released 27th October 2007
Being haunted was a little like being spark-bound.
It wasn't as immediate, of course, or as intense, but it was nonetheless sharing his life, his existence, with another person. Their memories were measured out through one another in dribs and drabs, a slow now-and-again exchange of moments, rather than the overwhelming all-at-once exchange that occurred with true spark-binding, but it was similar enough that Bumblebee recognized the sensation, the significance. The emotions weren't the same, but...
My life seen through yours. Your life seen through mine. All I am, yours. All you are, mine.
It was close enough.
Goldbug would have found the situation hilarious. Goldbug also, he thought, would have loved knowing Sam. The small, quirky being had taught Bumblebee many things, so much more than he ever would have thought possible when he'd first encountered the ignorant, primitive, fragile human species. He wasn't sure what was the most valuable thing he'd learned from Sam: the fact that humans and transformers had the exact same thoughts and feelings? Or perhaps the qualitative difference between knowing that something was water and the experience of feeling that it was wet? Or maybe even simply the knowledge that the smaller and weaker a species was, the more determined and dangerous it could be...
"So, then, he's your pet?" Slingshot asked.
That sent a ripple of silence spreading through the control room, organic eyes and robotic optics drifting variously toward the Aerialbot, or toward Bumblebee and his partner.
Do you mind? Sam asked silently, looking up at Bumblebee.
Bumblebee shook his head slightly. He's all yours, he replied the same way.
The ghost quirked the ghost of a smile, and vanished.
Even as Slingshot's optics widened, a telekinetic sweep knocked him off his feet, and another TK move kept him floating a few meters above the deck plating of the Moon Base. Bumblebee felt Sam slide into Slingshot's systems, the connection between the two of them stretched to a thin cord of intangible energy while Sam did his work, rendering the other Autobot immobile and terrified of something he couldn't fight.
"Slingshot!" Silverbolt stepped forward, but Ultra Magnus' arm barred his way.
"Let them work this out," the base commander said quietly. "Sam won't permanently damage him."
The Aerialbot idiot wasn't the biggest asshole Sam had ever encountered (that distinction was generally reserved for Decepticons and once in a while a Lamborghini twin or the various Earth world leaders), but he wasn't too low on the list either at the moment.
You know, Slingshot, he said directly into the transformer's CPU, running cold, spectral traces along vital circuits and relays, I'm not Bumblebee's pet, and he's not mine.
What-- what are you doing? the Autobot demanded.
Making a point, Sam answered, examining Slingshot's flight subroutines. I'm not going to hurt you, but I want you to listen to me. Humans may be small compared to you guys, and we haven't had as long to evolve, but if you keep up the attitude, you're going to end up as persona non grata on our planet as the Decepticons.
Your kind wouldn't hurt me, Slingshot shot back. You can't!
Oh? Sam questioned silkily, moving on to study the Aerialbot's anti-gravity propulsors. Humans may be only organic, but we learn fast. And right now I could reprogram you to cluck like a chicken every time you heard your own name. So a little respect might not be out of place, Slingshot. Or failing that... some manners.
You wouldn't, the transformer said, horrified, not even bothering to ask what a chicken was.
Size matters not, Sam quietly informed Slingshot, quoting from a movie that had been old before even his lifetime. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? he asked, quite serious. Slingshot did the functional equivalent of shaking his head. Hmm. And well you should not.
When Slingshot was released and fell uncerimoniously to the deck, his four teammates were on him in seconds, checking him over for damage. He sat up slowly, one hand to his head, gears groaning, and looked at Bumblebee, who stood nearby, leaning against a wall, arms crossed. "I... apologize," he said lowly, causing his teammates to stare at him. "To both of you."
"Slingshot?" Skydive asked, sounding amazed.
Bumblebee nodded softly. "Apology accepted," he replied, and turned back to his workstation, staring unseeing at the display. Sam hummed and buzzed fitfully in the back of his processors, almost drained of energy from his little stunt despite Luna's lesser gravity, fighting the need to recharge. Sleep, Bumblebee told him. I'll be here.
Can't... I don't want to lose time, Sam pleaded against forces of physics neither of them could control. It always took a long period of unconsciousness for the ghost to regain his energy.
I'll wake you, Bumblebee promised. It had taken a while, but he'd found ways to shorten Sam's recharge periods. He couldn't eliminate them completely, but every little bit helped.
Sam whimpered an imprecation against the inevitable force pulling at him, accompanied by a rush of pained self-hatred, then gave in, mercifully fading into slumber in the back of Bumblebee's processors.
"Bumblebee?" Ultra Magnus asked quietly, laying a hand on his shoulder.
"He's asleep," Bumblebee replied softly, not looking up. "And I don't want to talk to Slingshot until that changes," he told his commanding officer, letting a note of fierceness sharpen his voice.
"Understood," Magnus told him, and kindly left Bumblebee alone.
He'd been on the planet for four of its years, searching for any clue as to the AllSpark or Megatron, when he finally found one. One of the Witwicky descendants he hadn't yet investigated--Archibald Witwicky had many, many descendants; humans bred so prolifically!--had placed a pair of his ancestor's glasses for sale on the planetary communications network. Even just a cursory scan of the picture revealed clear Cybertronian imprinting on the lenses' surface, and the pieces fell into place for Bumblebee.
The AllSpark had landed on Earth. Megatron had found it but luckily been trapped in stasis lock in the polar ice--Captain Witwicky's "frozen ice giant"--before he could retrieve it. But apparently the Captain had managed to activate enough of Megatron's system that the Cube's coordinates, surely the thing highest in Megatron's processing queue, had been burnt into his eyes and glasses. And though Archibald himself had been locked away in an asylum, his glasses had been passed down among his heirs as Bumblebee had hoped.
He made a tire-screeching U-turn and made for Pasadena, California, where Samuel James Witwicky lived.
The easy way to obtain the glasses, of course, would have been to use the website's "buy it now" feature and purchase them outright. However, that would necessitate the creation of an account (simple enough), the creation of false currency within the economic system to make good the purchase (an act of dubious morality, but they needed the information those glasses held...), and an address to which the glasses could be shipped. The third point was where Bumblebee failed. Besides, he acknowledged, it might be possible that the information on the glasses was damaged or incomplete... it might be that other artifacts in Samuel's possession would be vital clues as well.
He needed to get close to the boy and, if possible, earn his trust.
He found Samuel's school, and was easily able to identify the boy when he finished his classes, getting into his father's car and excitedly showing off an exam score. Bumblebee followed them as they drove and... oh, how perfect. He rolled into the parking lot as the Witwicky father and son talked with a man who, from his demeanor, Bumblebee assumed was the owner of the small used car business. He actually reminded Bumblebee not a little of a Decepticon named Swindle. Will you sell me, even though I'm not yours? he wondered, amused. Not that it mattered. He was determined to leave this lot with the Witwicky boy in his care, and if that meant surreptitiously destroying every other vehicle present to achieve his goal, he would do it.
Luck was with him and his alternate mode seemed pleasing to the boy, human hands running over his roof. As the lot owner argued with his existence, Samuel--called Sam, apparently--opened his driver's side door and got in. His hands went on Bumblebee's wheel and he rocked back and forth a little in the driver's seat.
It was strange. He felt like he fit, like he was part of Bumblebee... like he was supposed to be there.
Feels good, Bumblebee thought, surprised, just as Sam said the same thing. His processors stuttered at the synchronicity even as Sam wiped clean the Autobot symbol in the center of his steering wheel from the grime that had accumulated over it.
The lot owner and Sam's father argued over the price and Sam stuck his opinion in, on the matter of Bumblebee's paint. Bumblebee found he was amused again; apparently Sam Witwicky had a smart mouth. But then it was determined by the two adults that Sam couldn't have him, and though the boy was reluctant to accede and relinquish Bumblebee, apparently he felt that he had no choice.
Bumblebee's processors ran cold and, as the human saying went, he saw red. This was not acceptable. He had come for the boy, and he would be leaving with the boy. There were no alternatives. So when hitting the next vehicle the lot owner tried to sell the two wasn't enough, he got annoyed.
Using a pitched resonance coil, he blew out the windows of every other vehicle on the lot, rendering himself the only available purchase.
Needless to say, he got his way, and drove off with the Witwicky boy safely in his interior.
Sam woke slowly, surfacing from the memory. Almost dreamily he reformed, finding himself in one of the viewing galleries. On the other side of the plas-steel the Earth hung low and full in the lunar sky. It had been weeks, then, at the least; Earth had been only a crescent when he'd had his "chat" with Slingshot. The planet was so bright that all the lights in the gallery had been turned off, leaving only the Earthlight and its reflection on the endless gray pumice of the lunar landscape to provide lighting. It was breathtaking. It was enough.
A metal hand curled protectively around him and Sam leaned into Bumblebee's touch, grateful. "You are such a bitch," he said, smiling up at his best friend. The memory had woken him. Good memories could do that, they'd found. Positive emotion, warmth to fill up all the empty places that telekinesis stripped away... it worked best when it was one of Bumblebee's memories of him, but sometimes memories of others, of planets and friends and lovers long lost, would do the trick too.
"I was not leaving that lot without you," Bumblebee informed him.
"Best four thousand dollars anyone ever spent," Sam said. He closed his eyes, leaning his head against the thumb that rubbed against his cheek. He was still tired, but not enough so to slip back into weightless dreaming.
Bumblebee laughed softly. "Only two thousand of it was yours," he pointed out.
Sam opened his eyes again, the Earth before his eyes. Along the length of this gallery, over the plas-steel windows, was inscribed a long quote by a long-dead astronomer named Carl Sagan. His gaze caught on the last section, carved letters dark and shadowed, but familiar: "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity--in all this vastness--there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish this pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
It wasn't always easy, and sometimes Sam could understand all too well why idiots like Slingshot felt the way they did about the human race, but... they were getting better. They were trying. Some days he felt guilty, and some days ashamed, about the species he belonged to and the acts they perpetrated upon themselves and one another and the alien species with whom they shared the Earth. But humans were getting better, and so long as they tried, and strove, and dreamed, the Autobots would not abandon them to the Decepticons and the other predators that followed in their wake. The Autobots had protected his species from their own, Sam knew, but even more, they'd also probably saved humans from themselves, from all the nuclear bombs and atomic winters and World War Threes that had been the secret unspoken fears of his childhood. The older, wiser race had taught humans from their own example, their own mistakes. Day by day, the human race matured, and became more ready to take their next step out into the universe.
"Why you ever wanted to stay with me, I'll never know," he told his partner.
Bumblebee's presence was a gentle warmth even in the carefully moderated temperatures of the Moon Base as he shrugged expressively. "The car picks the driver," he replied, teasing just slightly. "It's a mystical bond between man and machine." And that much was definitely true for the two of them, energy fields that still no one understood fully binding them together almost as much as their reciprocated regard. Almost as much as their friendship, and mutual wonder. "And," Bumblebee added thoughtfully, "even then I knew that you were 'more than meets the eye'."
Sam breathed a laugh. Everyone he'd known while alive was gone, only ghosts now in his and the Autobots' memories. None of them had overstayed their time the way he had. None of them had been invited to haunt someone the way he had. Still, he knew somehow that they'd be waiting for him and Bumblebee whenever the day came that they took that shared journey to the other side. "I love my car," he replied simply, softly, completing their shared memory of the beautiful girl he'd loved more than anything. She'd gone on with her life after his had changed forever, and he'd worked with her children, her grandchildren... her great-great-grandchildren. In a world of human change, only he and the Cybertronians remained a constant.
When the human race had needed it, really, really needed it, help had come. And when the transformers had been really screwed, a human boy had managed to save the day. Those two facts cemented Sam's faith in a higher power. As long as we look out for one another, everything is going to be all right.
Sitting in the Earthlight with his best friend, Sam was content with his afterlife.
I thought I was done with this series. Really I did. Then three prompts pop into my head ("water versus wet," the "Yodaism," and someone calling Sam Bumblebee's pet), and well, it all snowballed downhill from there. Plus the title begged at me, as did the idea of seeing that first meeting from Bumblebee's perspective... I mean, wouldn't you, as a sentient robot, be a little surprised when this human kid sat in you (first human inside you, ever) and you realized that it felt good? So, taking Sam's line and applying it to 'Bee as well. The Carl Sagan quote over the viewing gallery windows came while poking around images of the Earth as taken from space on Wikipedia. Go look up "Pale Blue Dot" for where it comes from. And the whole eBay thing bugged at me until I figured out just why neither the Autobots nor Decepticons could simply buy the glasses from Sam. It's all about the lack of shipping address...