TFE

C8 Ghosts

Copyright 2006, masterfwiffo. All rights reserved.

The black form stood, staring at the excavation site in what could only be described as terror. Across the winds his voice carried, repeating the same phrase over and over again. "It can't be. They can't be gone. They can't be gone!"

But they were.

His orange visor faded to black for a long moment, before it shined back to life. Then with a raging howl he shot into the air, changing into his triangular form and zipping into the distance.

-----

He stood like a great pillar, towering toward the sky, the light of dawn barely illuminating his covered face. He was motionless, disturbingly so, as though he was an ancient statue dedicated to watching the ever-coming dawn.

Andrew Smith found him rather fascinating.

Omega Supreme had been the last of the robots awakened, upon his discovery by Evac. General Corbet had thrown a fit about that, going on and on about the obvious danger of waking a giant among giants. But before anyone had a chance to react, Evac had plugged himself in and brought him to life. He had grunted once, and soon assumed his steadfast posture. Getting anything more from him was a chore.

This had become a bit of a morning ritual for Smith, in his daily routine to check on the robots to make sure they hadn't run away during the night.

"Good morning, Omega." He called up cheerfully.

There was a creaking sound as Omega turned his massive head down to glance at him, then resumed his normal posture with a grunt.

Smith marked that as progress- at least Omega had acknowledged his existence this time. He had seen that Omega wasn't dumb - from the brief snippets of speech he had overheard, quite far from it actually - just very, very un-talkative.

He left Omega to his steadfast post, and then began his daily hunt for the rest of his motley robotic crew. He wandered toward the main hanger, the same on that had housed the Transformers comatose bodies only a week before. At the entrance, his attention was quickly caught by the large figure hunched intensely over a book, which was a difficult hold in her large hands.

SMith quickly decided not bug her, because as usual, Crosswise was busy absorbing 'historical anecdotes', as she affectionately called them. She was quickly turning herself into a veritable library of human knowledge. She didn't even notice him as he strolled past.

Smith continued into the hanger, where he was far from surprised to find Chris working on the third Transformer.

"Good morning Chris, Meis-" Smith halted and corrected himself- "err, Jazz." Jazz, as he had quickly taken to calling himself, flashed his lights on response.

"Morn'n Andrew. What'sup man?"

Smith shuddered a bit. Along with the adoption of his new alternate mode, a very sleek white car, Meister had very quickly adopted some rather annoying Earth speech quirks and mannerisms, so far as renaming himself after, well, jazz. He was currently being encouraged by Chris.

"Morning Smith!" Chris called back, poking his head out of the back seat. "Could you give me a hand? I'm trying to install a new sound system!"

Smith paused for a moment, trying to decide wether or not it was worth the effort to remind Chris that this was, indeed, a military installation. He decided against it.

"It's going to be sweet!" Jazz hooted. "I'll be able to take all my 'tunes with me!"

"Have fun." Smith said, trying to remain cheery. "Say, have you seen the other two?"

"Don't know where Hightail ran off too." Jazz said nonchalantly. "Off by herself again, you know how she is, always moping around like that and-"

"I get it, Jazz."

"'Oh. Right."

"I saw Evac and Michelle head off earlier." Chris spoke up, returning his focus to the speakers as he talked. "Probably at the same place they always are."

"I still don't get what they're up too." Jazz grumbled.

Chris and SMith exchanged knowing glances. "Thanks for your help." Smith said quickly.

Jazz grunted, and revved his engine as he always did when he got impatient. Chris returned to work, and Smith headed back out.

"Good morning Mr. Smith!" Crosswise called as he walked out.

"Now she wants to talk." Smith muttered to himself as he called back his greeting, and continued to his search.

Crosswise transformed, shifting down into her sleek, black car form, and rolled alongside him.

"If you don't mind, I have a few questions..."

"What, Crosswise?"

"Well, I was reading about the Napoleonic wars- and oh, that Napoleon, he was a fascinating character, wasn't he? I've been cross-referencing everything said about him, and is it true he was so short? I mean for a human, and, but while I see his militaristic genius, I want to know just how he commanded them to such effect. I see though how Russia was a failure-"

"You had a question?"

"Oh... yes. Um... where's France?"

Smith groaned. "Ask a geography major." He snapped.

Crosswise was quiet for a moment. "Err, I also have been reading about the restoration- no, the reinvigoration, no the renaissance. Yes, that's it. I was impressed by the works of-"

"I don't know that either." Smith cut her off. "If you don't mind, I'm a little busy right now. Ask me some other time."

"Oh... alright." She sighed dejectedly, turning about trudging off to find a new corner to hole-up in and continue her studies.

Smith shook his head. Shortly after their awakening, Evac had released two metal spheres into the air that had flown about to their selected new alternate modes and scanned them. Upon their return, he had watched their exterior armor literally melt and re-solidify itself in new shapes. It was a fascinating experience, proving just how alien their technology was.

But with the new forms, all sorts of strange quirks seemed to come with them. Jazz's love of culture was quickly turning him 'native', and Crosswise's obsession with history not only consumed her at all times, but seemed to leave her disturbing obsessed with a book, or annoyingly over-talkative with a question. Hightail, taking the form of a small motorcycle, remained as withdrawn as she was in the beginning. And Evac...

He hardly wanted to think about Evac.

He caught sight of a brief movement to the side of one of the warehouses. A quick check identified Hightail, sitting on the ground and staring morosely at the sky. She was an odd case. None of the others seemed to have any memory of her existence, while they all remembered each other. Already shy by her very nature, she had tried to fit in with them, but just couldn't for one glaringly obvious reason. It was never stated outright, but she disliked the company of humans. She would avoid them whenever possible, and was clearly disappointed that the others spent their time on human endeavors. Smith couldn't begin to imagine where this dislike came from, but he had to deal with it. Past experience taught him to expect little out of her, so he walked right past her, and turned his thoughts back to Evac, and no doubt, his companion, who were no doubt at Evacs favorite spot, just outside the bases perimeter.

---

The military base lay in the middle of a vast desert, with a lone set of hills the only relief from the surrounding flatlands. It was there that Evac had found a small rocky outcropping, large enough to seat himself, and his closest friend.

He sat there, his arm on his knee, staring out over the horizon. If they got out there early enough, their spot was well situated to watch the sunrise. But now that the sun was well overhead, their conversations began to wander.

"Are the oceans still as blue as they once were?" Evac asked suddenly. He was often prone to asking such spontaneous questions with little to no provocation.

At his side, next to his massive feet, Michelle laughed. "Yes. They are."

"I'd like to see them again." Evac said softly. "I remember liking them."

"I do too." Michelle answered, leaning back against his leg. "Last time I went there was well before my parents died. I must have been, I dunno, 12 at the time." She smiled softly as her memories took her back. "Dad always loved the beach. Mom said she hated it, hated getting all the sand in her hair... But I think she secretly liked it. They'd leave me to play in the sand while they took a walk along the shore, by themselves, enjoying the company. I'd watch them back from my sand- fort... I'd always built a fort. Helped me feel safe when they went off. But they walked along, holding hands, together. I remember watching the sun set, as they were framed by its light..." She sighed.

Evacs hand came down , gently covering her back and giving her a gentle squeeze. He'd already been told the story of the night he died- a painful one that hurt him to hear as much as it hurt her. "I'd like to go back with you sometime." Evac said softly.

"I would too." She answered, leaning back into his hand.

It was quiet for a moment before Michelle spoke again. "What made you think of the ocean?"

"I don't know." Evac answered back. "A memory just came back to me... I guess of a sunrise on the sea. Not much, really. Just us, looking out at the sea. Me, Omega, Jazz, Crosswise... and..." He paused frowning.

"Hightail?" Michelle offered.

"No..." Evacs frowned deepened. "I remember... there was another..."

"Your memories are still scrambled." Michelle said gently. "It'll come back to you in time." As Evac pondered that, a frown crossed her face, as something important tried to come to her mind, but failed to present itself. Then Evac spoke again.

"Our minds work different then yours." He spat, suddenly sounding angry. "Whatever is lost is gone."

Michelle reached up and grabbed his thumb, the closest she could manage to holding his hand. "It'll be all right." She said softly.

Evacs grimace softened, and slowly turned to a smile as he glanced back down at her. "Thank you. You're right."

"I'm glad I can help." Michelle smiled back.

---

Smith shook his head. He hadn't voiced his objections aloud, but Michelle was beginning to worry him. She and Evac were, well, he didn't want to call them lovers, but their relationship was far closer then he would have liked. Jazz and Chris were fast friends but he didn't mind that, after-all, Chris knew relatively little in comparison. But Michelle...

"SMITH!"

Smith grimaced. He knew that voice well. "Yes General." He said politely, turning to face General Corbet, whose face was now very red with anger.

"What in Gods name do you intend to do about... about... THIS!"

Smith glanced past the Generals angrily gesturing arm, and to his amusement saw Jazz (with Chris in the drivers seat) and Crosswise making playful spins around and between the legs of a very bored looking Omega Supreme. With a whoop from both the car and the occupant, Jazz tilted on his side and drove through Omegas wheels on two tires, at 35 mph. Crosswise laughed and followed suite. Watching them, Smith could only barely suppress a chuckle.

Noticing his reaction, Corbet only became angrier. "Damn-it Smith! I've had it up to here with these robots. Between those twos stupid races and tricks, and that girls crush on the helicopter, I can't take this anymore. This is a military installation, not a daycare for space robots!"

Smith waved his hand. "Relax general. As you can see, our scientific experiments here have taken an entirely new turn."

"I fail to see anything scientific about this!" Corbet roared.

Jazz pulled off to the side, and Chris stumbled out of the car, holding onto his door woozily for a second. Crosswise rolled to a stop and transformed, plopping down on the ground with a very happy laugh.

"General, General..." Smith said smoothly. "You're overlooking the forrest for a few trees."

"It's easy when those trees are painted flamboyant pink."

Smith rolled his eyes. "Now General, listen." Smith quickly lead the General away so the Transformers couldn't here him. "We have here the most potent weapon possible against the robots that attacked us." He said quietly. "Their own kind. What better weapon could you ask for?"

"Yes, yes, you told me before." Corbet growled. "I don't see-"

"They need to trust us." Smith continued. "We want them on our side, correct? It is best then to let them do as they wish for awhile, until we actually need their help."

"Hmph."

Smith continued to smile, but in reality, he had his concerns as well, though far different from the Generals. For a week now they had been lying to their guests. No mention of the other robots that attacked them was allowed- nor was the existence of the 6th... Trust was necessary, even at the cost of the truth.

But Michelle was a loose cannon. Smith didn't trust her to keep her mouth shut. And that was why her time with Evac continually disturbed him.

"Smith?"

Smith glanced at General Corbet.

"The Pentagon wants a report soon. Should I tell them are robot friends are having street races?"

He motioned over his back, where Crosswise and Jazz were indeed roaring back and forth across what was supposed to be a landing strip.

Smith sighed. "Tell them anything. I don't really care."

Corbet shook his head. "It's gonna be fun explaining this to the Brass." He muttered.

----

The whirling of Evacs blades interrupted Jazz and Crosswise's games. As a yellow rescue helicopter, Evac touched down, and Michelle cheerfully hopped out of his cockpit area, steadying herself against his nose. Chris looked up and waved cheerfully.

Jazz whirled to a stop and transformed. ""Heya Evac! What's happening?"

"Not a lot." Evac answered as his nose split in two, becoming his legs as the helicopter reorganized and righted itself into his more humanoid form. Evac cast a quick glance around, mentally tallying his friends. He made a brief nod toward Omega Supreme, and cast a sidelong glance toward Hightail, who failed to acknowledge him.

"I dig." Jazz answered. "Man, it's getting boring here. Only so much you can do on a military base."

"Yeah, I'd like to see some of these places I keep reading about." Crosswise added. "That would be a lot of fun."

Evac paused, looking at the sky thoughtfully. "Why not? We've been here at this base, and not seeing our new world. Perhaps its time to go exploring"

Michelle and Chris exchanged quick worried glances.

"Evac," Michelle said quickly, "I'm not sure-"

"I'd love to see more!" Crosswise said excitedly. "Lets go to France, see the Louvre! Or maybe Egypt! Are the pyramids really as big as they say?"

"Well, why not?" Jazz whooped. "Lets do it!"

"I'm afraid we can't allow that."

The three transformers turned to stare at Mr. Smith, who had quickly and politely snuck up on them without a sound.

"Well, why not?" Jazz protested.

"There's a reason we've kept you here this long." Smith said calmly, taking the time to choose his words carefully. "The human race isn't... shall we say, ready for your presence."

"Oh bullshit." Jazz spat.

Smith whirled and glared at Chris, who turned bright red in embarrassment, and backed up. That one was clearly his fault.

Evac bent down to look at Smith in face. "I don't understand."

"You see," Smith said cautiously, "The human race is full of people who are all too comfortable in the way their world works. The shock of an alien race, no matter how friendly, might prove to much for many of them. The higher ups are still trying to decide how best to introduce you to the world."

"And how long will that take?" Jazz demanded.

"It's hard to say." Smith said softly. "But, we all hope you won't have to stay here too much longer."

Evac nodded. "I see... and accept."

"Well that's just dandy." Jazz growled, transforming and rolling off with a puff of smoke leaving his engine.

"I wanted to see the pyramids..." Crosswise pouted, and followed him dejectedly.

Evac halted for a moment, glancing down at Michelle for a longing moment before following them.

"Evac..." Michelle said softly, starting to follow him when Smiths hands grabbed her arm.

"I need to talk to you." Smith said quickly. "You too Chris. I want to make sure you both know what not to tell them..."

---

Once more the black robot stood, his optics centered at the human installation so far away, where he knew the Transformers he had been assigned to guard now were.

"Damn Autobots." He hissed, his sigil flashing purple. "Damn Decepticons." The sigil flashed back to red. "They took me off my guard, and now..." He sighed dejectedly. No point in stalling any longer. He turned toward the sky, and activated his communicator.

An image flashed before hi, shrouded in a cape but with a great purple visor staring back down at him. "Sideways, report."

Sideways gulped. "Bad news, sire. While I was attempting to stop the bots and cons, by, well you see-"

"Get on with it."

"The humans uncovered and reawakened the Earth bound robots."

His master paused at this news. "This is distressing. My operations are not yet at a point where they should be waken up."

"I apologize, my liege." Sideways said, dropping to one knee.

"You fool."

Sideways winced. Though his masters voice remained calm as it always did, the words carried far more consequence then he wanted to think about.

"Again you've let your love of chaos interfere with your objectives. This cannot be allowed to continue."

"Yes... sire."

"All is not lost yet." His master answered. "You still have a chance. You must find a way to kill the Autobots and Decepticons. Under no circumstances, must the Earth Transformers be allowed to leave."

"But sir-"

"Do not fail me again Sideways. You know the price of failure."

Sideways paled. "Ye-ye-yes sir."

And then the image faded to nothingness.

"Authoritative moron." Sideways hissed. "Who does he think he is? Well, I'll show em. Those Bots and Cons will end up dead, at the Earthers hands. Oh what wonderful fun that will be..."

And still muttering, he took off into the air.

-----

Night fell, and Smith again made his rounds. Omega was still steadfast at his post, quiet and resilient as ever. Michelle and Evac were grouped together in the middle of the field, stargazing, it appeared. As for the others...

To his shock, he found three robots and a human sitting in one of the main hangers, it's lights off and a soft glow in front of them. Jazz and Crosswise were hanging around what appeared to be a large couch, which Chris was sitting on. Hightail was making a rare appearance just behind them, unusually attentive. All four were staring at the flickering of a small television. And from what he could tell, the focus of their attention appeared to be a soap opera.

"Where the hell did that come from?" Smith demanded, jaw agape.

"Ben brought it." Chris said without moving his eyes or blinking.

"Where did he- never mind. I don't want to know." Smith shook his head. He had thought that Ben was one of the few people at the installation sane enough to not do things like that.

Then his eyes found the accused standing in the corner, watching the group from a short distance. Smith quickly headed over to him. Ben waved. then turned his attention back to the group. "You know, I don't think I'll ever get used to these robots." He said quietly. "Like kids. Big, alien, robot kids."

"Do I want to know?" Smith asked.

"One of the scientist-guys down below wanted to see their reaction. I coulda told them this is what it'd look like."

"Ah." Smith said, glancing up at the ceiling. He knew every conceivable part of this installation was now under 24-hour surveillance, monitoring the robots actions, with teams of scientists watching everything unfold. Only a few were actually allowed to talk to the robots, though all were allowed to observe - it was the most efficient way to let everyone reach their own conclusions. He made a mental note to find the idiot who's brilliant idea this was.

"Now if you'll excuse me," Ben said, "I think Sarah is about to leave Jason for Richard."

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Smith said, and quickly walked off.

---

Hightail watched with very unusual intensity. No-one seemed to notice her eyes focused on the screen. Two humans were holding each other closely, and Hightail slowly pulled herself forward to hear better.

"Oh Richard, is it true?"

"Is what true my dear?"

"Do you love me more then Jason?"

"Of course my dear! I love you more then life itself!"

"Oh! Say it again!"

"I love you Sarah!"

And then they embraced each other and kissed passionately.

"Can we watch something else?" Chris muttered.

"No." Jazz, Crosswise and Ben replied simultaneously.

Chris grumbled and sank back into the couch. Nobody noticed Hightail wander off.

----

"We call those three Orions Belt." Michelle said, pointing upwards.

"We named them Farseyia Nevas." Evac replied, then went quiet.

Michelle glanced up at him expectantly.

"It's odd that I can remember trivial facts like that." Evac said softly. "But not what happened, or even the names of several faces."

"Still can't remember that one person?" Michelle asked gently.

Evac shook his head. "I can see his face in my mind... but no name... or who he was... or where he is now..." He trailed off and the conversation seemed to end for a long moment.

"Evac?"

"Yes Michelle?" Evac said distractedly, failing to notice the query hadn't come from his human companion.

"EVAC!"

He and Michelle both turned to see a very indignant looking Hightail glaring up at them.

"Sorry." Evac said apologetically. Hightail only glared at him until he added, "Can I help you?"

Hightails anger disappeared quickly, and an altogether different expression appeared on her young face, a mix of confusion and doubt. "Evac..." she said cautiously, "Do- do you love me?"

Michelle blurted out a laugh before trying attempting (and failing) to hold it in, which earned her a look of complete and utter disdain from Hightail. Evac however, cocked his head sideways and looked at her curiously, as if trying to interpret the question. Finally he decided how to respond. "I suppose so. Yes. I care deeply for all of my friends. Why would I not?"

It was obviously not the answer she was looking for. With a dejected 'Oh." She hung her head, transformed, and roared off.

"What was that about?" Evac asked in confusion.

Michelle chuckled. "Nothing Evac, don't worry about it. Childhood crush."

"I don't understand."

"I'll tell you when your older." Michelle said playfully, laughing to herself as she looked up at the stars.

---

Hightail sped to a secluded hanger. It was massive and empty- anything that had once occupied it had moved out when the robots were awakened. She circled the center a few times before spotting a large alcove cut into one of the walls. She drifted over to it and leaned herself against the inside, and a sighed deeply. She couldn't understand or explain the conflicting emotions that welled inside her, much like she couldn't understand why she reviled humans so. It was all a jumbled, confusing mess that left her helpless, and alone.

She couldn't remember the home-world that Jazz, Crosswise and Evac spoke so fondly of. She couldn't remember Earth as it had been before. All she could remember before she awoke was a lone image of Evacs face, but nothing more. And that upset her. She had awoken into a world with comrades who did not know her, and she did not know them. It didn't help that she was by far the smallest and weakest of them, with no real interest or love of knowledge the others shared.

Far worse was the sickening attachment her fellow robots had developed with the humans. Hightail had to suppress an involuntary shudder every time she saw one. The notion of organic flesh disgusted her, and sent her systems in revolt. And their attachments to them simply made her ill- especially Evacs closeness to Michelle.

Evac too troubled her. Her sole memory being of his face, she had expected him to acknowledge and help her - but he remembered nothing of her. He remembered images of long forgotten comrades more then her. And that upset her. For reasons she could not begin to guess at, she wanted Evac to care for her, to love her. But he seemed unwilling. So she had withdrawn - from those she would have called friends, from the world.

She transformed, kicking the wall with a grunt. That seemed to relieve a bit of her emotions, so she did it again. The second time, the small alcove she was in responded. There was a sudden jerk, and a great iron door slammed shut, locking her in the alcove. With a surprised and frightened gasp, she whirled around in the darkness with confusion, before remembering that her headlight was on her shoulder, and could be turned on.

She looked around her prison, trying to keep herself from panicking, before she found what she had hit- a small, now dented panel with several faintly glowing colored buttons. She reached out nervously and pressed one of the buttons, hoping it would open the door.

The room immediately shuddered, and then dropped. Hightail let out a frightened yell as she felt herself go forever downwards, until it stopped with a jerk. Cautiously she reached out and pressed another button. For a moment nothing happened, then a loud groaning sound startled the already tensed Hightail, as the wall to her right slid open, leading to another cavernous hanger.

Nervously, Hightail poked her head through. "Hello?" She called out softly, praying for even a human to answer her call. Nothing. Silence.

"Hello?" She called again, creeping into the hanger. It was vast, yet cluttered. Boxes of unknown materials were stacked higher then her head, and computers and wires littered the ground. It reminded her disturbingly of the hanger she had first awoken in - but without the benefit of other Transformers there to comfort her. It was almost pitch black, the only light coming from the small headlight on her shoulder.

The darkness seemed to overwhelm her, as her terror began to affect her circuits. It was as if she was entering a dream, a nightmare that no person should ever suffer through. Alone, cold, and lost in an unfamiliar place, she crept forward, hoping to find someone, anyone. She peered around on particularly large stack of boxes, flashing her light across the floor, and then her gaze met anothers.

The eyes were wide, the face frozen in terror, mouth open in an agonized scream. Wirings hang from it's severed limbs, and massive panels from its green chest were removed, revealing the gashes and tears within. It seemed almost thrown up against the wall, it's one arm anchored above it's head by binding chains. Half of its face was simply gone, the steel skeleton revealed beneath.

It was one of her kind. A transformer.

A mixture of terror, panic and revulsion filled her every system, letting out in a terrified scream as she turned and fled, tripping over boxs and wires before transforming and charging back into the alcove from which she had came, pounding furiously at the buttons. A loud crash signaled the door slamming behind her, and the elevator began to move up, as she lay against it, shaking uncontrollably.

----

"MTV." Jazz said flatly.

"HBO." Ben responded.

"Sci-Fi." Chris countered.

"Discovery." Crosswise concluded, snatching the remote for herself and clumsily pressing the buttons, which forced a groan from the other three participants. As she tried to make the 2, 3 and 7 keys connect in the proper order, Jazz cocked his head.

Ben to turned as his ears picked up the sound. Chris and Crosswise seemed oblivious to the sound, as they tried to make the remote work. Ben glanced at Jazz, then both turned to see Hightail whizz past the open hanger door, in vehicle mode, moving as fast as her wheels could carry her.

"Where's she off to in such a hurry?" Ben muttered.

Jazz shrugged. "Who knows what she does." With that, he turned his attention back to the TV.

----

Michelle yawned, dragging herself to her feet. "I better turn in." She said quietly.

Evac looked at her for a long moment. He had tried to argue against the notion before, failing to understand why humans needed such longer and more frequent rest periods then he did. Clearly, another such protest was passing through his mind, "All right." He relented, after a moment. "I shall see you in the morning then."

"Good night, Evac." She said waved with a smile, turning to leave. Then she gave a loud shout as a small red motorcycle barreled past her and Evac at full speed.

"Hightail?" Evac said in confusion. "What-"

"She's heading for the fence!" Michelle cried. "Evac-"

"I'm going." Evac answered. Smith had earlier shown them on no uncertain terms that the fence lining the base's border was dangerous. Evac transformed into his helicopter mode, blades on top whirring loudly as he pushed himself after the smaller Transformer.

She was moving as fast as she could, but Evacs speed kept him close behind her. He called after her a few times, but if she heard him, she gave no indication, just continuing on at her reckless speed. He saw the looming fence long before she did, and called out desperately several more times, but to no avail. By the time she saw the fence it was too late. She attempted to turn as her wheels squealed loudly in protest, but she couldn't stop in time.

With a scream she hit the fence full on, becoming a light-show as the currents protecting the fence coursed through her body, then threw her away. She hit the ground shuddering for a moment, then finally, she transformed, then ceased to move.

Evac transformed and landed close to her, a little afraid to look for fear what he might find. But a quick glanced proved her alive, if injured. He leaned down to touch her gently.

At the contact, her optics flashed brightly, a look of panic covering her face. She jerked away violently, forcing Evac to grab both her arms. "Calm down." He said firmly. "It's all right."

Her optics dimmed for a moment, before they finally showed a bit of recognition. "Evac?" She said hesitantly, as if unwilling to believe it was him.

"Yes, it's all right." He said again.

She quickly clutched him and held close, hoping to find some bit of comfort in his embrace. Unsure of what else to do, he just held her, letting her stay as she wished, while she way there and shook in a combination of pain and fright.

Michelle came running up, panting from the exertion. She waited a moment to take in the sight and catch her breath, then got the strength to ask, "What happened?"

"I'm not sure." Evac said softly. "She's frightened..."

Michelle came up to look at her. As soon as Hightails eyes met hers, she was met with such a look of hostility, hatred, and fear that Michelle quickly slunk back behind Evac. "What's wrong with her?" She whispered quietly. "Did you see-"

"Shh." Evac answered, focusing his attention on Hightail. "It'll be all right, my friend..."

He continued to hold her for a few minutes before she found her voice. "I saw..." She trailed off. Evac looked down at her gently, expectantly. She swallowed, and spoke again. "It was horrible. He was in pieces, dead.. terrified..."

"What was?"

She looked up at him, eyes full of pain and distress. "Evac... it was one of us!"

----

"I assure you Evac, that is quite impossible." Smith said calmly. "Were there another of your kind, we certainly would have told you." Michelle shifted nervously- something about what he was saying didn't sit right with her, but she didn't know what.

"As I suspected." Evac nodded. He was facing the human in the same hanger Hightail had fled from. Michelle was at his side, and Hightail behind him, clinging to Evacs arm. Otherwise, they were alone.

Hightail tightened her grip and stared hatefully down at Smith. "He's lying!" She hissed. "I know what I saw."

"I am no liar." Smith said gently. "And I have no doubt you believe you saw something. But perhaps you imagined it? You were already upset when you were trapped in that cargo elevator- perhaps your fear took over your mind?"

"No!" Hightail protested. "I saw-"

"We can settle this easily." Evac said flatly. "Smith, could you show us own there?"

"Of course." Smith smiled, beckoning to the large enclave that was the service elevator. "Follow me."

Michelle did, and Evac started too, but he was restrained by Hightail's grip. "I don't want to go back." She said fearfully. "I don't want to-"

"Come." Evac said, firmly but gently. "There is no other way to handle your fear." Hightail winced, but followed at his gentle tug.

She tensed up as soon as they entered the elevator. Smith bent down and examined the panel. "Big dent." He commented. "But still working." He pressed a series of buttons, and with a loud clank, the door entrapped them again. Hightail gave a frightened yelp, but this time, the lights came on. Smith pressed one of the buttons, and they descended. Hightail drew ever closer as the elevator continued downward. As it moved, Smith described the function as a cargo elevator, bringing supplies and top-secret materials to the storehouses below. The elevator stuttered, and then finally stopped. Smith pressed another button, and the door to their left slid open. They looked out into darkness for a moment before Smith hit another button, and the lights flickered on.

"Is this the place?" Evac asked quietly.

"Yes." Hightail said softly, looking out over the rows of boxes.

"Please, take us to where you saw this... apparition." Smith said cooly.

Reluctantly, Hightail stepped out, moving through the boxes and a few lonely computers. "It was..." She turned, and froze.

Everyone turned to look where she was staring. Nothing, but a stack of boxes next to a collection of old hardware.

"But..." Hightail protested. "Maybe it was over there-" She turned wildly. Nothing of note. "Or maybe there!" She scrambled over a few more boxes. Again, nothing. "It's here somewhere!" She cried, turning about wildly. "It has to be! I saw it!"

Evac and Smith exchanged glances. "Hightail..." Evac said softly.

"I saw it!" She cried again, sinking to her knees. "I saw it... I know I did... I saw it..." She said weakly. "I know I... Evac..." She looked up at him, her eyes pleading. "You believe me... don't you?"

"Of course I do." Evac said gently, touching her shoulder. "You were scared and you hallucinated-."

"You don't believe me." Hightail hissed, anger, fear, and confusion crossing her face in a wave. Then all emotion fled, and her head dropped in silent mourning.

"Come on, lets go." Evac said, leading her away. She trudged to her feet and followed him, face dark and expressionless. He turned to Smith on the way out. "I'm sorry to have bothered you."

"The mind plays many tricks." Smith waved his hand. "It's all right."

Evac and Hightail disappeared, and the elevator door closed behind them, carrying them away.

Smith sighed, then turned, to find Michelle in his face. "What did she see?" She demanded.

Smith shrugged. "Who knows?"

"I remember..." She said quietly. "That first day... You said something about a sixth-"

Smith waved her away. "It's not here. It's still in Alaska, being dug up. When it's unearthed, we'll bring it here and present it to them, as we should. Until then, there's no point in upsetting them further. Please don't mention it to them yet."

"Oh..." Michelle said quietly, doubt crossing her face. "Did you really say-"

"Yes." Smith smiled. "Now, run along."

"All right." Michelle relented, turning to leave. She took a few steps, then stopped. "I don't think it's right. Not telling them about the others-"

Smith sighed. "YOu are, of course, right. But it is merely a matter of security. We want to build friendship so that they do not join our enemies."

"Evac would never do that." Michelle growled, more defensively then she intended.

"I believe that too." Smith replied, a gentle smile on his face. "But the Brass insists. I have no choice. When the time comes, we'll tell them everything. I know they will understand."

Michelle sighed and turned away, defeated. She entered the smaller, human-sized elevator to the side and disappeared into it. Smith watched her go, and nodded, heading immediately back to the now-returned service elevator, which whooshed open. He went to the control panel, hit another sequence of buttons, and the other side opened up, into a room exactly like the first.

Except this room had one occupant. Smith smiled, looking over the mechanical corpse for a long moment, before returning, and sealing the door shut. The orders to move it to a more secure location had already been given. No accidental discovery would occur again.

----

Smith felt the urge to stretch again as he walked out into the morning sun, again checking up on his occupants.

"Good morning Omega!" He called upwards. Omega grunted something in response, but remained steadfast as always.

Smith chuckled, and quickly moved to the side as Crosswise and Jazz (bearing Chris) rushed past in another race, honking their horns in greeting. Jazz rolled down the windows and started blaring some current music that Smith could not identify, and didn't care to look into. A quick look over toward the sunrise made out Michelle and Evac at their usual spot. And then, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Hightail, knees drawn up to her head as she sat alone.

Jazz roared past again, and over the music he could just barely hear Chris let out an enthusiastic whoop.

"SMITH! What the HELL do you intend to do about this! I have had enough of this!"

Smith chuckled to himself at the Generals angry tirade. As he turned to face the Generals flustered ref face, he smiled inwardly. He could get used to this life really fast, he thought happily.

Jazz barreled past again, Crosswise hot on his tail, as the General was forced to run out of their way.

Yes, Smith thought, I could get used to it indeed.

-----