Major Lennox’s team managed to escape and Red Delta made it to another submarine and fled the Nemesis. Everyone was exhausted, but they had completed their mission. Many of the soldiers had sustained serious injuries. Even when they returned to N.E.S.T. back in Copper Springs, Taylor and her team watched somberly as some even returned with a blanket covering their bodies.
“They’re…They’re not coming back, are they?” Hotline asked.
Dakota nodded, sadly. “It’s part of the job, Hotline. That’s what they signed up for: To protect their country.”
“But…It’s kind of our fault, isn’t it?”
“Thousands more could have died in the future if they didn’t come to help. They died with honor, and gracious servitude.”
Hotline looked at Dakota. “Is that what you signed up for, Fisher?”
“Please, call me Dakota” said Dakota, with a small smile.
Hotline was surprised, but nodded fervently. “O-Okay…Dakota.”
Taylor delivered the plans to Perceptor, and Perceptor soon got straight to work. Nightshock’s vitals were stable, but Wadewatch would be unable to recharge until Perceptor completed the energy substitute. The Autobots of Red Delta also began to show signs of extreme fatigue, more than just from hours of fighting. Their own supplies were being depleted. Taylor ordered them to take it easy and to initiate emergency shutdown if necessary. Taylor fell asleep in the Autobot quarters, refusing to leave her team’s side until a compromise was reached.
“Well, I think I’ve found a solution…” Perceptor announced.
Taylor sat up, subtle as she could to rub the fatigue out of her eyes and to listen.
“However, I will not know if it’s completely serviceable unless I test it…” The scientist finished, “Therefore…I’m going to need a volunteer to assist me…”
Taylor’s heart sank. She should’ve seen this coming. She wanted to believe that this whole situation was over, a formula would be found, and everything would be back to normal. But the situation remained grim. Her team were the only ones left in operation, one was seriously injured and already shut down to conserve energy. That left Wadewatch, Roadshot, Hotline, and Bumblebee. Who was going to take the next step? Who was going to go forward with this?
“I’ll do it.”
Taylor released her breath. It was Bumblebee. Everyone looked at her, waiting for a response. The worry that was kindling inside the captain didn’t diffuse. Instead it rose higher. How was she going to allow her best friend to do this? How was she going to muster up the words to let any of her team do this? However, she took a deep breath.
“Bee…Are you sure?” she asked.
Bumblebee nodded. “I won’t risk anyone else’s spark over this. I’ll do it. That is…with your permission…Captain.”
Taylor sighed, and with a pained reply, barely more than a whisper.
Bumblebee was surprised. He was expecting her to argue further. But Taylor knew her weaknesses, and she had to overcome them.
Taylor nodded, straining to smile.
“Yeah. Permission granted.”
Bumblebee smiled. “
Thank you Captain.”
Bumblebee shifted a little on the operation table, and looked straight at the light above.
“As comfortable as I’ll ever be” he replied to Preceptor, “I’m ready.”
Slowly, Perceptor opened up Bumblebee’s chassis to reveal all the working circuits, gears, and energon flowing throughout. Bumblebee turned his head to Taylor, who was standing quietly, a hooked finger in her mouth, and her arms across her chest. He smiled, and gave her a thumbs up, to try and reassure her. Taylor forced herself to smile, but her eyes were still filled with worry. Then, he turned his head back, as his hand relaxed, as his power was shut off. Taylor cleared her throat, realizing the awkwardness of her presence.
“I’ll wait back upstairs” she said, before quickly turning around and heading outside.
Taylor paced back and forth inside the rec room as the sun went down. The operations remained in session for hours. Taylor hardly ate. She tried her best to sleep, but sleep would no longer come. She was worried. Though she didn’t doubt that Perceptor would do his best not to harm Bumblebee, it was still a huge risk.
Taylor turned around. It was Dakota. She sighed.
Dakota normally wore an emotionless, focused, and firm look on her face. It made people like Taylor wonder if that was really what she was like. However, in this rare moment, Dakota looked concerned.
“Permission to speak freely?” she asked.
Taylor nodded. “Of course.”
“Do you need to go home, Captain? Do you need someone to take you?”
Taylor chuckled. “I appreciate your concern Corporal. Really, I do. But I couldn’t leave. Not under these circumstances.” She sighed. “If I’m going to be honest with you, I’d feel like I’d be doing something wrong going back to the house-”
She looked up, her eyebrows raised.
“-My people are struggling to survive while the clock ticks down, and I have a luxurious house and all the comforts of a human. If I never got a house on this mountain, I wouldn’t complain.”
She put her hands on her heart. “It’s been twenty years, but I will always do anything for my family.”
Dakota listened closely, and nodded. “I understand.”
Taylor sighed again and rubbed her forehead. “Leadership is a wonderful, but heavy burden. You have lives that are dictated based on your decisions, decisions that could and would end in horrible death.”
She paused for a moment, gazing out at the empty rec room.
“I thought that burden was forever lost to me. It’s…” she slowly turned her head to Dakota, “…a bit difficult…To get back into. Back in Michigan, I was just a nanny. Sure, I was responsible for a child’s safety, but I wasn’t taking him to war.”
Dakota nodded again. “I understand. The army is always a tough transition.”
Taylor straightened in her seat and ironed out her shirt with her hands.
“Well, I’ll get adjusted to it.”
She looked out again into the distance.
“We always do.”