Sorry it took so long to get this chapter up. Summer job, life, you know the deal… And I needed to find a way to finish it off well. I take care of the whole "Carl saw giant robots" problem and get everything back to normal. Or at least as normal as it gets when you're dealing with Cybertronians.
Annabelle covered her ears as her daddy carried her away from the towering robots. Ironhide was really mad at the bad one. She flinched as he unleashed his cannons with a loud blast. Other people with uniforms like Daddy ran by carrying other weapons and those explosions were added to the noise. Her parent ran until there was a good distance between her and the fight before setting her down.
"Annabelle, sweetheart, are you alright?" he asked her, checking her over as he talked. "You scared me and Ironhide to death. Why weren't you and Carl on the buses getting out of here?"
Sniffling still, she was calming down now that her daddy and Ironhide had shown up. As long as they were here, everything would be fine. Ironhide was already smashing the bad robot for scaring her and being mean. Nothing could beat him. She had never seen him stop a bad robot before, but she knew that he could do it better than anyone else except maybe Daddy. Annabelle knew she was completely safe now.
"Carl was at his 'secret base,' even if he wasn't supposed to be, and didn't know we were leaving," the girl tried to explain. "So I went to get him, but everyone was gone when we got back."
"I knew it was that boy's fault," muttered Ironhide, joining them since Barricade had made his cowardly retreat. Annabelle looked up at her metallic friend, so relieved that he had saved her. "Did I not state it would be his doing, Will?"
"Ironhide!" she called, reaching up towards him. He obeyed her silent request and picked her up. Even if it was awkward to manage because of his size and the fact he was made of inflexible metal, the girl gave him the best hug she could manage. "You and Daddy stopped the bad robot and made him go away. I knew you would. He was a big mean bully. Thank you for saving me and beating up the bad guy."
The weapon specialist, relieved beyond words that the small child was unharmed, answered simply, "Of course we would save you, Annabelle. And if a Decepticon even thinks of coming near you again, I'll blast him into a thousand tiny pieces. And not even Ratchet would be able to put him back together again."
"Like Humpty Dumpty," she added.
Daddy, hugging his daughter when Ironhide lowered her once more, dryly commented, "Mommy's going to kill us for letting this happen to you, sweetheart. And she's going to be even scarier than Barricade was."
"I'll protect you and Ironhide," Annabelle promised. "It's not your fault that a bad robot showed up."
Carl sat, huddled inside his "secret base," and listened for the approach of monsters. The car had turned into something evil and scary. Then Annabelle started… acting weird. She had been… talking to it. Then she told him to run because it was "a bad robot." The red-head shuddered. He was too afraid to think of anything. His mind just kept flashing back to the terrifying image of a police car becoming that nightmare.
A nightmare. Maybe all this was one big nightmare. All his stories of monsters and aliens were beginning to scare even him. The five year old scrunched his eyes shut tight, praying to wake up.
Suddenly, a rhythmic crunching sound of twigs snapping and leaves trodden underfoot caught the child's attention. Someone was coming. He let out an involuntary squeak of fear as he pressed himself harder against the back of the base. The footsteps stopped suddenly and the blue tarp was lifted up. A happily human face peered in towards the boy's freckled one.
"Hi Carl," the man smiled soothingly. "I'm a friend of Annabelle's dad. You can call me Epps. We've been looking for you."
The boy crawled out quickly to the soldier. He started stammering about his secret base, cars, how much trouble he was going to be in, and bad robots. Epps tried to calm the child and explain.
"You won't get in trouble. Everyone is too worried about you to bother with that right now. And the toxic spill can have some strange reactions in the air. They can cause hallucinations." Seeing that Carl had no clue what that meant, he clarified, "It can give you nightmares when you're awake."
Carl, seeing a sign of hope, asked, "It wasn't real? The changing car? Annabelle talking robot? Any of it?"
"Don't worry, kid. No bad robots are out to get you," he answered. "Now, everyone is worried about you. Let's get you back."
"So Carl thinks it was a bad dream?" asked Annabelle, tilting her head curiously.
Lennox nodded to his daughter as he helped her into Ironhide's cab. The transformed Cybertronian was considering never letting her out again. She didn't realize how close that Barricade had been to… The Autobot couldn't even consider it. She was such a sweet innocent child and she had encountered that monster, alone and unprotected. What if she had meet one of the other Decepticons? Like Starscream? Or Megatron?! Annabelle wouldn't have been alive by the time he found her.
Lennox explained, "It will be easier on him to think that. And if he does talk about Barricade, everyone else will think it was just part of a hallucination caused by the toxic spill. Hopefully, he'll put it all behind him in time and forget about it as he gets older."
"I don't think he could forget," Annabelle commented slowly. "But he won't talk about it much either." The bright little girl enlightened them. "He likes to scare everyone and look tough. If he says he saw a monster and ran away, he won't be able to anymore. All his friends will think he is a scaredy-cat. And he won't lie and say he didn't run away because I saw him. If he lies, I can call him a liar-liar, pants-on-fire and make him look like a big dummy. He won't talk."
Ironhide, while not the most familiar with some of the odder phrases she used to explain, realized his favorite little human girl was completely right. Carl, in some ways, was like Starscream: brave when he could win, but retreating when he would lose. But the seeker would never allow himself to be considered a coward. He would arrange it so the event would spin to his advantage. Thus, Carl would avoid the topic unless he was guaranteed to be able to use the encounter to raise his status in the kindergarten hierarchy.
"That boy is practically the spawn of Starscream," he silently mused to himself.
Annabelle, using her best grin, innocently asked, "Can we stop for ice cream on the way home? Please? I promise not to drip it on you, Ironhide. Please?"
Lennox chuckled softly, "The young really bounce back fast from stuff, don't they?"
"After today," Ironhide pointed out, not usually one to approve of the sugary dairy product because of its low nutritional value and mess, "she does deserve a reward."
"You're just saying that because you don't want to explain to Sarah yet," the man accused. "And because Annabelle has you wrapped around her finger, you big softie."
The Cybertronian couldn't deny any part of the statement. He would do anything for that child, from help her convince her father to allow ice cream to fight an army of Decepticons to protect her. And an angry Mrs. Lennox was right up there on things that he would rather not face if he could avoid it. So a stop on the way back to the Lennox residence would be welcomed.
And that's the end. Hope you liked it. A few more 'fuzzy-feelings' moments in this chapter than the others. And Carl is likely to have a few problems for a while, but hopefully he can eventually put it off as one big nightmare. I hope you liked this more action-y "Black Crayons" story. It was rather different in style than the others, but it was fun. Thanks for all the reviews.