battling pair. “Watch this!” he sang out, cocking one fist back as he planted both feet and Cliffjumper ducked back out of the way. “See it?”

Barricade looked up from Cliffjumper just in time to take Bumblebee’s first punch square in his optics. The second punch drove him to his knees. Countering blindly as his optics reset, Barricade threw Bumblebee off and fired a missile salvo that detonated along the road behind the two Autobots. “Whoa!” Bumblebee said. “Mighty tough! What else you got?” He taunted Barricade with hand-cannon blasts that kept the ’Con on the defensive while he could get to arm’s length again. “I thought we were going to dance!”

Barricade leveled him with a kick that Bumblebee never saw coming. Then the ’Con was on him, grappling with a squeal and crunch of metal on metal. Bumblebee spun inside Barricade’s rush, driving a knee into the ’Con’s midsection. He felt something crunch, and hit Barricade again. The ’Con tried to get his hands up in Bumblebee’s face, but Cliffjumper locked Barricade’s arms and Bumblebee shoved his hand under Barricade’s jaw. “Sorry about this,” he said, while Barricade thrashed in Cliffjumper’s hold, “but on second thought, I don’t have time to dance with you. Someone else is trying to cut in.”

He let loose with a hand cannon shot, blasting pieces away from Barricade’s face and toppling him straight over backward. Barricade hit the ground with a boom, tried to get up, and went down for good when Bumblebee finalized things with a kick of his own, square to the side of Barricade’s smoking head.

“Take it easy for a while,” he said to the downed Decepticon. “Maybe I’ll be back in a while and we can go again.”

He looked around, worried despite his chatter. If Barricade was here, this close, where was the main Decepticon strike force?

Bumblebee looked southwest, toward the intercept point Jetfire had given him. Then he looked back up the rim of the Well, toward where he had broken off form the Wreckers.

Follow orders or get the job done? Where Bumblebee was concerned, it wasn’t even a question. “Let’s go, Cliff,” he said. The two of them doubled around and headed back.

* * * * *

Jetfire made contact with a trio of Seekers before he could complete his loop to the north and fully put Optimus Prime’s diversion into play. He swore and cut into a tight turn along the western edge of the Well; if the diversion wasn’t going to work the way it was supposed to, he could at least pull the Seekers down toward where the Wreckers might be able to give him some help.

Their energy cannons blazed away at him as he jinked along the Well’s western wall, following the border of Tyger Pax until, just at the southern narrows, he cut across the Well itself. The Wreckers should be somewhere ahead—at least Jetfire hoped they were. This close to the Well and its flood of energy, communications didn’t always work very well, and Jetfire didn’t want to talk too much and give information to any Decepticons who might be listening. He flew on, hoping to drag the pursuing Seekers into an ambush that the Wreckers didn’t know they were setting.

* * * * *

Back at the Wreckers’ position, on the edge of Tyger Pax, the air was alive with missile fire and the crackle of energy cannons. Ultra Magnus took a direct hit and went down, all of his sensors momentarily overloaded. “Autobots!” Megatron called. “Yield! Cybertron is mine! You fight only to die!”

Rodimus and Springer drove him back, coming at Megatron directly and giving Ultra Magnus to recover and engage. He saw a tangle of contrails and energy blasts in the sky just to the west, drawing nearer. What was Jetfire doing? He was supposed to be drawing them away.

An explosion in the sky drew the attention of all ground forces for a moment, and a flaming wreck fell away from it into the depths of the Well of AllSparks. “Jetfire,” Ultra Magnus said into his comm… “That you on fire?”

“Nope,” Jetfire came back. “Improving the odds a little.”

Then static flared across the channel and the battle on the ground was rejoined.

* * * * *

Optimus Prime stood before the beating heart of Cybertronian identity. He beheld the AllSpark. With him on a ledge cut into the side of the Well was Arcee. Ironhide and Jazze were on lookout up at the Well’s rim.

“Let’s get it done,” Arcee said.

With a nod, Optimus Prime approached the portal to the chamber of the AllSpark itself. No bot could enter it, and Primes were specifically prevented from executing the failsafe. This was itself a kind of failsafe, to prevent a corrupt Prime from ejecting the AllSpark for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t power that could control the AllSpark, but belief. This was what Megatron would never understand. “Start the code,” Optimus said. “Alpha Trion told it to me, and I’ll tell it to you. But if you have any reservations about this, tell me now, Arcee. It won’t work if you don’t believe it’s right.”

“No problem here,” Arcee said.

At the edge of the portal was a keypad inscribed with symbols in the original language of the Thirteen. Optimus had never learned it, but looking at the symbols he felt their meaning. He was Prime. It was up to him to carry on the legacy, and to do what was necessary to preserve the AllSpark.

As he watched, Arcee reached out and touched a key. A hum started up deep in the walls of the Well. It grew in intensity, a vibration Optimus Prime could feel in his legs as he called out the sequence Alpha Trion had taught him, the failsafe code that would eject the AllSpark from Cybertron into the limitless reaches of space. Arcee faithfully touched each symbol as Optimus Prime recited them, and around them the vibrations grew stronger.

* * * * *

Ironhide saw three remaining Seekers cutting across the Well in pursuit of Jetfire. They were out of range from his station, but Optimus Prime’s orders were to give him time to complete the failsafe. He could see the battle taking place between the Wreckers and the Decepticon strike team. It was time, Ironhide thought, to interpret orders according to realities on the ground. He rolled out, heading south to support the Wreckers.

It wasn’t that far, and Ironhide arrived from the north just as Bumblebee and Cliffjumper came up on the rear of the Decepticon team from the south. And just at that moment, in the skies above the Well, Starscream figured out what Jetfire was up to. He cut away from his pursuit and dove, engines howling, to cover the Decepticons’ rear.

* * * * *

On the ground, Ironhide put his dual cannons into play as soon as he was within range, raking the Decepticons from high ground just away from the Well’s rim. At the same time, Bumblebee was hitting them from behind, throwing them momentarily into disarray as they rallied to cover the new angles of assault. The Wreckers rallied, closing with the Decepticons in a wave of blades and spikes, clashing sparks and battle cries. Ironhide ignored a furious Ultra Magnus’s calls for him to hold his position along the rim. Megatron was here, and had to stay here. The failsafe was started. Ironhide could feel it, the thrumming of the very surface of the planet.

Angling down from above as Jetfire strafed the Decepticons and two Seekers chased Jetfire, Starscream focused on taking the pressure off the Decepticons’ vulnerable rear. He came in low, spotting a yellow and black Autobot who seemed to have disrupted the entire Decepticon position by himself. That was about to come to an end, Starscream thought.

* * * * *

Bumblebee blazed away at the Decepticons, focusing on Megatron while he could, before the rest of the ’Con team could react. His cannonfire spun Megatron around, and Bumblebee followed him, firing until his cannons threatened to overheat. “Gotcha, gladiator!” he shouted. “Watch the sky! You’re too late! Watch the–!”

The world blew up around him.

* * * * *

The strafing Seekers drove the Wreckers from their position back toward the supporting Ironhide. He did the best he could to cover their retreat, slowing the Decepticons who immediately moved out in pursuit on the ground. “Bumblebee!” Ironhide snapped into his comm.—but there was no response. Where Bumblebee had been was not a crater, its interior obscured by dust and smoke. Cliffjumper was engaged with the advancing Decepticons, slowing them as much as he could while the Wreckers rallied. Megatron hung back, watching his Decepticons cross the last klik to the point where Optimus Prime had entered the Well of AllSparks.

“What takes so long?” Megatron raged. He scanned the area for Barricade, who should long ago have flanked the Wreckers to pin them down and enable the other Decepticons to overrun them. Striding forward, he came upon a badly damaged Autobot and executed it on the spot, blasting it apart with his ion cannons. “Barricade!” he thundered.

Jetfire, taking terrible punishment from the Seekers all around him, drove Megatron back with a missile salvo that blasted a trench between the gladiator and the rest of the Decepticons. Megatron returned fire, forcing Jetfire back up toward the covering Seekers. Starscream was chasing around toward the edge of the Well, harrying the retreating Autobots. Cliffjumper fired up at him, but the Seeker was too far away for gas guns to have any effect.

“Run, Autobots!” Megatron roared. Victory was at hand. The Autobots were pressed to the very edge of the Well, hunkered down with the bottomless canyon at their backs. Megatron raised his arms. “The AllSpark will be mine! Where are you now, Orion Pax? You have failed for the last time!”

At that moment, the surface of Cybertron convulsed as the AllSpark itself, so bright no bot’s optics could focus on it, exploded out of the Well and rose into the sky. It seemed to hesitate for the briefest moment, as Autobot and Decepticon alike stared thunderstruck—and then it sped up and out into space, leaving only a fading trail of ionized atmosphere. As it grew too small to distinguish, the thunderous boom of its passage echoed across the surface, from Nova Cronum all the way down to Polyhex and the shivered remnants of Crystal City. The shock wave blew like an explosion across Autobot and Decepticon alike, overloading sensors and blasting them off their feet. In the skies, Jetfire and the Seekers tumbled out of control, crashing to the surface stunned and damaged.

As the echoes faded, silence fell over the battlesite, broken only by one sound.

Bumblebee, laughing.

The valiant Autobot got slowly to his feet—foot, rather, since Starscream’s strike had badly damaged his left leg, destroying the knee. Lubricants spilled from the shattered joint down Bumblebee’s lower leg.

“Sorry to ruin your plans there, Megatron,” he said. “Barricade couldn’t make it. He’s out on the side of the road to Tyger Pax. He said something about an ambush, but I couldn’t make all of it out because I was too busy beating him into the ground.”

Bumblebee stumbled, dropping to one knee.

“And if you’re looking for the AllSpark, you’re going to have to go find it,” he added. “Arcee fired it off, bam! Gone! Maybe it’s you that failed for the last time. Well, no. Probably not. We’ll set you up so you can fail once more, at least.”

Megatron, seething, turned away from the fading arc of the AllSpark’s passage. He strode up to Bumblebee, who raised one arm, but too slowly. Megatron slapped it aside and kicked Bumblebee’s good leg out from under him.

“You?” Megatron said. “This barely formed mecha, animated by the dregs of the Well? You kept the AllSpark out of my reach?”

“Yeah,” Bumblebee said. “Me.”

Megatron seized Bumblebee around the neck and dragged him upright. “You talk too much, Autobot.”

“Everybody says that,” Bumblebee said. He tried to raise his arms, but could not; the damage from Starscream’s airstrike was too severe. “Coming from you, I’ll take it. Hey, did you see that AllSpark? That was something, the way it flew out into space completely out of your reach—”

Megatron squeezed, cutting off Bumblebee’s voice. “You mock me, mech?” He squeezed. Something snapped in Bumblebee’s throat. “That is the last time you mock anyone.”

Slowly, slowly Megatron’s fingers tightened. A series of crackles escaped Bumblebee’s mouth. He held Megatron’s gaze, never looking away.

“You could die here, but the last thing your pitiful librarian leader needs is another martyr,” Megatron said. “You live as a reminder that I can kill when I please, and grant mercy when I please. But there is a cost. And for you, the cost is that voice of yours that you love so much.”

He shifted his grip to the front of Bumblebee’s throat and crushed the vocoder inside. Sparks shot from his fist and Bumblebee spasmed. Megatron shoved him away and he collapsed, fluid leaking from his throat and the rest of his wounds.

“Let that be your story,” Megatron said. “Tell it how you may.”

With that he turned, assuming alt-form and leaving the mangled Bumblebee there trying to get to his feet. Bumblebee’s comm. crackled with Ironhide’s voice. “Bumblebee. Report. Come in. Engagement over here. Decepticons have retreated. Please advise your location.”

Bumblebee made static noises.

“Getting some interference here,” Ironhide said. He and Cliffjumper locked optics as Optimus Prime, Arcee, and Jazz emerged from the Well of AllSparks, flush with their triumph. Ironhide tried again. “Bumblebee. Report.”