Chapter 3: Hook, Line, and Sinker
Although Bumblebee knew he should remind Sam to contact Mikaela, he refrained from doing so for the perfectly selfish reason of not wanting Sam to be distracted from his meeting with Optimus. Mikaela would likely forgive Sam for his shortcoming regardless. He kept his windows rolled up and let Sam rest in his driver's seat, driving smoothly back towards Pennsylvania. At some point Sam fell into sleep – a human's version of recharge – and Bumblebee was left alone with his thoughts.
Alice concerned him deeply. It made sense for the Decepticons to steal the Allspark shard, and it would make sense for them to come after Allspark fragments, but if Alice was, in fact, a Decepticon – and Bumblebee had sorely underestimated the humans if they had the kind of technology necessary to create a cyborg with her level of realism – what reason did they have for coming after Sam? He remembered that Optimus had not ordered Bumblebee to continue to guard Sam, but only to 'collect' him for this discussion. I suppose if Optimus had wanted me to guard anyone, it would be Mikaela with the Allspark fragment. If the Decepticons had already collected the shard, they would come after the fragment next.
The more Bumblebee reflected on Sam's behavior that night, the more it bothered him. Sam was agitated, and he had been trembling minutely from the moment he had put his hands on Bumblebee's car door. Many things could potentially be wrong with the human – he could be sick, he could be troubled by something in his thoughts, or it could be something entirely different. He couldn't simply ask Sam what was the matter – even if he had a voice, Sam himself may not have known. Humans had a limited ability to consciously self-evaluate their status; most of their wellness strategies were subroutines not controlled by their cerebral processors.
A shortwave link option appeared on his commlink at 10:56 PM. He opened it. Sir, I have Sam with me STOP. Where should I take him to QUERY?
"Transmitting the coordinates now," Optimus replied. Upon receiving the latitude and longitude coordinates, Bumblebee cross-referenced them with a map online and determined that Optimus intended to meet with Sam in Ritchey Cemetery in Pennsylvania, off Route 76 Westbound. It would take roughly 30 minutes to get there, following all traffic laws.
Acknowledged STOP. Bumblebee hesitated a moment before continuing. Sam is asleep STOP. He seems agitated almost to the point of being unwell STOP.
"You are concerned for his well-being," Optimus summarized.
And there is something else as well STOP, Bumblebee added. He related the story of Alice to the Prime. I know you have had me guard Sam all this time, sir – (and I know it has been as much for me as for him, he thought but did not say) -- but with these new developments, I know it would be best if I guarded Mikaela instead STOP. Nonetheless, this … Pretender … his digital code trailed off.
Optimus did not answer for a moment. "I did not wish to alarm you, Bumblebee," he said.
Bumblebee's tires twitched, causing him to swerve slightly. Sam mumbled something but did not wake up. Alarm me with what QUERY?
"There is a chance – a small chance – that the Allspark has altered Sam.
"Ratchet expressed this concern to me not long after the final battle for the Allspark. He stated that Sam had increased brain activity immediately following his interaction with the Cube. Whether or not this meant anything he could not be certain with dissecting the boy, he said – after all, no one knows with any certainty what effect the Allspark would have on a biological creature. Before Sam, no biological entity had extended contact with the Cube that we know of.
"But there seemed to be no adverse effects and you reported nothing amiss, so I set the matter aside as unimportant. However, the Allspark shard Sam interacted with recently raised my concerns. The shard that was stolen has done nothing, Bumblebee – yet in the moment of Sam discovering a mere sliver, it created life as only the whole Cube could.
"There is more to Sam than meets the eye. That is why you have remained with him this last year, and why, I hope, he will aid us. Forgive me for keeping this from you."
Bumblebee mulled this information over, surprised. Abruptly the Allspark EM 'anomalies' made sense, and Sam's sudden 'acing' of his classes took on a different meaning. Why was this kept from me!? He wondered, distressed. If I had known …
No; if he had known, he would have done nothing different. Until now there had been no reason to believe the Decepticons had any hint of Sam's possible 'altering', and Bumblebee would never have told Sam if the boy didn't need to know. It would do nothing but make him doubt himself. It was your decision, sir STOP. Please don't apologize to me STOP. It made Bumblebee uncomfortable. Although I now think there have been signs over this past year STOP.
"Mm." Optimus did not seem surprised. "This Pretender, if that is indeed what that woman was, raises my concern as well. Bumblebee, I need a threat assessment."
She seemed reluctant to drop her cover, but that may have only been because she was near me STOP. She knew what I was almost immediately STOP. If she is after Sam for revenge, her charade would not be needed STOP. If she is after Sam because of his possible alteration, however, I cannot be certain what she will do with him STOP. It depends on the nature of the alteration STOP. Bumblebee paused. Do you know the nature of it, sir QUERY?
"Not entirely," Optimus admitted. "… It is possible that Sam carries some of the informational matrix of the Allspark in his mind."
Then the Decepticons seek every possible part of the Allspark … and part of the Allspark is Sam EXCLAMATION! Bumblebee's converter whined. Sir—
"I know." Bumblebee could almost see Optimus shuttering his optics in resignation. "If this is the case, then we too need to know what Sam knows. The Allspark is the only available source of information older than even The Fallen – if The Fallen is more than legend."
Then the Autobots, too, were to deceive Sam. It was subtle and not meant to be unkind, but Bumblebee immediately understood the full implications of Optimus' desire for Sam's help. Yes, Sam could aid their cause as a liaison to the humans, but there was a chance the alien information in his mind would be of even more use. Furthermore, if Sam were to agree to help them, it would draw him back within the protective circle of the Autobots rather than leaving him exposed and all but alone on a distant coast.
It was not unlike when Jazz and Bumblebee had charged Sam with the Allspark sixteen months previous: it was merely an honorary position to give Sam something to concentrate on and keep him safe. And look how that turned out, Bumblebee thought bitterly.
He was rapidly approaching where Optimus waited; Sam hadn't stirred except to periodically issue a snore as his head lolled against the seat. As Bumblebee made the last turn into the cemetery, he laid optics on Optimus' alt-mode, sitting silent on the access road leading up into the graveyard.
"Is he still asleep?" Optimus' voice rumbled from the Peterbilt truck.
Yes, sir STOP. Bumblebee rolled back slightly before parking himself. Can we just let him rest for a few more hours QUERY?
Optimus's engine turned over. Bumblebee could nearly sense the impatience off the Prime, having been in his constant company for over 140 vorns. But at length the Prime's vent's cycled. "Yes. He will need his rest, after all." Bumblebee chirruped his thanks, but he was surprised when Optimus continued, "You as well. I will stand guard."
Embarrassed, Bumblebee settled a little more deeply on his axles. He did need a recharge after racing across the country at the highest possible sustained speed. Yes, sir STOP.
He powered down gradually and slipped into recharge to the quiet purr of Optimus' engine.
When Bumblebee came back online, it was to Sam opening his car door and a gray, overcast sky. "A cemetery," he was grumbling, his voice gravelly from disuse during the night. "Man, I'm gonna be sore."
Somewhat irritated with himself for not coming online the moment Sam did, Bumblebee let Sam climb out with a chirp-chirp like a car being remotely locked. Sam patted his dash once. "Morning, 'Bee."
Optimus had unfolded into his protoform, standing tall in the grass of the cemetery. Bumblebee initiated his own transformation sequence, but Optimus shook his head once and Bumblebee froze, settling back into car mode before the transformation could get more than a few rotaries in.
"Good morning, Sam," Optimus greeted the boy.
"Optimus … What time is it?" Sam asked, rubbing the back of his head as he came around the Camaro's hood.
"It is 6:18 AM locally," Optimus answered.
Sam climbed over the low stone wall that separated Sam from the green lawn where Optimus stood. "God, so early," he grumbled. He looked up at Optimus, thrusting out his arms. "You couldn't give me one day? Just – just one day in college!?"
The Prime didn't waste words. "I'm sorry, Sam. A fragment of the Allspark has been stolen."
Sam's body tensed visibly. "What, like Decepticon stolen?"
"We left it in the government's care as a sign of goodwill, but it seems …" Optimus' gaze roamed away from Sam and across the cemetery before again falling on the adolescent. "We need your help, Sam."
Bumblebee didn't visibly tense, but the quiet deception grated on him. Of course they could use Sam's help if he would provide it, but it wasn't their sole reason for asking … Sir, Sam was not entirely himself last night STOP. Can't we just tell him we are concerned for his—
Not now STOP, came the answer in digital code, followed by a warning: COMMLINK TERMINATED ERROR 1738394UL.2 ENCRYPTION DENIED
The error startled the scout; Optimus had just effectively locked Bumblebee out of the Prime's commlink, silencing him. Chastened, Bumblebee settled lower on his chassis.
"My help?" Sam was exclaiming. "Wh-why?"
"There are those in your government who believe our continued presence has brought vengeance upon your planet," Optimus answered. "They must be reminded of the truth: of the trust and the common goals we share. You must speak for us, Sam."
Sam sputtered. "What, like – leave college? I just got here," he protested.
"Fate rarely calls upon us in a moment of our choosing," Optimus replied gravely. Bumblebee sensed the apology in his words.
Sam, however, did not. "This isn't my war!"
"I fear it soon will be." This the Prime almost said to himself, looking away from Sam and shuttering his optics.
Sam sighed, scrubbing his fingers through his hair. Bumblebee perceived the exasperation and exhaustion in his body and wondered if Optimus saw it too. "Look, I want to help – I do. But I-I'm not that person. I'm not a-a politician or whatever, I'm just a normal kid. This is my life now. I belong here."
Sam wanted to belong here. But given how worn he was after only one day at college, Bumblebee wondered if he was right.
"Besides, you're Optimus Prime." Sam thrust out his hands, gesticulating to show just how Optimus' very appearance seemed to embody his authority. "You don't need me." He turned away, starting to walk back towards Bumblebee with downcast eyes and slumped shoulders.
"We need you more than you know," Optimus murmured, looking away.
Sam opened Bumblebee's driver side door and began to climb in, not looking at the Prime again. "Can you take me back to Princeton? Please?" Sam asked in a strained voice.
Bumblebee brought his engine back to life, but he didn't move right away. The Prime, alone in his thoughts, was peering across the horizon.
"I've got my first class in like … three hours," Sam added. "And I gotta take a shower."
"Go, Bumblebee." The commlink Bumblebee had never actually closed suddenly crackled back to life. The Autobot jumped back in surprise at the channel being unblocked. Shifting into reverse, he backed down the shallow hill towards the main road again, optics half-trained towards the Prime's protoform disappearing behind the grass line. He didn't answer his commander or Sam, braced for the coming chastisement.
It came from Optimus first. "Sam does not believe in himself. That is why he refuses to aid us. Would you have me undercut him further by implying something is wrong with him?"
Bumblebee's engine sputtered, causing Sam to shift in alarm. "'Bee?" But the Autobot steadied himself quickly enough. He disagreed with the Prime's assessment of Sam's motives for declining to help, but he reined in the desire to argue and merely acknowledged his leader's question. No, sir STOP.
"Where are we, anyway?" Sam peered out Bumblebee's window. "Holy crap, Pennsylvania!? How long is it going to take me to get back to school!? Don't tell me I'm going to miss my first—"
"Don't you worry, young man – we're always on time!" Bumblebee responded hastily with a few stolen clips from radio commercials. His main attention was on his commlink.
"You will remain with him and guard him. Hopefully he will have you; if not, my order still stands." Optimus' tone turned resigned. "Deal with Alice at the first opportunity. If Sam does not have to know he is still hunted, it will be for the best."
Yes, sir STOP.
"Thank god," Sam groaned at Bumblebee. "You know, they'll drop you from classes if you don't show up the first day."
"With the shard already stolen, we have only the fragment and Sam to protect, but it is doubtful that the Decepticons know of the fragment. I am already gathering our forces here. We will be ready to back you up at a moment's notice."
Thank you, sir STOP. Bumblebee was not ashamed to feel relief at the thought.
"You know, I don't get it – what does Optimus need me for?" Sam griped. "I'm – okay, I'm glad I could help at Mission City. I just … I don't want to ever get involved in anything like that again. You know?"
"Do not let Sam out of your sensors, Bumblebee," Optimus warned, and the commlink went dead.
Bumblebee didn't immediately reply to Sam; Sam continued, not needing any input from the Camaro. "You don't have to guard me anymore, okay? Seriously. You can go do whatever it is you guys do, protecting the world and stuff. I'm not important enough to keep protecting all by myself."
Sam … Had he been in protoform, Bumblebee would have bowed his head and shaken it in disagreement. In alt-mode he merely revved his engine for a brief moment. Even if there were no chance you were infected by the Allspark, you would always be important enough to warrant protection! Perhaps Optimus was right and Sam underestimated his own worth.
"So … you know …" Sam trailed off, seeming dejected.
"B-but you're my pal! We're pals, right?" sputtered a man from an old movie out of Bumblebee's speakers.
The Autobot's spirits were lifted slightly to hear Sam laugh in response. "Yeah, yeah, of course. Just – I guess I need a little space. You don't have to worry about me: I'll be fine."
Oh, Sam, I hope you're right. But when Bumblebee dropped Sam off at his dormitory and drove out of sight, he quietly cut his engine in the student parking lot, a holographic parking decal dangling from his rear view mirror, and did what he did best: spying.
Guarding and spying on Sam in college was not like guarding him at his home. For one thing, his new home was fundamentally a large apartment overpopulated with students; listening in on Sam's conversations was all but impossible with the amount of ambient noise rendered by the hundreds of other humans wandering around the building. Secondly, Sam knew what he looked like whereas he never noticed the 1976 Chevrolet Camaro he had purchased at Bolivia's sixteen months ago was the same car that had lurked around his home and school for three weeks. In other words, Bumblebee had to do a much better job of hiding.
He spent most of the morning parked between two Sports Utility Vehicles in the student parking lot, catching snatches of conversation and collecting information off of the Princeton University servers when relevant.
This is what Bumblebee learned over the course of the morning:
1. Sam's roommate was a boy named Leonardo Spitz – the same dark-haired boy from the party the night before. He ran a website called Freshman 55, which was meant for determining which of the females at Princeton were the 'hottest' and the 'most fuckable'. He also sold calendars printed with pictures of kittens via the Internet. Most interestingly, he also ran 'The Real Effing Deal Dot Com', which was focused on proving the existence of giant alien robots on Earth. Bumblebee might have been more impressed by Leo's dedication to the truth if the few snatches of conversation he caught between Sam and Leo were not so … egotistical.
"You left us hanging, bro!" Leo groaned upon Sam's return to his dorm. "I thought you had a girlfriend! What were you doin' drivin' Alice around!? You know she's my woman!"
Alice is dating Leonardo Spitz? Unlikely. Although Leo was welcome to attempt to claim her, as Bumblebee was in complete agreement with the boy regarding Sam's relationship with Mikaela.
"She just – she – she wanted a ride, okay, so I drove her. Nothing happened," Sam shot back.
"You could've let me borrow your car and let me drive her," Leo protested. "Then something woulda happened."
"What? Wh—look, first of all, that-that's not my car, okay? Freshmen aren't allowed to have cars on campus. And-and-and I can't believe you're suggesting I should let you have sex in-in--! In my car!"
Bumblebee wasn't entirely certain how he felt about the idea of anyone participating in actual intercourse inside him. He did know the idea of Leo and Alice attempting to have anything like sex within him made him want to void all his waste containers. Disgusting! (And if that was how he felt about it, Alice probably felt no different, being a Decepticon.)
"Wait, is the Camaro your car or not?" Leo sounded smug about catching Sam in a lie.
"Look, whatever! I gotta take a shower." If there was any further conversation on the matter, Bumblebee couldn't hear it.
2. Bumblebee also learned about a website named 'Giant Effing Robots Dot Com'. Someone going by the pseudonym 'Robo-Warrior' ran this one, and without some concentrated hacking Bumblebee had no way to uncover his identity. He set the matter aside as unimportant, although he tagged the webpage in his memory banks for later investigation.
3. Sam shared his dormitory building with Alice.
This distressing realization did not make itself known until a few minutes before Sam left for his first class – Astronomy 101, according to his schedule. The not-a-human emerged from the front of the building, dressed in a powder-blue dress that barely came below the juncture of her legs.
Bumblebee looked Alice up on Freshman 55 in hopes of getting her last name. (He was not surprised to find the male population of the school rated her quite highly. Her looks were likely just as calculated as the appearance of Bumblebee's holoform to evoke a favorable response.) No luck. He cross-referenced every 'Alice' in the school with their class year and dormitory until he had eliminated all but one, an Alice Carroll.
Her class schedule was identical to Sam's. Not a coincidence. What did the Decepticon intend to do? Was she perhaps assigned to the same role as Bumblebee – guard Sam and spy on him? What for?
Not for the first time Bumblebee wished Wheeljack had been able to perfect the solid light hologram technology. Unfortunately, at high photon concentrations the holograms tended to glow brightly, losing any resemblance to the creatures they were supposed to imitate. The photons transferred energy too easily to maintain the solidity of a being made up of atoms. If such a technology had been successful, Sam would have likely found himself sitting uncomfortably between Alice and Bumblebee's holoform in class. The mental image gave the Autobot some grim amusement, even as he started his engine to covertly follow Sam (accompanied by Leo) towards his class building.
4. Leo chattered about useless things, but mostly about himself. Sam, Bumblebee noted from his brief chance to lay optics on the human, was rubbing his forehead a lot. Perhaps he was reading too much into it when he wondered what pained Sam. After all, listening to Leo talk incessantly in that half-English-half-Spanish blather that meant nothing and merely filled the air with white noise was enough to give Bumblebee an ache in the cerebral processor – and Autobots couldn't get headaches.
5. Humans still taught their children that the universe consisted of three spatial dimensions and one time dimension. Also, Sam's Astronomy professor sounded 'skeevy', to borrow a nonsense word from Mikaela. For some reason everything he said sounded like a euphemism for sex. Bumblebee, determined to not be caught off-guard by any more human laws, had downloaded even the sexual harassment guidelines of Princeton University, and he felt fairly certain the professor had walked all over these rules and thrown them into a metaphorical fire.
The Camaro was a bit distracted by the faculty members passing his alt-mode where he had parked nearby the classroom building. The sign over the parking space he occupied read "AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY. TOWING ENFORCED." Unimpressed, Bumblebee's rear view mirror now sported a holographic faculty parking pass.
"Did Rachel actually go through with picking up a sports car?" asked one teacher of another, passing by with steaming cups in their hands despite the warm weather.
The other teacher shrugged. "It looks good, though. I'll ask her at lunch."
Bumblebee preened a little – at least until he heard Sam's voice from the classroom.
6. Sam had gone a little … crazy.
"I'm sorry, but Einstein was wrong."
Bumblebee sat up on his chassis. Einstein, a famous human physicist, had been wrong – not for the known three spatial dimensions and one time dimension known to human physicists at the time, but under the laws governing the other seventeen folded spatial and temporal dimensions that made up subspace. It was this subspace, which humans had barely scratched the surface of with their growing knowledge of 'quantum physics' as they called it, which allowed for Cybertronian space bridges.
Despite the thousands of years that had passed since Bumblebee had outmoded to the scout class, the Autobot's core programming still contained intimate knowledge of the engineering needed to maintain a stable space bridge. Humans would refer to it as 'folding' space to create the illusion of faster-than-light travel, but in actuality it was quite the opposite; a space bridge unfolded four of the subspace dimensions – three spatial, and one temporal – so matter traveling through a space bridge traveled through dimensions not related to the basic four of this universe. By 'looping' the second temporal dimension, time could be made to 'stand still' in the first temporal dimension, and thus instantaneous travel across the galaxy could be achieved.
The Camaro knew all this; any Cybertronian who had desired to download this knowledge could have obtained it from the informational matrix that spanned Cybertron. The real question was: how did Sam know?
"Excuse me?" the professor sounded deeply offended by Sam's outburst.
"Oh, sure, he's right about E equals M C squared in the four basic dimensions, but what about the other seventeen?" Sam was talking too quickly, and his voice was somehow mechanical, detached. The Autobot listened in stunned silence. "Nobody talks about the other seventeen dimensions."
Twenty-one dimensions! Not even human superstring theorists have arrived at that conclusion! Bumblebee knew he had never discussed Cybertronian physics with Sam, but the number Sam had come up with had not been pulled out of nowhere.
"Young man, you are in my universe right now," the professor started to say, but Sam spoke right over him.
"Okay, clear example – as this equation shows—" there was the sound of chalk scraping on a blackboard, a sound Bumblebee had grown quite familiar with over the past year of guarding Sam through his last year of high school –"—if you break down the elemental particles of energon, assuming a constant decay rate, and extrapolate f-f-f-f-f-fooor the spatial convergences discovered by Sentinel Prime, you end up with an equation for interdimensional energy creation that Einstein alone can't explain. Even if you throw dark matter into the mix the n-nu-nu-numbers don't balance out. See?" The sound of chalk scraping ceased. "The other s-s-seventeen dimensions are all folded up but they contain antiparticles and when you spread them out you get—"
"Young man!" The professor roared. Bumblebee, completely astounded by Sam's sudden beyond-Einstein knowledge of physics, honked his horn in surprise at the interruption. Sam, thankfully, finally fell silent at this shout.
"I will not be made a fool in my classroom. And not," he snarled, "in front of the dean."
Bumblebee wasn't sure what 'the dean' was, but he made note to look it up once he figured out what had just happened to Sam.
"Now get out!" There was the sound of dozens of students laughing nervously.
Sam stammered his reply, but it was not the terrifyingly hitched stammers that had interrupted his Cybertronian-level lecture: it was his normal, agitated stammer. "O-okay."
"Anyone else care to have a mental breakdown?" The professor demanded over the sound of the classroom door banging shut.
Primus, Bumblebee thought. It's just like Captain Archibald Witwicky.
7. Archibald Witwicky, the infamous Captain who had traveled to the Arctic Circle in the late 1800's and subsequently gone crazy, claiming to have seen a giant 'Ice Man', had not been wrong about the Ice Man. The Ice Man had been, in fact, Megatron, frozen into stasis lock by the damage he sustained in the Earth's atmosphere and the low temperatures of Earth in its Ice Age ten thousand years previous to the present day. However, it was not merely claims of seeing a giant man in the ice of the Arctic that had landed him in a mental asylum: it was his claims of seeing strange symbols before his eyes, his sudden inability to comprehend the world around him in a meaningful manner, and his persistent belief in realities that did not exist.
In other words, Archibald Witwicky had 'gone crazy' with Cybertronian knowledge far beyond the comprehension of humans. He had not, of course, come into direct contact with the Allspark, but whatever he had activated in Megatron that day the Cube's coordinates had been imprinted on his glasses, more than just a flash of laser light had made its impression upon the man's mind.
Bumblebee did not mean to consider the humans in any way mentally inferior to Cybertronians: it was just that sort of thinking that led the Decepticons to underestimating Sam in the final battle for the Cube. But human minds weren't meant for sudden and instant absorption of so much knowledge, especially when such knowledge would be entirely abstract without any references to anchor it. They were not built to download information – they learned by repetition and 'critical thinking' and gradual understanding. It was inefficient – different – not inferior. Eventually, given time and room to grow, the humans would come to the same understanding of the universe as the Cybertronians had. Perhaps they would even progress beyond it. But that knowledge had to come gradually, with every new discovery building on the last: even the Cybertronians had not immediately discovered the seventeen subspace dimensions, and they were long-lived beings with perfect memory and computers for minds.
Bumblebee drew the only possible conclusion: the Allspark had in fact altered Sam. Its informational matrix had allowed Sam to better comprehend the subjects taught to him in his last year of high school, which had, in turn, landed Sam here in a prestigious college. But something had triggered Sam's mind and opened the floodgates of the collective wisdom of Cybertron, and now the human boy was suffering from some kind of dangerous overload.
Bumblebee tracked Sam's progress back across the campus with growing alarm.
8. When Sam picked up his cell phone to make a phone call, Bumblebee didn't hesitate to tap the call. Under other circumstances he would have refrained – Sam hated it when Bumblebee listened in on his phone conversations – but at the moment, Sam's well-being was of greater concern to the Autobot than Sam's privacy.
Alice, he noted with some relief, had not left class to follow Sam. He set the matter of the Pretender aside for the moment.
The scout was not surprised when the call went out to Mikaela. The mechanic picked up on the third ring. "Hello, Sam," she said in a tone that bespoke pure irritation. "Call to apologize for standing me up on our first live chat?"
Well, Sam might have deserved it after forgetting about his online chat with his girlfriend. Bumblebee felt a bit guilty as well for letting Sam fail to call Mikaela and apologize the night before.
"Mikaela!" Sam's voice, no longer distant through the tapped line, was breathless and frightened. "Something's happening to me!"
"You're finally hitting puberty?" Mikaela's voice was almost teasing now.
"I'm serious," Sam protested. "I told you about Archibald Witwicky – you know, my great-great-grandfather that discovered Megatron and went crazy, right? Started seeing symbols in his head. Well, it's – hey!"
Here Sam burst into a violent chatter that bore little resemblance to English. In fact, Bumblebee couldn't believe his audio receptors, but what Sam shouted was "Don't touch that!" … in Cybertronian. Of course Sam's human voice couldn't perfectly imitate the multitones of the Cybertronian language, but the words were unmistakable.
"— The symbol thing, it's happening to me."
The confirmation of Bumblebee's assessment only made the Autobot's spark feel heavy in its chamber.
"What are you talking about, Sam?" Mikaela sounded exasperated and concerned.
"And there's other stuff too," Sam continued, talking faster and faster. "I just read a nine-hundred-three page astronomy book in thirty-two point eight seconds and had a nervous meltdown in the middle of class. I – hey, hey, hey, watch the feet, watch the feet! - it's like my brain's been hijacked ever since I—"
Sam broke off. The phone line was silent for a moment. "Ever since what?" Mikaela asked at length.
"Ever since I touched the splinter of the Allspark," Sam breathed.
Of course. I should have seen it! Bumblebee thought. Sam activated the fragment and it created the Transformers. But the fragment also activated Sam's latent Allspark knowledge!
"You still have it, right? You haven't touched it, have you?" Sam demanded.
"It's fine, Sam, it's safe," Mikaela reassured her boyfriend. "It's in the shop's safe."
Oh, Mikaela, why did you have to say that over a cell phone line!? Bumblebee cringed mentally. If Soundwave was on Earth – and the Autobot laid the odds 100-to-1 that he was – he could very well be listening in at this very moment. Bumblebee wished he could apply an Autobot-level encryption to the line, but neither Sam nor Mikaela's phones would be able to handle the sheer amount of data such an encryption would generate.
"Do not touch it," Sam hissed.
"Okay, I won't," Mikaela promised. There was a pause in the conversation. "Hang on." The phone line crackled with the sounds of the girl putting her phone down on a hard surface.
There was a high-pitched scream that was not made by Mikaela's voice, followed by Mikaela shouting something. As acute as Bumblebee's hearing was, through the phone line he was only as good as Mikaela's phone, which unfortunately wasn't anywhere near good enough to allow the distant sounds to resolve into something intelligible. This carried on for another minute and forty-four seconds, during which both Autobot and boyfriend listened silently (except for Sam's breathing into the mouthpiece).
"—worst nightmare," Bumblebee made out, accompanied by another high-pitched screech and the sound of metal banging on metal.
"What the heck was that?" Sam demanded even as Mikaela picked her phone back up.
Mikaela was slightly winded by whatever had happened, but she didn't sound as if she was in pain. Bumblebee cycled his vents with relief. "Something we can't talk about over an open phone line."
Now they remember protocols. The children, of course, only feared retaliation from the federal government for breaking their contractual agreement to keep the existence of the Cybertronians secret. Little did they know that the American government was the least of their worries. Of course, this meant that Mikaela had just dealt with some kind of Autobot or Decepticon – more likely a Decepticon from the sound of it. Who was it? Were they after the fragment?
"I'm going to catch the next flight to Princeton; I'll see you in a few hours," Mikaela continued. "And Sam – be careful."
"Yeah, you too," Sam answered, sounding as if he was chewing his lower lip.
The humans hung up at almost exactly the same time.
"Hello, Autobot," said Alice, standing next to Bumblebee's passenger side door.
9. Pretenders, it seemed, didn't have an EM signature that differed significantly from that of humans.
Bumblebee revved his engine in alarm at the discovery that while he had been concentrating on the phone call he had allowed a known Decepticon to get so close. He threw his gearshift into reverse, but Alice's hand slammed down on Bumblebee's door. "Now now, no need to get … nasty," she chastised. "What's it going to look like if Sam Witwicky's car runs down a poor defenseless freshman girl?"
The scout acknowledged that it would create a bad situation for Sam. Of course, Alice's existence was a bad situation for Sam. "State your purpose!" demanded a football coach from a movie.
The Pretender chuckled. "Look, I'm just here to give you fair warning," she purred. "You're probably planning to waste me as soon as you can, or come running to Sam's rescue. But I have bad news for you, little Autobot …" she pressed her body up against the Camaro's doorframe. "I'm just the bait," she whispered. "And every good trap has claws."
A police siren chirp-honked behind Bumblebee. The Autobot's EM sensors whined at him as the old identification popped up on his diagnostics. Barricade … But the Saleen Ford Mustang police cruiser had disappeared immediately following the battle of the Allspark. Bumblebee, the Autobot who arguably knew him best, knew that Barricade was only loyal to one Cybertronian.
And that was how Bumblebee realized that Megatron had come back to life.
To be continued
It's totally like 3 AM my time, so I'm going to have to save the review replies for later this morning. Sorry.
Logistical errors dealt with in this chapter: 1)Bee picks up Sam from the frat house at night but talks to Optimus in the morning. 2) Why does Optimus think Sam is in danger? It must have something to do with the Allspark, of course, which only makes sense if Optimus thinks Sam still has something to do with the Allspark. Also there's no proof that Barricade dies in the first movie, so I'm breathing life into him again. Somebody's gotta keep 'Bee distracted until the trap closes around Sam (and Mikaela, and Leo …)
Regarding Bumblebee's shortwave speech: it's a completely made up Cybertronian 'morse code'. Real Morse Code ended every sentence with STOP, but since Bumblebee is from a super-advanced race and all, their morse code has optional endings like QUERY? and EXCLAMATION! It sounds like a phone modem, if you're curious.
Thanks for reading, and thank you to all who review!