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Bumblebee meets John Henry while Starscream plans world domination.
Somewhere along the Denver-Cheyenne rail line, a strange yellow locomotive (Bumblebee in his new altmode) is driving spikes using a built-in, fully automated steam hammer. John Henry's crew, Brawley and Cletus, are favorably impressed, but Henry considers it a "smelly pile of bolts", and worries about man serving machine, rather than the other way around. Cletus makes a joke about how serving Bumblebee is not much different from serving Henry; Henry gets mad briefly, then decides to let it go. Meanwhile, the overseer of the rail-laying project, Vanflint, orders his assistant to find out where the yellow locomotive came from; he wants to order a dozen more. (Presumably so he can then fire John Henry and the rest of the human workers.)
Meanwhile, Shockwave has conveyed Tobias Muldoon to the Decepticons' base on the bottom of San Francisco Bay. Muldoon is astounded and impressed. Starscream and Octane politely interrogate Muldoon, and offer to help him bring a new technological golden age to Earth, by combining Muldoon's imagination with their science. Muldoon is flabbergasted by this opportunity, but points out that this will require a lot of money. Starscream asks him to explain further.
That night, Henry inspects the little yellow locomotive, and muses aloud about how steel will never replace muscle. Bumblebee transforms to robot mode, and reassures him that he is not here to replace humanity, but to help. Henry realizes Bumblebee is a living being, not a device, and replies that he can respect anyone who wants to do an honest day's work. They shake hands.
Elsewhere, a train is carrying a shipment of cash and bullion from the Federal mint in Denver to Sacramento, guarded by soldiers. It is rammed by a bizarre locomotive bearing a variant Decepticon symbol. It breaks apart into the Insecticons: Kickback, Bombshell, and Shrapnel. The trio proceeds to rob the train, commenting that they are working under Starscream's orders, and knew of the shipment through decoded telegraph messages.
The next morning, Muldoon and the Decepticons are picking out a site for their new factory, somewhere in the desert. Muldoon complains that the chosen location is remote; Starscream emphasizes the need for secrecy. The Insecticons arrive (burrowing up from underground), and present Muldoon with the purloined cash. Starscream evades telling Muldoon where they got it from.
Sometime later (presumably weeks), the first shipment of goods is delivered to the Decepticon railhead, a single shack in the middle of nowhere. The deliverymen find the situation odd.
Back at John Henry's crew, Brawley and Cletus read the news of the train robbery, and are amused by the soldier's reports of transforming locomotives. Henry pretends to think it's "booshwah", but (off-screen) tells Bumblebee about it. Bumblebee brings the news to Ratchet, Prowl, and the rest of the Autobots. (Bumblebee is still the only one to have taken a vehicle altmode.) They decide not to wake Optimus Prime, but agree that, if the Decepticons are active, something must be done.
Sometime later (again, presumably weeks), the Decepticon railhead has become a giant factory. Within, the bulk of the Decepticons have traded in their Ice Age beast modes for vehicular alternate forms. Muldoon overhears Starscream talking to Skywarp about his plans for the subjugation of Earth—and, of course, the destruction of Megatron. His plans involve riding "the Astrotrain" to New York and seizing control of the "great eklectrical [sic] power generator" there. Muldoon flees unnoticed.
A week later, he shows up on Stanford Merriweather's doorstep, bedraggled and bearded. Kitty Merriweather welcomes him in, but her father is about to throw him out, ignoring his tales of a threat to the entire human race. However, Stanford's houseguest, Mark Twain, convinces him to let Muldoon stay and tell his story.
(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"Shake the hand of a hammerin' man, Bumblebee."
"Thank you, John Henry."
- —John Henry and Bumblebee
- The timing of events is a bit odd in places. It would presumably take some time for a huge order of lumber and steel to be ordered, packed, and delivered to the Decepticon railhead, but the news of the robbery is only just making it to John Henry's crew, and the Autobots talk to Bumblebee as if he only revealed himself to John Henry recently.
- Skywarp's and Starscream's colors are switched for a couple panels.
Items of note
- Cameos: Rail workers, unidentified Decepticons, Soundwave, a Seeker, a Conehead, Thrust, Frenzy, delivery men, Gears, Tracks, Huffer.
- Most of the Decepticons are still wearing their "Ice Age Wars" bodies as the book begins.
- While many background characters are not mentioned in these synopses (as identifying them is difficult and unnecessary), Soundwave is conspicuously present in one panel of the scene where Muldoon complains about the chosen site for the Decepticon factory. He doesn't say or do anything, and is in his "Ice Age Wars" body.
- In the concept art in the trade paperback collection, the combined "battle train mode" of the Insecticons is called "Insectrain", but this name does not appear in the comic itself. Whether Insectrain is a true gestalt combiner like Devastator, a Micromaster-style combiner (combined altmodes with no emergent personality), or just three robots hooked up in a train, is unknown.
— All by Guido Guidi
- Cover A: Shockwave and Tobias Muldoon
- Cover B: Starscream wraparound sketch (one engine per wing)
- Retailer Incentive: Starscream wraparound sketch (two engines per wing)