1"Love Bytes"

What possessed me to think I could get this essay finished here? Carly thought distractedly, watching various Autobots walk by her.

She was seated at an ad hoc workbench Wheeljack had put in the main room of Autobot Headquarters for the humans that visited so frequently. Every time an Autobot strolled past, she looked up to see who it was. Never mind that she had been an almost permanent feature in the base for the past year since she had first met Bumblebee and Spike. She still found herself in awe that she was actually among an alien race.

As various Autobots walked by, some acknowledged her with hello or a brief nod. Some were too busy in their conversations or distracted by some project to notice her. Gears seemed to make a point of giving her a wide berth for some reason, grumbling something inaudible under his breath. Carly gripped her pen tightly and stared down at her notebook, trying to will herself to get the essay finished.

"Started" perhaps is a better word, she thought with a sigh. Her brown eyes flitted across the numerous scribbles on the page where she should have her finished essay. Instead, there were three Autobot symbols, numerous mathematical equations she was dying to show Wheeljack, and the phrase "Decepticons Suck!" written in Spike's chicken-scratch handwriting.

Carly looked up at the high ceiling above her, stretching her neck in a vain attempt to rejuvenate her nonexistent concentration. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Wheeljack and rose halfway from her seat, ready to rattle on about the equations she had jotted down. With a sigh, she sat back down and stared down at her notebook again. Yep, she thought, this is going well.

After psyching herself up to at least start the essay before giving in the distractions of the base, Carly looked up and blinked in surprise at Blaster sitting across from her. She flashed a smile at him and turned her attention back to her notebook. With a brisk nod, she started writing, intent on producing A+ material but knowing it was hovering in the C- range. She reasoned she would edit it later. At home. In a room that faced away from Cascades and the Autobot base. Maybe with explosives attached to her keychain to keep her from running up to the volcano for just a minute.

After several sentences, her writing slowed down. With her pen still resting on her paper, Carly glanced up at Blaster still sitting across from her, watching her work. They remained that way, looking at each other, for about a minute before Blaster finally spoke.

"Nice day today, eh kid?"

Carly turned her head toward Teletraan I, specifically the screen that displayed the weather conditions outside the base. Rain continued to fall outside. Lightning flashed briefly across the sky. She looked back at Blaster.

"I've seen better," she replied lightly, thinking he was trying to be cute.

"It's funny," Blaster continued thoughtfully, oblivious of Carly saying anything. "Autobots, humans. . . We are so alike and yet so very different."

Carly cocked an eyebrow toward the Autobot communicator, wondering if the statement was apropos of something or if it really was as random as it seemed.

"Uh-huh," Carly said slowly.

Blaster nodded as if she had just said something profound. "Autobots can certainly be spontaneous or have some irrational reactions to things. Jazz digs your music. Ironhide would rather have his system flushed with acid than listen to it. Our minds write these weird programs outta nowhere that ride along with our standard programming, making us different from each other. But that standard programming, man, that's as eternal as rock 'n' roll."

Carly nodded slowly in time with Blaster's own head bob. After a couple of seconds, her eyes returned to her notebook and fell upon "Decepticons Suck!" Then to the Autobot symbol with a tongue sticking out at her. She glanced at the last sentence she had written for her essay. She had spelled "caricature" wrong.

"There's always exceptions," Blaster said.

Carly looked up at the Autobot again. She felt like she was in some strange episode of The Twilight Zone. From what she had heard so far, it seemed like Blaster was basically speaking a long series of unrelated sentences as if they made perfect sense. A thought came to her that she should maybe ask what this was about, but it was like she was mesmerized by the unending string of non sequiturs.

"Powerglide, for instance," Blaster continued. "Seaspray too, I guess, but that was sort of a special case. The thing is it's just not something I'm capable of." Blaster studied her for a moment. "I can tell that you're confused."

"Well, yeah," Carly said. A giggle at the absurdity of the conversation stifled at the back of her throat.

Blaster motioned behind him toward the exit of the base. "There's a war goin' on out there. It's dangerous and scary as hell. I never know if that laser blast headed towards me will be the one that kills me. I just couldn't do that to you. To anyone," he added quickly.

Carly stared up at Blaster, her elbow propped on the table in front of her, her head rested on her open hand. She blinked. She blinked again. She looked at her notebook. The sigil was still making faces at her.

Suddenly, her head dropped to the table and she started laughing. Carly heard Blaster lean forward, probably concerned with her reaction. It only made her laugh more.

"Okay, listen," Blaster said finally. "I'll take you to prom."

With that, Carly was practically sobbing she was laughing so hard. She could feel the streams of tears running down her face onto her notebook. She lifted her head and giggled again at the look of confusion on Blaster's face. It was easily the most absurd conversation she had had yet with an Autobot.

As she wiped away the tears, she asked, "What are you talking about?"

Blaster's brow knitted together further in confusion before he nodded in understanding. "I, uh. . . I found your journal."

Carly sat upright so quickly that Blaster actually drew back away from her. She was no longer laughing. Now she was stone sober.

"My journal?" she replied weakly. The journal, an old data log that Wheeljack gave to her several months ago, was loaded with things that she did not want anybody to see. Not even Spike. No, she amended, especially Spike.

"Yeah," Blaster said, "the one that 'Jack made for you. It was in the lab."

"Blaster," Carly said in a whisper, leaning forward so no one would hear her. "You can't just read a girl's journal like that. It's private. There are things in there that I don't want anybody to know about. Things that. . ."

She trailed off, thinking back to earlier in the morning.

"Wait a minute," she said. "Blaster, my journal is at home."

Blaster placed a black data log on the table and slid it across to her. Carly picked it up and looked at it. It looked like hers, certainly, but there was simply no way that this was it. She had just looked at her journal before going to school that morning. She had not brought it with her to school and she hadn't returned home before coming to visit the Autobots. There was simply no way her journal could have turned up in Wheeljack's lab.

Carly dragged her fingers across her name on the journal, written in a silvery permanent ink. It did look a lot like hers though. Finally, she activated it. She frowned as she looked through some of the entries.

"Walked by Blaster's quarters today," one read. "I just love it when he plays the Ramones. He's just so cool."

"Today was the Springsteen concert in Seattle," another began. "Spike bought the tickets so I had to go with him. At least Blaster came too. He's so smart and always knows just what to say." She read through several other gushing statements about how big and strong Blaster was. She felt a surge of laughter coming back. The Springsteen section ended with the sentence "I think I have a crush on him."

Carly giggled. "Blaster, I don't think this is mine."

"What?" he responded, leaning over the log, watching entry after entry extol the Blaster's virtues.

"Well, first of all," she said, "I'm dating Spike."

"Well, yeah," Blaster started.

"Second, I didn't write these things. I think I'd remember if I did."

Blaster looked at her doubtfully, as if he thought she was just being bashful about getting caught with a crush on an Autobot. Carly turned her attention to the journal again, looking through some of the earlier Blaster-related entries. She stopped at one dated April 1st and slid it back across the table to Blaster.

Blaster leaned in to read it. Carly watched his optics narrow as he read:

"Dear Blaster, Gotcha. Hugs 'n' Kisses, Jazz."

Blaster snatched the data log off the table and rose to his feet. Carly heard a growl deep in his throat and a mumble about how he was going to get back at the other Autobot. She watched him stalk away.

After Blaster rounded the corner toward the interior of the base, Carly looked down again at her notebook. After a moment, she gently closed it and leaned back in her chair. She knew that she wouldn't be finishing the essay here. She would just have to work on it at home. Instead, she placed the notebook in her knapsack and threw it over one shoulder.

So we're into practical jokes, are we? Carly thought as she walked slowly toward Wheeljack's lab. Well, three can play at that game.

To be continued...