TITLE: Second Chances
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters belong to me, sadly. They are owned by people with a lot more money
Author's Voice of Warning (aka Author's Note):
English is not my first language; it's German. This is the best I can do. Any mistakes you find in here, collect them and you might win a prize The spell-checker said everything's okay, but you know how trustworthy those thingies are...
Captain Will Lennox had been there when the Nokia N93i cell phone had been brought to life. A small whisper of energy from the Allspark had turned an innocent device into what had looked like a crazy, deadly weapon. He had been as startled as everyone when the Nokia had transformed and immediately had started to attack. Tiny projectiles had hit the transparent cage and it had almost desperately tried to get out. Simmons had killed it shortly after, using some kind of electrical discharge or whatever.
Now it lay on Ratchet's desk. The medic was working on the, for him, tiny body, optics enlarging the work area a thousand times. Will was fascinated that the instruments the Autobot used were so incredibly fine-tuned. They looked almost fragile. The Nokia looked far from a normal cell phone inside, Lennox decided as he continued watching. It was a complicated mesh of wiring, chips and whatnot. He had never taken a cell phone apart, so he didn't really know what was phone stuff and what was robot innards.
"You think you can save it?" Will wanted to know.
"I don't know," was the quiet answer.
The remains of Sector Seven had been boxed and shipped to the Autobot base for the mechanoids to go through. Ratchet had found the tiny bot and had detected faint pulses of Allspark energy, which let him believe it was still alive. Lennox, who had helped unpack together with his men, had taken an interest in the procedure and for the last two weeks he had been in Ratchet's lab whenever there was time.
So much had been discovered in the Sector Seven headquarters, some useless, some useful, some puzzling. A lot had just been sorted and then reboxed, but the cell phone had become priority.
There was a little twitter of noise from the phone and Will leaned forward. One of the tiny legs twitched.
Ratchet murmured something Lennox couldn't understand. Suddenly the optics of the miniature bot lit up and it shrieked. It was a horrifying electronic squeal that spoke of an incredible suffering and pain.
Will stumbled back, surprised, and found himself saved from an unpleasant fall to the floor by a large hand.
"Huh, thanks," he muttered and Ratchet nodded once, then his full concentration was on the Nokia again.
The tiny thing seemed to whine as if in pain, and its legs were still twitching. Ratchet did something to the open body and the whining stopped.
Will gave him a quizzical look.
"I don't know if I can get it through a reboot without terrible pain or a possible overload," the medic said softly. "The damage is extensive. It has no spark like we do, but it was alive and still is, to a degree. All the other machines affected by the Allspark expired. The contact with the energy was too unfocused and brief. Sector Seven bombarded the phone with enough Allspark energy to revive larger mechanoids, so there is a lot of residue."
"But it might die anyway?"
"Yes and no. It might revive and live, but it could be damaged for life. I don't know if its processor is still intact."
Will felt sadness rise. "That would be too bad. I mean, we created it. Simmons created it to show off what Sector Seven could do, and then he killed it. I saw what the room looked like. It was a lab where they experimented on machines with something way beyond our understanding. This little thing was the only one who survived."
Ratchet's optics glowed sadly.
It took the rest of the day for Ratchet to stabilize the tiny bot and Lennox watched it all, only taking a coffee break once. He remembered looking at the Nokia and it had felt wrong to play god like this. Simmons had had no right to give and take life. He felt responsible for the tiny thing and while Epps teased him about his affection for the Nokia, there was an underlying shared responsibility. All of them, his whole team, worked with the Cybertronians day by day. They were living, thinking, feeling beings. Robots, yes, but they were persons.
The Nokia had been one, too. It had gone out of control, had seemed aggressive, but what would he feel if woken in a strange environment, people staring at him through a glass cage?
The same, Will decided. He would try to get free, too.
When he walked into the lab the next morning he found Ratchet missing. The Nokia lay on his table and machines were humming softly. Lennox climbed onto the table and studied the 'patient'. He sat down and carefully touched the phone. It was a normal cell phone size and didn't look any more dangerous than a cell phone should be. Last night it had still been in its robot form. Apparently Ratchet had managed to trigger the transformation reflex.
Suddenly the phone started to vibrate in his hand and Lennox gave an exclamation of surprise, almost chugging it away, when it transformed.
He stared at the creature sitting on his palm, frozen in shock. It had red optics and looked like some kind of spider-crab-mix. It had four legs, two of which were its arms and which split into three separate toes at the end, a stinger-like tail, tiny horns at the side of its head, and a miniature missile gatling gun on the right shoulder. He still remembered its violent attack on the box it had woken in, but right now it looked more curious than aggressive or dangerous.
It made a chirruping noise, tilting its head.
"Uh, hi," Will answered what he interpreted as a question.
Another chirrup, then a twip-twip.
The currently single-toe feet weren't particularly pointed or sharp, but when it shifted its light weight, Will felt every move.
"Can you talk?"
Another twipping. Followed by a metallic gurgle.
"I guess that means no. I'm Will Lennox."
The little bot looked around, then screeched all of a sudden and scuttled up Will's arm, clinging to one shoulder like a metallic bird. The miniature gun was swerving to aim at its perceived enemy and the claws had split into three toes again.
"I see our patient has revived," Ratchet remarked and leaned over the table, studying the twittering little thing.
Will reached up and touched the Nokia. It made almost whining noises.
"It reacts to you, Will. Curious," Ratchet stated. He reached for a scanner and pointed it at the little bot, which started to evade every move the much larger Autobot made.
Will finally managed to get a hold on the squirming little spider-crab. "He won't harm you, Spidey. Just let Ratchet scan you."
It twittered nervously, but there was no attack. The aggressiveness of the first awakening months ago was gone. In its place was a healthy dose of fear of a much larger of its kind. There was no squirming as Will held him and the spider-bot followed each move of the scanner with curious tilts of its head. It was chittering and twittering to itself, making those twirps and twips that sounded like questions.
"Can you understand it?" Lennox wanted to know.
"No. I'm afraid it doesn't talk in any language we might understand. I ran a comparison to all the languages of Earth I have stored, but nothing comes close."
"Maybe it's Earth machine talk?"
"I doubt it," Ratchet replied, gazing at the tiny bot. "It's like gibberish."
Lennox sighed. "How is it?"
"Its systems are still working through the shock of the energy blast and I'm afraid it has suffered something that could be compared to a stroke in humans. It might never recover completely. Motor functions are fine, its power levels are improving, but its brain has irreparable damage."
Will felt something inside of him constrict. He could still see Simmons smiling sadistically at the little bot, and he remembered the malicious grin as he blasted it, fried the tiny circuits. At the time Will had felt satisfaction because of his own experience with the Decepticons in Qatar, but today it was different. He knew the Autobots now. He knew there was more behind the machines than programming. Simmons had created intelligent life and snuffed it out like it wasn't more than an ant. Sadistic bastard!
He wondered how many of Sector Seven's creations had been just like the Nokia.
"More than you know, Will," Ratchet said quietly and Will realized he had spoken out loud.
"Files?" he questioned, voice even.
"Yes. On every experiment."
The Nokia chirped and turned its head, looking at Lennox. It tilted it to one side, repeating the quizzical sound. Will smiled sadly.
"I was hoping I could ask you to assist me in helping our little friend."
"Let it be with you, let it see its world, your world."
"You think it'll understand?"
Ratchet studied the tiny bot. "We'll have to wait and see.
It took some getting used to the presence of the Nokiabot. It was infinitely curious and due to its size, it had chosen Will's shoulder as a permanent perch. Lennox had dubbed it 'Spidey' and his team started to use the name. Epps had been wary at first, but the little critter had grown on him. Spidey tended to transform back into its cell phone body when recharging and Will had taken to carrying it in one of his pockets. It was protective of Will, too. When Epps had dumped some reports on his desk, complaining about the mountain of paper, calling Will a slacker for delegating his stuff on his second in command. Spidey had hissed at him, gatling gun tracking the sergeant's moves.
Lennox explained to it that his men were no danger, that Epps was a friend and that his complaints were not to be taken seriously. He had added that neither were the Autobots a danger to the little bot or Lennox – Ironhide had gotten an angry hiss and spatter of gibberish when he had grumbled at Will about something or other that had had nothing to do with the captain. The Nokia had reacted to his tone of voice, thought.
Spidey understood the explanations somehow because it was on its best behavior after that.
He also discovered that the little spider-crab craved touch. It would fold in its legs and present its back for Will to stroke with his fingers whenever he didn't need his hands to type. Like when reading Sector Seven files. He absent-mindedly caressed the smooth, wing-like structures on its back, and it would dim its optics and fall into a kind of doze.
Will felt himself grow angry every time he opened some of the old files, read the cold, clinical and detached report on the creation of yet another robot. VCRs, DVD Players, phones, computers… they had tried it out on everything, recording whether a transformation was always into the same thing or if there were variations. All came armed, all were vicious right from the start, and all attacked humans. And were killed.
Lennox finally closed the last file and looked at his little charge. Spidey was purring, optics dimmed, so trusting and innocent.
If Simmons ever dared to cross his way, he would shoot him like Simmons had shot so many of the innocent creations.
Ironhide hadn't been too happy about the little guy tagging along on patrols at first. Spidey would sit on the dash and peer out the windscreen, excited and overwhelmed by the landscape, but the weapons specialist grew to tolerate his new passenger. He even talked to it, explaining what the Nokia got so excited about.
"Have you ever read Sector Seven's files?" Will asked when they sat in the middle of nowhere, just taking a break. Spidey was recharging in his pocket.
Ironhide's blue optics looked at him. "Yes."
"I didn't know just how many experiments they made. It's incredible what the Allspark created… and what they destroyed."
"Each life taken was murder," the Autobot rumbled.
"Yes. And it shames me to be from the same planet."
"We know the difference between the ones who did this and you and the other humans, Will," Ironhide told him.
He smiled dimly. "It's appreciated. I just wish Spidey wasn't the only survivor of its kind."
"He received a large dose of Allspark energy. The others weren't in the same position. When Sam fell, the power burst was too weak to sustain them for long."
"I know. It's not those I mean, Ironhide. It's the experiments. The sheer number… and the cold-blooded way those scientists went about it!" Will shook his head, disgusted. "As a soldier I know I will be confronted with the decision of killing the enemy to survive. I have killed people, Ironhide. I didn't like it and it haunted me, but it was necessary to survive. Them or me. But to give life in a lab and then pull the trigger and extinguish something like that… It was created from an alien device!"
Ironhide sighed softly. "Yes, I know. It irks me, too. I wouldn't hesitate to blast any of these creatures who abused the Allspark's energy. To us, it is a holy object. It gave us life, too."
And some of the experiments had shown intelligence. It was just that they had reacted aggressively to being imprisoned. Who wouldn't? Spidey was claustrophobic to a degree. He wouldn't go into small boxes or even tight spaces.
"It was senseless," Lennox muttered.
Secretary of Defense John Keller had dealt with Sector Seven and he knew some of those involved in killing the machines would never be heard of again. Still, it was an injustice that could never be made right.
Spidey chose that moment to transform and scuttle onto his thigh. It chirruped quizzically, tilting its head to emphasize the question. Will smiled sadly and scratched its tiny head.
"How can you ever forgive us for taking the life of your kind?" he asked quietly.
Red optics gazed at him from a tiny face. Spidey hummed softly, then made clicking noises. It was something it had never done before and Will felt this constricting weight settle on his shoulders.
The last of its kind.
"How can you even trust the ones who tried to kill you?" he went on. "Because of us you're damaged."
Another hum and the optics glowed deeply. The tiny, useless wings fluttered and settled. It climbed up Will's jacket and tapped one leg against his chest. It nodded, tapped again, humming insistently. Then came a few clicks.
Ironhide was watching it all, fascinated. "I'm not good at interpreting sign language," the Autobot finally said, "but I'd say it trusts you despite everything."
Will gazed at his little charge. "Thank you."
He got bright chirping as an answer.
When the N93i rang for the first time, Will hadn't given the fact that it was a miniature robot not a single thought and had answered it. Only when he had hung up and stared at the cell had he realized it.
"What the heck…?"
Spidey transformed, sitting on his palm, twittering excitedly.
"How did you do that?"
It jumped off his palm, scuttled along his tac vest and pulled his original cell out of a back pocket. Fingering it, it chattered quickly. Firmly clinging to his weapon belt, one spikey leg tapped against the back of his cell phone.
"You… downloaded my stuff?" he hazarded a guess.
That got him a nod.
A whistle, then Spidey jumped to the ground and transformed and lay still next to his cell, then morphed back. It scuttled around the other phone, whistling more.
Will watched it, then thought he got the idea.
"You're a cell phone, so I don't need the other one?"
Vigorous nodding answered him.
He knelt down, looking sternly at the thing. "My cell phone has high security. It's proved against anyone listening in. This isn't just for chats and fun calls."
Spidey looked almost insulted, twirping loudly. The larger limbs tapped angrily against the ground and it shrilled what had to be his own insults at Will for thinking it couldn't do the same.
"So you want to work with me?"
"This isn't just a game?"
Another nod. Red optics gave him an imploring look.
"Okay. I want Ratchet to test your outgoing and incoming lines. If he gives the okay, you've got the job."
Spidey chirped and bounced over to him, hopping onto his outstretched palm. Lennox chuckled.
Ratchet confirmed that Spidey's lines were all secure and he smiled like a new father when Will told him that the little bot had offered to work with him.
"It's getting acquainted with everything. A good sign."
"You think it's getting better?"
"Its vocal center is not, but its systems are now stable. I fear it will never manage human communication."
Spidey chirped sadly and turned to Will, looking almost hopeful.
"Hey, no problem, little one," the captain answered with a smile. "We can work on this. I managed to understand you so far."
Spidey bounced on its tiny legs and climbed up onto his shoulder again. Lennox chuckled.
Ratchet looked pleased.
Over the next months the Nokia acquired a way of communication. It sent text messages to those with cell phones and used its display to communicate with Will. The sentences were simple in structure, but it learned and it was a progressive learning. Will felt proud of the little bot. While the damage to its brain was permanent, it was learning to work around its handicap.
It was because of the text messages that Lennox finally understood what the little bot had told him in the desert.
::forgive. not like others. not kill::
But I was there. I watched it all. I didn't stop them – because I didn't know anything about your kind.
::forgiveness:: Spidey insisted.
"Thank you," Will replied, deeply touched.
Ratchet checked the Nokia every week, announcing that nothing negative had developed so far, and Will always left the medical bay with a sense of relief.
Spidey busied itself with learning to hack into computers, something it learned progressively as well, and it twittered and chirped and made hiccupping noises as it successfully broke into smaller programs and learned to move through systems undetected. It beamed at Will, optics glowing, and he nodded.
"You're getting good."
It wanted to be useful. And it was. Its memory circuits could store an incredible amount of information for its tiny size.
Headset communication was still difficult for the little Nokia. It had tried, but the words were garbled, almost unintelligible, and so it stayed with text messages. Will didn't mind. Every little step was a victory.
Maybe one day they would have vocal communication.
Will lay on the couch in the common room of the hangar base, watching TV. Spidey lay half-folded on his stomach, making purring noises Lennox had quickly come to associate with utter bliss for the little robot. He was stroking over the wing-like structure with two fingers.
His life had come to quickly include the tiny bot and he couldn't think of being without it. Like Ironhide, Spidey was now part of his daily life. It was a strange life, a top secret life, something that had driven a wedge between him and his wife months ago, and which had finally torn them apart. But it was a life he couldn't stop living.