The Other Side

By: nightelfcrawler

Author's Note: Apologies for the slow times between updates. Please be patient with me, life becomes busy and then dies down in spurts, so my inspiration comes rather crazily.

Chapter Three

Frowning, Celine gathered her purse and followed him as they walked down to the garage. On the way she glanced sideways at him. "So… What's the deal with all the secrets here? When Dad says it's the highest level of top secret, just what are we talking about? Weapons of war? Other country secrets?" She smirked a little. "Little green men?"

He shot her a very speculating look, frowning as the elevator doors closed. "I'd rather not elaborate until we're in your car." He said finally. "Let's just say it involves some incidents about five years back."

She blinked, and then ran over the files in her head. "Five years…. There was a bunch of stuff going on then… some strange meteor crashes, a terrorist attack on a few different locations across the globe…"

He nodded sagely. "Many of those incidents were all connected to one cause. The root of that cause has been hidden from the public, and for good reasons."

Celine felt that itching feeling in her gut as they approached her car. She slipped in as he joined her in the front seat, and they started driving up the ramp, splitting into traffic. He directed her where to go, and she glanced at him expectantly. "So… what are we talking about here? First we see supposedly classified jet designs, now you bring me into this through my father who knows you under a code name I've never heard of… What is going on?"

He sighed. "All right…" He said finally after a moment's thinking about how he was going to present the information to her. "As I told you, the meteor shower, the incident at the Hoover Dam, and the incident at Mission City are all related." Her eyes widened a bit. Those were two big events that had a LOT of publicity. No one could cover up terrorist attacks, and she'd heard some other wild stories to come in par with those two incidents. Like many wild tales she'd dismissed them. But something in her gut itched at her in warning as he continued. "There's no easy way to say it, other than to say it." Trey finally spoke quietly. "The meteors were not some unidentified rocks that crashed from space."

"No kidding." She murmured. "They seemed to mysteriously vanish if I remember."

"Yes. Because the meteors were not solid chunks of rock or metal, but a form of life."

She nearly hit the break. It was only her instinct that kept her going. "Beg your pardon? They WERE little green men?"

"Not exactly." He smirked at her reaction. "They were inorganic life forms. Those meteors WERE them, not a ship of any sort."

Celine took a deep breath. "Ok… that isn't what I expected to hear, but go on."

"Their race are called Cybertronians." He continued calmly as if he were explaining how weather conditions worked. "They came from their own world far distant to here after it was virtually destroyed after millennia of war between two opposing factions. They came here for a reason, in pursuit of a relic that had crashed here ages ago before humans ever were developed. They weren't the first, the commander of one of the factions came here about a hundred or more years past and got trapped in the ice of the arctic region. In the 1800's an explorer by the name of Archibald Witwicky uncovered him, and his frozen body was brought back to a secret location along with the artifact that was found elsewhere at an earlier date. This base was buried inside the Hoover Dam, and it was turned into a tourist attraction to keep suspicions low." Celine blinked, but decided it was in her best interest not to say anything. "Eventually the others came searching for the relic, which is called the Allspark, and the rival faction came looking for their commander. This is what led to these attacks, they broke through the dam's defenses and busted their commander out while the other faction managed to work with the military to get their hands on the Allspark. This war then was brought to Mission City, where a lot of damage was done and subsequently covered up." He paused. "A peace treaty was signed not long after, because the commander of one of the factions was killed, and there were few left to continue the cause, the Allspark was destroyed in the process. It gave them nothing to fight over, so the war was ended. The U.S. government signed an accord with the Cybertronians, recognizing them as political refugees and granting them permission to remain on Earth as long as they obeyed the laws, didn't harm any of the natural residents, and didn't stir up trouble. To this date, the accord has been enacted upon without incident, until now."

Celine grimaced. "Let me guess, those schematics?"

"Yes." He agreed darkly. "I'm at a loss to figure out how they could have gotten them." He frowned. "The three of us who have access to these diagrams would NEVER give them up for any reason, even for enormous amounts of money. It just isn't rational."

Celine slowly turned her head, studying him. He hadn't said it, but the dots were slowly being connected. Why was he and 3 others the ONLY ones who had access to these plans? There could be only one answer, but she wasn't able to bring herself to ask it. Instead, she turned before he even directed her to, pulling into the industrial complex.

Trey blinked. "How did you know…?"

"I um… kind of traced down some information on you." She admitted guiltily, glancing his way before they pulled up and stopped in front of his rented warehouse. "I wondered what kind of strange things you were into… I didn't do much other than peek at your files though. I never expected some kind of top secret clearance." She turned the key off in the ignition, and sat there in silence for a while. Finally she glanced his way. "…I have to ask." She said quietly. "Just how are you wrapped up in all of this. Robotic aliens crash-landing and warring with each other, top secret government agencies involved, special treaties…" She stared at him intently. "I'm not sure how to believe all of this. I know my father told me to believe what you told me, but it's just so…."

"Difficult?" He suggested, a faint smile gracing his features. "I understand, believe me."

"First off, how is it none of us have noticed these aliens? Do they just stay in hiding all the time? Where do they live for one?"

He sighed, and turned his head towards the warehouse, his lips pressed tightly together. "…well… that is part of the reason we are here." He paused for a moment, but she didn't interrupt his thoughts as he organized them. "The reason you haven't seen them is because they have a unique ability to take on other forms that are equal to their mass. They are considerably larger than humans you see… and because of this unique ability to program other complex shapes into their body, they can take that shape without flaw."

"Take another shape? What like a human?"

"Not exactly." He said smiling a bit. "We'll come to that… what I mean is, they can program themselves to take shapes similar in size, and they are mostly too large to become human shaped. Instead they have the ability to transform into cars, trucks, jets, and other mechanical constructs."

She blinked. "So… cars that drive themselves?"

"Yup."

"Wonderful." She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "This is rapidly becoming weird."

"It gets weirder." She glanced up at Trey and saw his expression suddenly looking uncomfortable with a tad bit of guilt tied in. "You asked about human shapes? Well they have the ability to project holograms, but not holograms as you might know them. These are solid matter holograms that can interact with impudence in their surroundings."

She blinked and then blinked again as suddenly it clicked. "Oh." She said quietly, looking up and down as her gut clenched with a suddenly nervous flutter. "Then… you….?"

He nodded once, averting his gaze. "I am one of them." He said softly.

Celine closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. All of this was just SO strange, that she would have laughed if her father hadn't been so adamant that she believe what Trey had to say. And the fact was, he was speaking like something right out of a sci-fi novel. "I see." She said again, speaking slowly. "Or rather, I don't quite SEE yet… but I imagine that's why you've brought me here?"

He smiled awkwardly. "Yes."

"So your real body is inside?"

"Yes."

"And this is just a kind of hologram?"

"Yes." He said smiling more. "Would you like proof?"

"Like and need are two different issues." She muttered. "But I suppose if you show me now, I can get used to the idea of a transforming alien robot a bit easier."

He smiled slightly. "I suppose. Very well then." He reached forward and in one flawless motion she watched as his hand vanished right into the dashboard, and came back out again, whole and completely unchanged. As if that wasn't enough, he stuck his hand out through the window, waved his arm and brought it back, then gave her a wry smile. "Do you need more demonstrations?"

"God no." She groaned, putting a hand to her face and forcing herself to take a deep slow breath. "I want to say 'I don't believe this' and believe me I want NOT to believe it… but my Dad is not one to joke about anything. Ever. He's just not." She took a slow shaky breath. "So… let me get this straight. You're one of these alien robots, you've been passing yourself off as an FBI agent because what, you're bored sitting around doing nothing, and now that you've seen these plans you're pretty sure something fishy is going on, so you need me on board to help you track down the truth?"

"That's pretty much it in a nutshell." He said quietly.

"Great. Let's get it over with then." She said, opening her door abruptly, stepping outside and taking another deep breath to steel herself, hoping she wasn't making a mistake.

"Are you sure…?"

"I'm sure." She said firmly, turning to face him as he strangely enough opened the door and got out 'normally'. "Am I ready? Probably not. But I'm sure." Trey glanced at her uncertainly but then nodded once, turning and walking towards the warehouse door with purpose in his step. They reached the door where he punched in a complicated code into the number-pad and the door opened with a click. He held the door open for her politely, and she stepped inside, steeling herself for the inevitable. She wasn't quite sure what to expect, some alien-like car or truck perhaps, something VISIBLY different at least. But as soon as they entered the door, she was a bit distracted to see a perfectly normal-sized entryway complete with a pair of chairs and a table, a coffeemaker, refrigerator and microwave, perfectly neat and clean. Surprised, she glanced at him. "Don't tell me you actually keep this here for guests?"

"Hey, do you know how easy it is to stretch out when you're thirty feet tall?" Trey grumbled, crossing his arms. "I need a place to relax. Give me a break. If it helps, check the fridge."

Curious, Celine moved to the object in question and opened it. Sitting there neatly lined up on every shelf were square clear plastic containers with a rather murky pinkish-brown goo. It smelled strongly of something like antifreeze. "What....are those?"

"Fuel." He said simply, leaning on the wall. "Albeit a very disgusting poor substitute, but then I never was a very good scientist. I suck at making the stuff, but it at least keeps me fed."

"So you don't live on coffee?" She smirked a bit, peering up at him from over the door.

"Not likely." He snorted. "While the stuff is strong, and it at least tastes better, it doesn't keep my tanks full." He closed the door on her, his eyes holding hers firmly. "This way." He said jerking his head over his shoulder.

She sighed and followed him down the narrow corridor which led off to a restroom, and a couple small storage rooms. But at the end of the corridor was another door, this one unlocked as he pushed it open and entered. At first, she could see nothing. It was pitch black inside, and took her eyes a moment to adjust to the numerous shadows. But she could feel instinctively that the space was very large, as a warehouse should be, and not very full, which a warehouse shouldn't be. The echoes from her footsteps bounced off the walls sharply, and squinting through the dim light she could barely make out something large sitting in the middle of the room.

Trey flipped on the lights.

Blinking at the sudden illumination, she found herself staring nose-to-nose with a sharply angled familiar nose-cone of an F-22. And it was dark blue. It was just like the pictures on Trey's wall. Suddenly, it clicked. He'd flown in the 'air force' he'd said... was obsessed with planes.... and knew about plane schematics.

She almost laughed aloud, but decided that wasn't a good idea, and might come off as insulting. Imagine that, insulting a fighter jet.

She was aware that Trey was watching her closely to see her reaction, staring at her from the side with an anxious expression, but she pointedly ignored him and instead strode forward, running a hand on the undercarriage, studying the sleek jet's figure. It was typical of it's make, with exception to the color. The color was not just paint, it appeared the metal itself was made out of a deep azure-cobalt alloy, glittering faintly in the light, smooth and waxed. There were a few deep scratches across the fuselage, scratches that had apparently been there for some time as they were polished and clean around the edges. There were also two stripes running along either side of the wing, bold white and red. In the center of each wing was stamped a vibrant violet symbol that looked rather intimidating, but was faded with age along with the rest of the paint striping. But every line, every cut of the jet was flawless and if it hadn't been colored differently, she never would have known it was an alien in disguise.

She turned around, facing Trey as he watched her. "Well..." She said finally. "Aside from your atrocious color scheme, you don't LOOK like an alien."

That got him smiling. "Then stand back." He warned, and abruptly without warning he vanished. Quickly deciding standing UNDER the jet was a bad place to be, she backed up as requested, turning her eyes upwards staring in curiosity at the silent shape above her.

She heard the sound before she saw any movement. It sounded like digital sounds of a computer starting up, a very distinctive sound that made her ears twitch. Then, the jet moved. It didn't just move, it twisted, or rather parts OF it twisted. The nose-cone abruptly rose up on it's own, the wheels remaining in place, the wings suddenly rotated back on a horizontal plane, and then the entire jet simply stood up. She wasn't sure HOW, but suddenly a leg materialized out of the undercarriage, stepping onto the ground as a knee formed and hit the cement next to it with a thud. But her eyes were drawn to what was happening higher up, as shoulders finished shifting, the wings firmly attacked and jutting out from them as a head unfolded from what had been the cockpit, two bright red eyes flaring to life and focusing down on her as the entire process finished. Standing crouching above her, in what could closest be referred to as a football quarterback's pose, was definitely something FAR more alien than an F-22. At first, she wasn't sure WHAT to think. It was definitely humanoid in the fact it had two arms, two legs and a visible head, but that was where the similarities ended. She could SEE parts of the plane in his form, the striping still visible on the wings set against his back, lettering across his lower thigh that said 'U.S.'. However, his entire visage was quite intimidating. He had a very sharply angled battle mask covering his entire face, grated grill hiding all but his eyes which gleamed down at her. Vents in his shoulders were whirring slightly in a slow pulsing motion, and she could see small cogs and parts moving slightly as he bent over her. He definitely had the appearance of a soldier or warrior, poised and ready to react in a second's notice. And while her heart pounded fiercely in her chest, adrenaline pumping through her urging her to react to the fight or flight insistence, she didn't feel afraid. She ignored rational thought that said she should be screaming, running or fainting, however, steeling herself to not move, but stare up at him and try to accept what she was seeing. It definitely felt unreal, and it wasn't something she could completely come to wrap her head around, but no matter how many times she blinked, he remained there, watching her.

"Wow." She finally managed to say, her voice sounding small and thinner than normal. "Definitely not a normal jet."

A low rumble nearly startled her into running, as she jumped in alarm. The noise filled the warehouse, vibrating under her feet making her very bones quiver. It took her a moment to realize that the sound was actually laughter. "I half expected you to faint." A deep sonorous voice with a definite digital echo to it's tone rumbled out all around her. It sounded vaguely like Trey's own voice, but only slightly as it was far louder and deeper.

She swallowed hard. "Don't give me ideas. I'm still considering whether that's a good idea or not." There was a sudden sound of grating metal, and the faceguard protecting his lower features slid back, revealing a more humanoid face. There were definitely lips of some sort, and the plates moved fluidly as they pulled up into what she could only imagine was a smile. Moving slowly as not to startle her, the large alien jet-turned-robot straightened up, pulling himself onto both feet and rising nearly to his full height. True to his word, he stood as tall as the ceiling, and had to stoop a little in order to fit. He slowly stretched out his arms, as a cacophony of metal grating screeches filled the room with the motion. She winced, but waited as he stretched, obviously stiff from not moving for a while. After he finished, he knelt back down and moved himself into a more comfortable sitting position, though he still easily towered over her. Slowly she stepped forward, his crimson eyes watching her as she moved to slowly put a hand on the closest piece of metal attached to one of his feet. It was slightly warm to the touch, and she could feel a slight vibration, as if it were alive. Curious, she peered up at him. "Well... of all the alien first encounters I imagined, this definitely fit nowhere in it."

He laughed again, making her jump slightly, but she quickly relaxed as her pounding heart finally seemed to grasp the fact she wasn't going to need it's rapid pace. "I have viewed many of your 'alien first encounter' movies... and you're quite right."

Celine snorted, dropping her purse on the ground as she slowly approached. "So... your name can't really be Trey, can it? And I have to ask, how did you learn our language?"

"We're able to download any information we want from your wireless networks. They're fairly easy to hack into, actually..." Was the reluctant answer. "And downloading your language, any language on this planet for that matter, is not difficult. As for my name, while you couldn't pronounce it in our native tongue, the closest approximation in your language would be Thundercracker."

She lifted an eyebrow. "Interesting, but attractive. Is there a meaning behind it?"

"Yes." He smiled again, and she was finding him increasingly less scary each time he did so. "I have the unique ability to produce sonic booms without being in motion if I like. It's rather handy in battle."

"I'll bet. I won't ask you to demonstrate that one." She said wryly. He chuckled again, moving so that his face was a little closer to hers. She studied him cautiously, still feeling her stomach tying itself in knots, but her heart had slowed at least. "So my father knows about you? And the rest of your people?" She frowned. "How many MORE of you are there here?"

"About twenty perhaps. Most of us are scattered about by now, as our treaty gave us leave to go where we liked as long as we remained within the boundaries of your country and caused no trouble. To my knowledge there have been no new arrivals, so likely the rest found other places to seek refuge."

"And you're here because your planet is pretty much..."

"Junk." He agreed, sighing. "Unfortunately. We have no other place to go that would provide us with fuel at least. Here we can at least live a semblance of life, though it may not be exactly what we want."

"Yeah, I imagine spending your days cooped up in here isn't appealing."

"I make do." He sighed. "But yes... I would love to not have to hide all the time." His eyes lifted up towards the ceiling. "We are permitted to move about outside as we like, and have been given flight clearance and protection from being fired upon, but it is not the same."

"I imagine not." She tried to imagine a tall alien robot trying to enjoy himself on a beach without being disturbed, and nearly started laughing. "So how long have you been doing this?"

"Since the treaty was formed, and our war officially ended."

"So a few years now. And in that time, have you seen any of your people?"

"No." He shook his head. "I haven't. I know where a few of my former comrades have taken up residence, but the majority of us scattered about. There are ways of finding each other, but considering how widely we're scattered about, it wouldn't be easy."

"It must be lonely, being separated from the rest of your kind." She mused softly, staring up at him with a speculative look.

A wry smile passed over his face and he nodded slightly, shoulders stooping a little in a very human-like gesture of sadness. "It is. But most of us did not part on exactly… complacent terms."

"I'm sorry to hear about that."

His gaze swept back down to her. "But, I think given what is happening, I cannot afford to continue doing this on my own." For a moment, she thought she saw a flash of hesitation cross through his optics as he gazed down at her thoughtfully. "How are you at flying?"

"I do fairly well." She said slowly, a gut-clenching feeling making itself home in her stomach. "But we're not talking commercial jets are we."

He smiled with obvious amusement. "No."

"I've never flown in a fighter jet." She admitted. "A few larger military craft, sure, but never a fighter jet. But I don't think I'll be likely to hurl my lunch, if that's what you're worried about."

"Good." With a grinding of gears, suddenly she found herself faced with an enormous palm outstretched in front of her. "Step on."

Warily, she swallowed tightly and carefully stepped onto the uneven metal surface, her heels not the best walking device, and she quickly pulled them off and stuffed them in her purse as she knelt down, gasping as he abruptly moved, causing her to try and balance on a rapidly rising surface. Though he moved slowly, it still didn't help ease her nerves as his large body loomed above her while he stood upright. Directly in front of her, a glass canopy loomed, and within she could see instruments and what appeared to be a seat squashed flat against his chest. As she watched, the items re-arranged themselves into a normal seating arrangement for a jet, as the canopy slid backwards, and he held her close enough so she could climb in. Awkwardly, she did just that, sliding into the seat less than gracefully considering it was pointed at the floor. But she managed to brace her feet against the undercarriage of the instrument panel and buckle herself in securely. But if it was disconcerting hanging suspended in mid-air in the chest of a giant alien, that was nothing when the canopy slid closed over her, and he stood up. She grabbed onto the restraints tightly, forcing her breath to remain calm as he turned, pushed a large button on the side of the wall, and the ceiling began to retract above them. "I suggest you brace yourself. This may be rather uncomfortable." Was the sudden loud warning from all around her as Thundercracker's deep voice shook the cockpit, vibrating through the seat she sat in. And without another warning, a deep jarring vibration exploded through the whole cockpit as she heard a low whine of engines powering up. Curiosity driving her, she peered downwards and saw bright blue light spilling out from the large robot's heels, painting the floor with liquid fire. Then, with a clench of her gut, she felt them leave the ground. It was slow at first, but the moment she saw the ceiling of the hangar slide out of her view to reveal a wide expanse of buildings spreading out all around them.

A thought occurred to her. "Um… hate to break your bubble here!" She yelled over the roar of the engines. "But it's DAYTIME!"

A low chuckle echoed through the cockpit. "Don't worry. No one will see us… Hold on." And with a sudden digital sound, she watched in fascination as parts began to move all around her, shifting around her without invading the cockpit space, as he folded swiftly back into his F-22 form, and with a bone-shuddering jarring g-force off the charts, she was pushed back into her seat as the world streaked wildly around her, explosive roars echoing in her ears as the jet abruptly took off with rapid speed, streaking up into the low thin cloud deck and soaring into open blue sky. Gritting her teeth tightly, she forced herself to breathe, her fingernails digging into the straps tightly for support as she watched the ground fall away from them.

After a few minutes, the roar of the engines seemed to fade a little as they kicked into cruise mode. "Are you all right?" Came a worried voice from within, making her jump a little. "You seem unnaturally tense."

"Just fine." She managed, her voice sounding slightly higher than it should, but at least not shaking. "Just… getting used to this. I'm very glad that I don't have to steer."

Thundercracker laughed again, sounding amused. "So am I. I've actually never transported a human inside me before. I just want to make sure you're comfortable and can breathe fine. I think there's' a helmet and mask somewhere around there."

"I'm sure I'll be fine. As long as you don't cruise too high."

"Very well." They fell into silence for some time, during which she couldn't help but study the instruments in front of her. They looked normal for any military jet, nothing out of the ordinary at all. If it weren't' for the fact that the controls were maneuvering on their own, she never would have known better. In fact, after a while, she began to relax and enjoy the ride, feeling the lightweight sense of freedom that came from flying. It was amazing, now that she considered it, being inside a sentient jet was a whole new experience. She didn't have to worry about mechanical failures or maneuvering to keep herself alive, knowing that he was just as interested in survival as she, and would be able to handle it far better than any simple human piloting a craft. Now that she could relax, she noticed how smooth the flight was, how effortless they seemed to cruise without hitting turbulence, or if they did, he adjusted minutely so it was just a gentle swell rather than a bump. The idea fascinated her, and she wondered if such things jarred him as badly as it did passengers.

"So, where exactly are we going?" She finally ventured once they had reached a high cruising altitude, and she was watching the land spin away behind them with wisps of clouds sliding by between them and the earth.

"A remote mountainous region in the Nevada desert."

Celine blinked. "You're joking, right? That's on the other side of the country."

"It won't take us more than two hours, if the winds stay calm up here."

She just gawked at the console. "Just how fast are we going…?"

"Mach 2."

"Jesus." She whispered softly. "I don't feel G-forces at all."

"You forget, I am no normal jet."

"Right, sorry." She smiled gently. "So, the F-22 is designed to go at least 1,600 miles per hour, so the military says in their civilian briefs though I'm sure the true top speed is higher. Does that mean you can go faster?"

"I can, though it's not comfortable for me to cruise much faster for long distances. My wing commander, Starscream, he could go much faster for longer periods of times. He was always the fastest jet out there, he could leave us in his vapor trails at any time he chose to. Skywarp, well let's just say he has his own way of catching up when he needs to. I was always the slow and steady one they had to keep pace with."

"That fits you." Celine mused. "You seem to be the more patient type to me. Like the middle brother stuck between two siblings. Was that much how it was?"

He laughed softly, their trajectory wobbling slightly at the movement. "Yes, actually that is quite accurate. Starscream may have been the youngest of our trine, but he was always the leader, the one directing us. And Skywarp is as childish as they come. They often drove me to want to bash my head into the nearest wall at times."

"Sounds like brothers to me." She smiled. It was strange. When she had first met 'Trey', she had thought he was a stiff cold prick with no life. But now that she was 'in' on the secrets he harbored, he seemed to open up to her, letting her into his life as easily as if they had known each other for years. But then, she supposed he didn't often confide in people. Imagine their reaction if he told them his best buddies were two thirty foot tall robotic fighter jets with sibling rivalry issues.