TRANSFORMERS: INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Author’s Note: Back in 2002, Benson Yee (with whom I’d worked on “Beast Wars”) contacted me with an idea for a “steampunk” Transformers concept taking place during the Industrial Revolution. He was having a meeting with Hasbro, and he’d pitch them the idea if we had a writeup to present. Although I routinely advise writers to NEVER do anything on spec if it involves characters to which you do not own the rights, I saw this as a fun opportunity to write a “Steampunk Sherlock Holmes,” which I’d always wanted to try. I also took the opportunity to make it a “secret history” – wherein real historical events are presented as the result of behind-the-scenes struggling between Autobots and Decepticons. Thus, many of the people, events, and devices presented here actually existed although I may have fudged the dates a bit for convenience. I also worked in a few BW references, because I could. This is the entire thing; it was intended as a teaser for further development.
As it turned out, Hasbro was already working with writer Chuck Dixon on a similar concept, although theirs was based on the legendary railroad worker John Henry. I still like ours though, so I’ve decided to present it here as a “fanfic” for everyone to read for free. All the usual disclaimers about “Transformers” being a Hasbro property etc. etc. apply; if the company needs me to remove this I’ll be happy to comply, but I hope they’ll be cool with it. They usually are.
And maybe someday I’ll listen to my own advice.
— Bob Forward
Written by Bob Forward
Concept by Benson Yee
Steam gusted briefly into the chilly night air as the braking system brought the Pneumatic Dispatch Car to a gentle if somewhat abrupt stop. Drowsy, the dispatch operator blinked with mild curiosity at the two men emerging from the metal cylinder’s curved doorway. It wasn’t often that anyone found it necessary to visit Silvertown’s Crescent Wharf area at three in the morning. To be sure, the East End waterfront had its share of disreputable establishments catering to those who found the Victorian Era’s restrictive mores a little too restrictive, but such places were miles off on Victoria Dock. This area was little more than factories, all of them currently shuttered against the darkness.
The two men paid little attention to the dispatch operator. The shorter of the two, a stocky man with a worried look, shivered against the damp wind blowing in from the darkness of the Strait of Dover. He muttered a mild complaint through his moustache, but his companion, a tall man with hawk-like features and glittering eyes, seemed oblivious. His attention appeared to be focused on the Brunner Mond caustic soda factory across the way, and it was thither that the two men hurried.
“Drat it, Holmes,” the shorter man said, as they pressed up against the grimy brick of the silent factory. “Even if you did find those soda crystals on Moriarity’s glove, wouldn’t they have more likely come from his washerwoman than an East Side wharf?”
“Taken in themselves, yes,” replied his companion, who was carefully using the end of his umbrella to lever open a gap in the metal shutters covering one of the windows. “But taken in conjunction with the rumors that Moriarity has undertaken the construction of a sub-marine at the Kaiser’s behest…”
“You think that infernal machine could be located here?”
“It is the only washing-soda factory located on a wharf, thus giving the vessel — if such exists – a secretive means of entering and leaving the water. Ah.” The detective’s work with the umbrella had pried a clear gap in one of the metal shutters. Electric light streamed through the exposed window, indicating the factory was not as empty as it seemed.
“Holmes! You knew there was something going on in there!”
“My dear Watson. Why would any thrift-conscious factory owner resort to costly shutters when simple iron bars would be more than adequate to discourage theft? Now then. Your reading-glasses, if you please.”
Watson blinked in surprise, but long association with Sherlock Holmes had taught him not to question that preemptory tone. Delving a pocket in his waistcoat, the shorter man produced a small pair of wire-rimmed reading-glasses. Holmes had already taken from his own rain-cape the large magnifying-glass that was almost as much a part of him as his pipe.
Holding the magnifying-glass at arms’ length and one small lens of the reading-glasses before his eye, Holmes ingeniously created a crude but powerful telescope. With it, he swept his analytical gaze across the contents of the large room within.
The image through the telescope was upside-down, but Holmes’ brilliant mind compensated without effort. However, what he saw puzzled even him. The sub-marine was there; there was no questioning the faultless functionality of the riveted steel sphere, ringed as it was with portholes and mechanical protuberances. And judging from the traces of sea-weed and algae on its surface, it had been successfully tested, and more than once.
But there were strange fragments of metal on the work-bench – metal that gleamed like gold but – to judge from a large piece barely compressing the pages of an open book – was far lighter in weight. And a broken drill-bit on the table gave mute measure of the metal’s strength.
There were other curiosities as well. On the wall were pinned careful but puzzling sketches, no doubt drawn by Moriarity himself. Two symbols, practically pictograms, resembling some obscure characters from an Oriental’s writing-brush. But these were harder-edged, angular. And in a strange way, they resembled faces.
Holmes frowned. There were other sketches lying on the workbench, difficult to make out at this angle. But they appeared to be of some odd derelict ship, its wreckage half-buried in Channel silt, huge windows hinting at whatever it contained within.
“We must get a better look at those drawings, Watson,” declared Holmes. He lowered the rudimentary telescope and began prying at another shutter. “For if my suspicions are correct, Moriarity has discovered something which could be far more dangerous in his deranged hands than the Kaiser’s gold!“
“Dash it all, Holmes – stop playing about with that umbrella then. I have my skeleton-key.” So saying, Watson inserted the key in the lock and gave it a twiddle.
“No!” Holmes spun, but too late. There was the faintest of snicks and a slight hissing. Though the door swung open invitingly, Holmes had already seized his companion’s arm and was sprinting them both back toward the dispatch station.
“Holmes! What the deuce –“
“Watson, do you think for a moment Moriarity would not have anticipated my tracking him down eventually? And I would remind you of another use for caustic soda!”
Holmes hurled Watson bodily into the dispatch car, then seized the startled operator and kicked the activation lever in a single motion. Both men tumbled into the car as the curved door hissed shut and the car slid forward into the pressure-tube.
“What are ye doin’!?” exclaimed the dispatch operator, aghast at finding himself hurtling away from his own station. But Watson was staring at Holmes in horror.
“Good lord, Holmes! You don’t mean –“
“Tri-nitro-toluene,” Holmes stated flatly. And with that, the world exploded.
On the Silvertown dock, 50 tonnes of TNT detonated with the single largest blast ever felt in England. The entire Crescent Wharf and much of the surrounding town was instantly blown to splintered fragments. In the dispatch tube, Holmes, Watson, and the operator were hurled against the rear of the car as the blast-wave propelled the cylinder screaming down its pneumatic tunnel toward central London.
In the waters of the Dover Strait, the shockwave smashed against a hull of golden metal. Things inside rattled and shifted. And somewhere, deep within the bowels of the golden craft, an electrical relay closed. There was a beep, and a hum of long-dormant power.
Teletran-One was online.
Debris, some of it still flaming, clattered down on the Greenwich streets as the fireball from the explosion miles away rose into the night sky. A few chunks of brickwork even clanged against the massive steel barrel of Jacob Perkins’ experimental Steam Gun, at the moment resting quietly in its pivoting cradle.
Perkins himself came dashing from the workshed which served as his sleeping-quarters and laboratory during these days of intense experimentation, gaping in horror at the distant conflagration. “Good Lord!” he exclaimed. Several more chunks of debris flamed down around him. “What could have happened?”
His guest, a businessman of dark aspect and a reserved demeanor, followed him out. The man was aristocratic in bearing, but his eyes glittered in a way that Perkins had found distinctly unsettling. In keeping with his unnerving manner, the man merely glowered irritably at the horrific sight in the distance.
“Holmes, I’ll wager.”
Perkins, distracted by the noise and the spectacle, failed to hear the man’s words clearly. “Homes and factories both, from the size of that blast!” he agreed, aghast. “And more to come if the debris lands on dry rooftops!”
His guest merely looked amused. An observer might guess – correctly – that the twisted mind behind those eyes had anticipated Perkins’ misinterpretation of the remark and had therefore taken pleasure in making it. A further perverse thrill accompanied his next remark: “A disaster, surely. But one which may rid the area of a notable pest or two.”
Perkins turned, properly outraged. “Sir! With good English lives and property surely lost, you merely praise this disaster’s effect upon the rats and fleas? I fear sir, I must question your suitability as an investor!”
Against the now-glowing sky, a distant star streaked upward, trailing a line of smoke. The darker man cocked an eye at it, his mind instantly calculating distance, triangulation, and location. Launched from a point easily a thousand yards away from the initial explosion, and out in the Strait as well. It would appear that the artifact was not as derelict as it had seemed.
“Just as well,” he said, donning the black bowler that he had carried with him from the house. “For my need of your Steam Gun’s armour-piercing capabilities may – quite literally – have gone up in smoke.”
So saying, Moriarity lifted his silver-headed walking cane, embossed with a curious sigil resembling a human eye floating above an Egyptian pyramid. With it, he tapped playfully on the heavy iron plate whose massive hole bore mute testimony to the Steam Gun’s capabilities, and strode out into the flame-illuminated night without a backward glance.
Damage report: 92.38% of hull sensors not responding, presumed damaged or missing
Power reserves 0.003% of capacity
Programming instructions damaged or corrupted
Repair needs critical
Cybertronian life forms in stasis detected
Basic reactivation automatic sequencing initiated
High above the Earth, a small emergency rocket, its solid-fuel booster rendered sporadic and unstable after eons in storage, gave a brief wobble in the sky as its automated scanners flashed over England and part of Mainland Europe, noting in particular the mechanisms flourishing in this, the heyday of the Industrial Revolution. It also detected and analyzed certain atmospheric vibrations, transmitting its data back to the submerged ship.
Something else was detected. Strange mobile objects that appeared to be alive, despite being constructed of incredibly fragile material. The rocket was attempting to scan these as well when its remaining fuel, too unstable to burn as propellant any longer, simply exploded.
Inside the sunken Cybertronian ship, Teletran One – with limited information, garbled instructions, and power almost completely gone – came to the only decision it could. It needed help. It needed repair. And to do it, it would have to awaken those Cybertronian passengers its long-maintained stasis field had apparently protected against the crash.
By unfortunate chance, the Cybertronian nearest the great computer was perhaps the last one that Teletran One, under normal circumstances, would ever have chosen.
Power flared briefly, weak and sputtering. But it was enough. With the faintest whine of servos and a flare of reddish light from his eyes, the Decepticon leader known as Megatron raised his massive metal head.
Data was still flowing into him from Teletran One. The ship’s computer, puzzled over the fact that the planet appeared to have more than one language, settled on the dominant one for the area, but sprinkled in attributes from the others in proportion to their frequency within the detected range. Dazed but contemptuous, Megatron personally rejected the nuances as his mind seized on one of the local mechanisms offered for deception. Teletran-One’s power-reserves groaned, but within Megatron’s huge body, certain transformation adjustments were made.
Megatron raised his head further. Servos groaned. Megatron frowned. More than lack of power – he was detecting… corrosion? How long had they been in offline?
His processing circuits dredged recent archives, which responded with uncharacteristic sluggishness. But slowly, recordings and images began to assemble themselves…
Silent in the vacuum of space, they bloomed against the great golden ship that filled the targeting viewscreens on the Nemesis’ command bridge. The Autobot ship was returning fire, but its power reserves had already been drained during its mission to clear a deadly asteroid field. Damaged and low on power, it was an easy target for the Decepticon flagship. Blasting the Autobot guns into shards of spinning metal, the Nemesis moved alongside, activating its boarding tube.
Megatron scowled as he led the way to the boarding hatch. It would have been far more satisfying to destroy the Autobot ship and simply use the Nemesis’ guns against any drifting survivors, but Black Zarak was right. The Ark was a valuable prize, worth expending the effort to capture more-or-less intact.
With a sizzling clank, the boarding tube locked the two ships together, its far end sealing against a section of the Ark that Megatron had carefully chosen. Transforming into his Fusion Cannon form, Megatron unleashed a blast of pure energy down the tube. Like a giant fist, the plasma ball smashed through the Autobot hull – and the onboard guidance console on the other side. Now helpless, the Ark had no chance of escape and the Decepticons stormed aboard, weapons blazing.
Unlike their ship, the Autobot crew was far from helpless. Optimus Prime himself led the charge to defend the ship against its invaders and the battle waged furiously. It spilled into the Ark’s huge command bridge, where Decepticon and Autobot struggled, metal sparking against metal…
But the Ark’s sporadically pulsing drive mechanism, now completely uncontrolled, had thrown the ships off course. Hurtling in an uncontrolled path across the cosmos, they had approached a strange, blue-green planet before either side had noticed. By the time Megatron’s optics had registered their imminent crash, there was no time to get back aboard the Nemesis.
Slamming into the atmosphere at meteoric speeds, the Nemesis’ own fins ripped the Ark apart as the ships plummeted planetward. And then there was…
Megatron shook his head. Around him, other Decepticons were also stirring, Teletran One’s transformation ray passing weakly over them. But though their forms altered somewhat, power-wise they were in little better shape. They had to find energy – and quickly. But first…
Servos creaking, Megatron reached out and crashed a huge fist against the Teletran-One console, shutting it down once more. The Autobots, further away, appeared to be still offline.
“Decepticons!” he bellowed. “Rise up! For a cycle of opportunity lies before us!”
With shuddering clanks, the other Decepticons – Skywarp, Reflector, Soundwave and his components, and Starscream – started to struggle to their feet. All had undergone Teletran One’s modifications except Starscream, who angrily rejected the fading blue glow that was still playing over him.
“Bah! What is this feeble technology that attempts to corrupt my superior form! Away with it I say!”
The glow faded as Teletran One’s final circuits shut down. Megatron eyed the untrustworthy cohort, secretly amused that while Starscream’s outward form remained the same, he had already adopted the speech patterns of the local language.
“Disguise is a valuable asset to a warrior, Starscream.”
Starscream leaned heavily on the prostrate form of Bumblebee as he struggled to his feet.
“So is pride, Megatron! And I shall keep mine, thank you very much!”
“I find the new form acceptable,” intoned Soundwave loyally. Reflector was still examining his.
Megatron’s optics scanned the bridge area. Oh, how he had dreamed of such an opportunity. Helpless Autobots, including Prime himself, scattered before him. With a reverberating chn-chn-chn, Megatron’s arm transformed into an exact replica of Jacob Perkins’ mighty Steam Gun and took aim at Optimus Prime’s motionless head.
“Uhhh!” Abruptly, Megatron staggered, clutching at his head. A strange double-surge had passed through his system, as though his optics had observed the scene once before. He shook his head, dazed, as an internal sensor beeped warningly. “Something…. strange….”
“Our power reserves are dangerously low,” observed Soundwave. “My sensors show your weapon is currently unable to charge.”
“Yes…” Megatron shook his head again, the strange double-image fading. A malfunction, obviously. No doubt due to Energon depletion. Feeling Starscream’s calculating optics gauging him, Megatron forced himself upright, taking command once more.
“Decepticons! We must fall back for now! This planet will have primitive energy sources, and we must find them! Quickly!”
“And leave these Autobot scum!?” Starscream summoned the vestiges of his power to plant a vicious kick on Bumblebee’s prostrate form.
“They have lain here for eons,” Megatron declared contemptuously. “They can lay here a few cycles more.” He turned, heading for the hatch. “Once we have replenished our power, we can return to finish them off.” The rest of the Decepticons followed him toward the hatch.
On the floor, Bumblebee’s optics reflected their images in the dark and silent crystal. But as the inner hatch closed, there was a faint glimmer of blue….
The conflagration on the remains of Crescent Wharf still burned, and Megatron, rising from the dark and silent waters of the Strait, scanned it with some longing. Combustion was a primitive but undeniably usable form of energy. Still, the commotion of strange organic creatures seemed focused there, and it would not do to risk confrontation in their current state. Churning the dark waters weakly, the Decepticons headed away from the flames, toward the distant outline of the shore of France.
From a dark steam launch, a pair of eyes observed them through a spy-glass. Moriarity smiled, lowering the telescope. In the starlight, the strange sigil on his silver-headed cane winked as he used it to urge the throttle gently forward.
At 221b Baker Street, London, a Dion Bouton steam-taxi chuffed to a vapor-spewing halt on the cobbles. After a brief detour to deliver the station-attendant into the frantically tearful arms of his wife (who had presumed him lost in the blast) Holmes and Watson had returned to their flat. Holmes was still dabbing his cheek with a handkerchief – the station-attendant’s wife, having learned of Holmes’ heroic saving of her husband, had been effusive in her gratitude.
As they stepped from the cab, Watson noted the shattered windows, the commotion in the street, and the flames still illuminating the eastern horizon. “Zounds, Holmes – the blast must have rocked the whole of London!”
“Without a doubt.” Putting away his handkerchief, Holmes contemplated the sketch he had made in his notebook during the cab ride home. An angular symbol, almost a face…
“But to what end, man!?” Watson was still shaken by the night’s events. “I’m as proud as the next chap, but if the trap was for us, a keg or two of blasting-powder would have done the job at far less inconvenience and expense!”
“Ah, but there would have been a good deal of the building’s contents left intact,” Homes said, leading the way to the apartment door as the cab puffed hastily away up the street. The door had already been opened by the worried-looking Mrs. Hudson, awakened like the rest of London by the earth-shaking blast. “And that is something which, I assure you, Moriarity would not have desired.”
Brushing aside Mrs. Hudson’s anxious queries with a few soothing remarks, Holmes led the way to the sitting-room and locked the door carefully. He held up the sketch of the strange angular symbol. “Observe this symbol, Watson. It was visible in Moriarity’s workshop. Now tell me, old friend – have you seen this symbol before?”
“How the deuce…” Watson started to bluster, then stopped. Years of association with the great detective had taught him to observe the world more closely than normal men. And in fact, there was something familiar about the symbol. He had seen it before… many times… not really thinking about it…
“There!” Watson spun, pointing triumphantly. His finger indicated the innocuously gleaming brass of Holmes’ Nachet Binocular Compound Microscope that rested prominently on the corner worktable. Sure enough, that same angular symbol was visible on one of the golden eyepieces. Holmes raised an eyebrow.
“Excellent, Watson! You see, and you observe. Not many men would have noted such an insignificant marking, even in their every-day quarters.”
Pleased at the compliment and trying to hide it, Watson chuckled embarrassedly. “Well, dash it Holmes, the way you mutter and muse aloud when you look through that instrument, I’d begun to think it a closer friend than me!”
Watson laughed, then stopped as he noticed his friend had not joined in. There was a serious expression on Holmes’ face as he said:
“Closer? No. But a friend…? Again, you astound me with your perception, Watson. For in fact, you have hit closer to the mark than you know. It was a secret I was loath to keep from you, but I did so out of respect for another. However, given this night’s current events, it is time that situation changed. Dr. John Watson, permit me to introduce you to – Perceptor!”
Before the good doctor’s astonished eyes, the microscope unfolded with a strange chn-chn-chn noise, growing larger as it reformed itself into a bipedal form, stepping off the table and extending a mechanical hand.
“An honor, sir, at last,” said the mechanical creature politely. Then it looked startled as a crash shook the house.
“A bit much all at once, I fear,” sighed Holmes, looking down at Watson’s prostrate body on the floor. “Come, help me get him into this chair, and we’ll see if he can’t be roused enough to hear the rest of the story.”
Deep beneath the waves of the Dover Strait, dim light shone through the Ark’s sapphire-crystal windows once more.
Inside, the Autobots were on their feet, testing their new forms and data programming, courtesy of Teletran-One’s final reserves of power.
“Yes, it was touch-and-go there for a moment,” Bumblebee said. “Teletran-One had just started to bring me online when Megatron shut it down. So I kept mum, which wasn’t easy, let me tell you, especially when he was trying to shoot Optimus in the head.”
Optimus groaned, rubbing his cranium with a titanium hand. “Feels like someone did,” he grumbled, testing his neck joints for creakiness. “But at least you were able to reactivate Teletran-One. How long have we been offline?”
Mainframe was already checking the readouts. “Three million local years, give or take a century or two. The timing circuits are badly corroded.”
Optimus looked up, aghast. “Three million…!?”
Fireballs in the sky.
Like angels of destruction, the first asteroids smashed into Iacon, the great Autobot city of Cybertron. Massive chunks of stone and iron plowed into buildings and destroyed roads, shaking the very foundations of the planet.
And this was only the first wave; the scattered forerunners of an asteroid swarm like no Autobot had ever seen. If it reached Cybertron, the entire planet faced certain destruction.
In the Autobot Council chamber, the great Autobot leader Alpha Trion faced the other members of his emergency council. The lights – already dim due to Cybertron’s ongoing power crisis – flickered even more as distant asteroids made intermittent impacts on the planet.
“I think we are agreed we have little choice,” intoned Alpha Trion.
To his right, Ultra Magnus nodded. “It will cost the city vast reserves of precious Energon, but the Ark must be launched. Otherwise we face certain destruction.
“We may face it anyway,” muttered Sky Lynx. “The Decepticons are pounding our defenses almost as hard as the asteroids pound the planet.”
“And there is no guarantee that the Ark will be enough to destroy the asteroid field,” pointed out Pyro.
“It will in the command of the right captain,” said Alpha Trion sternly. He gestured, and the floor of the council chamber hissed open. Rising slowly into the light on a hydraulic platform, a single familiar red-white-and-blue figure was standing at attention.
“Optimus Prime,” acknowledged one. “If any Autobot can do it, he can.”
On his platform, illuminated by the flickering light, Optimus nodded stiffly. “Your confidence is appreciated, Kup. But I understand the council’s concerns. I will, of course, take a select crew to ensure the job is done properly.”
The last member of the council, Thunderclash, frowned. “But if the Decepticons find out that Optimus and our most powerful warship are both engaged in a desperate mission, they will not hesitate to press their attack on our defenses.”
“Then the mission must remain a secret,” declared Alpha Trion. He nodded at Optimus. “Optimus Prime. You have your orders. You are to take the Autobot flagship on a mission of extreme emergency to destroy the oncoming asteroid swarm. But you and your crew must leave at once, and in secret.”
Optimus saluted. “I understand,” he said. “It will be done.”
As Optimus lowered back down into the chamber floor, another pair of eyes watched from the shadows of the room. With the faintest of snarls, the stealth-shielded Decepticon known as Ravage slipped invisibly out a side door and sprinted away.
Inside the Ark they were loud, ripping huge holes in the golden hull. Optimus grimaced. The Decepticons had been more clever than even the Council had anticipated. They had waited until Optimus’ crew, frantically working within the Ark, had successfully destroyed the asteroid swarm – and then they sent the Nemesis against the Ark itself. Power and crew both exhausted, the Ark stood little chance against the Decepticon flagship.
And then, as the boarding tube locked the two ships together and the Decepticons blasted their way in, the two ships spiraled out of control toward a strange blue-green planet…
Optimus looked up. The others were facing him, the same question running through all their circuits. It was Bluestreak, naturally, who voiced it first.
“If three million years have passed – what about Cybertron?”
Cliffjumper looked worried. “Low on energy, and without the Ark for defense…”
Optimus stood, trying to radiate more strength than he felt. “Remember, Autobots, the Decepticons lost the Nemesis as well. We have to hope for the best.”
“And in the meantime, Megatron is sure to return here, once he recharges.” Prowl pointed out.
“Then we had better make sure we’re in a condition to fight,” said Optimus. “Who has enough energy to travel?”
Bumblebee raised his hand, but the others looked doubtful. The battles and power drain had left them almost depleted.
Ratchet shook his head. “There’s power left in the ship, but not enough for all of us.”
Optimus straightened. “It’ll be enough,” he said. “Ratchet, transfer it to my storage units. Everyone else…”
He grunted. With a massive chn-chn-chn sound, the great Autobot general transformed into his new form – that of a massive steam locomotive. Huge silver rails, complete with ties, wrapped around his wheels like tank treads. Steam billowed as his cargo door slid open.
“…All aboard,” Optimus finished.
On the shores of Dover, three figures stood, the night wind whipping around them. Far in the distance, the flames from Silvertown were starting to die down, the brave firefighters winning their way against the disaster.
Two of the figures were human. The third, most decidedly, was not.
“So you’ve been hiding on earth for over three million years!?” Watson’s voice was incredulous.
Perceptor shrugged – a human gesture, but he’d had plenty of time to learn such mannerisms.
“I fell from the ship when it tore apart. A drop of seventeen miles – I was badly damaged.”
“Well, I should say so, sir!”
Perceptor almost grinned at the unconscious honorific. Watson was already coming to think of him as a person. Humans were amazingly adaptable – for a species that couldn’t transform, anyway.
“I made what repairs I could, then simply stayed in hiding, taking various shapes as needed. As eons passed, I helped out where I was able – encouraging technological developments, that sort of thing. Progress brought me more materials for better repairs; I fear to a certain extent my actions were self-serving.”
“But mankind benefited as well, did they not?”
Perceptor winced. He’d revealed himself to a few people, people he’d felt were trustworthy and of scientific bent. But it hadn’t always been successful. Once he’d assisted Galileo in understanding the heavens, and the poor chap had been convicted of heresy.
“For the most part,” he said. “I meant well, anyway.”
“He’s been most invaluable to me on several cases,” Holmes offered. “And in return, I have kept watch for signs of his long-lost companions. That leads us to Moriarity, and the events of this night.” He looked at Perceptor. “So now you say this… sub-space of yours is actively detecting others of your kind?”
Perceptor nodded. “Difficult though it may be to believe, I am able, to a certain degree, to detect them when they are active. And I sense them to be very near to us now.”
Watson scanned the waters. “What, in a ship of sorts? I see nothing between here and Calais but the open sea – eh!?”
Watson broke off with a gasp as the waves before them began to boil and churn. Steam bubbled to the surface, bursting in huge smoking bubbles, as a massive black shape of iron began to arise from the waves. Salt water cascaded steaming from its boiler as its glowing headlight lit up the night. Churning powerfully, the huge locomotive lumbered up onto the beach on its ever-unrolling track, steam billowing around it in massive clouds. With a final hiss, it ground to a stop, dwarfing the two humans who gaped up at it. Perceptor stepped forward. After a million years of observing humans, he knew how to play a dramatic moment.
“Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson,” Perceptor said, indicating the locomotive, which in an indefinable way seemed to be looking at them, “May I present the Autobot general and commander of the Ark – Optimus Prime!”