Author's Note: This is a companion fic for chapter 16 of Introductions: Annabelle Lennox, but it can be read anytime. Hope you enjoy! :)
I sighed wearily at the sight of the young politician standing just inside the entrance to the Senate's parking garage. He'd been hounding me for days – or rather, his executive secretary had been pestering mine – until I finally gave my consent for him to take me to lunch. If I was going to have to endure an hour with the self-proclaimed nutjob of an ambassador for the killer alien robots, I could at least break his budget by getting a meal at one of the priciest places in DC. I even insisted on Chartres House, just to see if he could scramble to get reservations for the upscale French restaurant on less than two weeks' notice. He pulled it off, the punk.
I fell in step with Samuel Witwicky as we headed for his car. "So how's your kid?" My secretary had helpfully provided Witwicky's bio this morning so I could keep him talking about something – anything – other than the robots for as long as possible.
"Daemon? He's doing well, and so is my wife Mikaela. Yours?"
"Rowena's doing great. Her cookie recipe was selected as Best of the Senate last week for some magazine or another."
He nodded like he was only half-listening as he reached for the door of his obnoxiously yellow car. What kind of self-respecting politician drove something that gaudy with racing stripes? Clearly, Witwicky needed a healthy dose of sanity.
I climbed into the passenger seat and settled in as the 'ambassador' drove us toward the garage exit. "This Tuesday my mother will be dedicating the library we funded. Couldn't be there myself, but I wish I could. It'll have one of the best children's libraries in the nation, with a whole section devoted to comics and graphic novels. It really puts our name on the map when it comes to kids and education."
"I'm sure that will be appreciated," Witwicky unimaginatively answered. He'd only been a Washington regular for a couple of years now, and his lack of experience showed.
"I've received letters from school kids in my home district, so it already is. And then my dad…" I rambled on, giving him a run-down on the activities of my father, brother, and two of my sisters before he got up the gumption to interrupt.
I glanced over and Witwicky was giving the dashboard a confused look. "What?" I demanded.
"GPS is broken," he mumbled, tapping the monitor on the dash. "Come on," he said to himself, "this isn't the way, and we're on a schedule here."
The car swerved, inspiring several horn-honks and rude gestures. "Eyes on the road," I barked.
"Bee!" Witwicky complained, standing on the brake as the car suddenly raced forward.
The radio blared to life as we careened around a corner. "Incoming!"
Alarmed, Witwicky glanced back over his shoulder, and I followed suit. A dark gray Jimmy was hot on our tail, belching smoke out of the tailpipe.
There was no one behind the wheel!
An icy prickle of terror made my hair stand on end. I'd read about the two alien factions, how they tore apart structures and left piles of bodies in their wake whenever they fought. In a detached kind of way, I realized that Witwicky no longer had his hands on the wheel, which was now moving on its own, and that we were speeding through the narrow streets of Washington, D.C. in a high-speed alien robot race to the death.
"Go! Go! Go!" Witwicky yelled encouragement to the alien I was sitting in side of.
"Let me out!" I shouted. "I'm not part of this! I don't want to be part of this!"
"Preaching to the choir," Witwicky grumbled. Louder, he said, "Everybody's part of this. Now hang on and shut up!"
Clinging to the panic handle on the ceiling, I jumped when a siren sounded right above us and yellow emergency-vehicle lights reflected off the concrete walls as we careened past. Cars ahead of us moved to the side, letting us pass.
"Is this some kind of initiation rite?" I demanded. "Because I'm not impressed!"
"Listen to me," Witwicky sharply ordered, "that back there is a Decepticon. It's after me and if we stop now it'll kill you and anybody else in the way. 'Bee is a kick-ass driver. I trust him and if you'll just shut up and let him protect you, you'll see why."
"Aw shucks," some dude on the radio drawled. Then the speakers declared, "We need more reinforcements." I recognized it as a sound clip from Return of the Jedi.
"RaFly's with Mikaela," Witwitcky said to the GPS.
"Here comes the cavalry," the speakers answered. Then the seat-belt light on the dashboard lit up.
Witwicky braced himself in his seat, and I reflexively hung on for dear life, too. Behind us, tires screamed, and I glanced into the side-mirror to see a white station wagon plough right into the front driver's side panel of the Jimmy. The bigger vehicle flipped, shifting into some kind of mechanical being as it went, and landed on all fours like a predator. Then it leaped over the hood of the station wagon, dropping back down into its car shape.
"Nice hit!" Witwicky muttered appreciatively, also looking in the mirror. Then his glance darted to the neighboring streets and he seemed to recognize where we were. "Good idea, 'Bee. Can RaFly still move?"
To the children's tune, the radio spliced, "She'll be coming…when she comes."
"Okay. Ellis and I will get into the elevator as soon as the 'con is in the base. But I'm not leaving. If worse comes to worst, I'll use the turrets Wheeljack installed."
"But Mom," the radio whined.
"No, slag it! You said it yourself – I'm safe with you. So I'm staying to make sure RaFly arrives as back-up in time. That thing isn't as big as some, but…"
"Kill him, 'Bee! Kill him!" Witwicky's own words came through the radio speakers.
"Okay, ok-ay," Witwicky said, his voice flipping as we caught air on the entry ramp into a warehouse. "I'll stick around to watch you win."
"You've got me between a rock and a hard place," the alien quoted.
"Damn straight I do," Witwicky shot back. "I'm staying. Deal with it."
The seat-belt light on the dash flashed a couple of times and then turned off.
"Jump out!" Witwicky ordered, and my seat-belt released on its own as my door flew open. I half-fell out of the car as it began shifting into one of the alien robots. My fellow human dragged me to my feet and we raced toward a glass elevator. It opened immediately, and we dashed in, Witwicky frantically punching the "Close Door" button like they do in the movies. As the glass doors began to move, I saw the Jimmy roar into the warehouse, pouncing out of its car mode to tackle the yellow alien, but his roar and the crashing din of their impact was cut off as soon as the doors sealed shut. The two steel titans were on the ground now, the yellow one scrambling to stand on top of the other. It raised its foot to stomp on the gray one's head, but the Jimmy rolled, throwing Yellow to the concrete. They both leaped to their feet again, but I could see that Gray's arm wasn't hanging right. Red lights that looked like eyes seemed locked on Yellow as Gray fiddled with the appendage, apparently trying to fix it. Slowly, they began circling each other.
In a whisper, I asked, "What happens if the gray one wins?"
"Then Bumblebee dies, and we find out if this elevator is reinforced enough. The Autobots' most brilliant inventor created it."
"And if the yellow one wins?"
"The Decepticon dies," he said, his eyes hard as he stared at the Jimmy-turned-monster. "And we live for a little bit longer."
Gray turned his red light-eyes on us, and something close to a smirk crossed his alien features. A choking black smoke poured out of the tailpipes on his shoulders again, beginning to fill the warehouse.
"Damn," Witwicky grumbled.
"I have to leave the elevator to reach the turrets. We wanted them to be manual so that they couldn't be hacked and used by 'cons. But I'm guessing it would be a bad idea to breathe whatever that 'con is putting out, so we're stuck here."
That finally tore my attention away from the battling robots. "What about the air in here? Did the alien inventor think about that?"
"Of course he did. Wheeljack created it, but Ratchet and Bumblebee had to approve it. We'd be fine in here for days, but like I said, we're stuck."
Yellow – was he the one Witwicky called Bumblebee? The obnoxious yellow color with black racing stripes made a little more sense now. Looking back at the fight, I saw Bumblebee's wing-looking things sweep back and up in what appeared to be alarm and he launched himself forward, tackling the Jimmy head-on.
"No." Witwicky frowned. "'Bee what are you doing? No!"
Wincing as Gray landed a hard hit on Bumblebee that sent him flying, he said, "I've seen him fight a half-dozen times, and he's doing it different. All wrong. He's good at taking on Decepticons that are bigger than him, but even I know you don't try to tackle a guy who outweighs you."
I turned back to the fight, my eyes glued on the yellow alien again as he struggled to get back up from the previous blow. He seemed to cough on the thick black fumes that were now hovering at least two feet deep on the floor of the warehouse. Gray pulled out a weapon of some kind but then he hid it again, reaching in for the kill with a clawed hand. Bumblebee flipped up to kick Gray in the face, rocking his head back and denting it. Gray staggered back, releasing Bumblebee, as a trail of something red and molten dribbled out of his mouth. The yellow alien straightened despite his coughing. His hands disappeared, being replaced by cannons that glowed weak and sickly in the black smoke, and what looked like a missile-launcher popped up on his shoulder.
"Come on, 'Bee," Witwicky encouraged. "You can take him!"
Bumblebee fired all three weapons – the cannons didn't seem to do much damage, but the missile landed squarely in Gray's face. He dropped but was still moving. Bumblebee surprised me by not finishing his opponent. Instead, his wing things drooped again and he started staggering for the warehouse entrance which had closed at some point. Were the fumes affecting him? Alien robots didn't need to breathe, did they?
Witwicky punched the glass of the elevator with the flat of his fist. "No! Don't turn your back…"
A flash of red weapons fire struck Bumblebee between the doorwings and he fell forward onto his face. Motionless.
The warehouse garage door began lifting, and the white station wagon from earlier sped through the half-open door. I couldn't see much of what it did next – the fumes were higher than the roof of his car – but something blue flashed in the thick smoke and then a small white alien hurried back to Bumblebee. He helped the crawling yellow alien to the warehouse entrance where they both collapsed into car shapes and drove out. The garage door closed behind them.
Witwicky's phone vibrated in his pocket, and he eagerly answered it. "RaFly?" Then, "Okay, we'll meet you up there. And thanks." He grinned once before cutting the connection and reaching over to push the 3rd Floor button on the elevator control panel.
"What the hell just happened?" I demanded.
"Bumblebee took out the Decepticon who was trying to kill us, with some help from the fembot Radio Flyer. 'Thank you' would an appropriate thing to say when you see them next."
I numbly looked at the seam in the elevator doors, trying to process it all. Witwicky's car was an alien robot warrior, their enemy had tried to kill me, and the white one…was a girl? "Fembot?"
"Yeah," Witwicky explained, rolling his eyes ever so slightly. "They have genders not sexes and RaFly – that's Radio Flyer's nickname – is a femme. Don't think about it too hard or your brain's liable to explode. Oh, and Bumblebee lost his voice in battle, so he talks through song-clips and stuff, but RaFly will answer you just like a human would. Except she'll do it through the speakers, of course, and just FYI, she's kind of shy."
The glass doors slid open, and Witwicky gestured that I should exit the elevator in front of him. "Shall we?"
Still a little numb from shock, I stepped out into a nondescript business lobby that opened out onto the street. On the curb were parked the yellow sports car and the white station wagon. Witwicky pushed the glass doors open and hurried across the sidewalk to poke his head through the station wagon's open passenger-side window. Both that car and the yellow one had their engines turned on and they were idling hard - coughing and shuddering like the motors were about to die - and the yellow one was all banged up. I followed more slowly.
"Who was that?"
"His name was Smog, Samuel," RaFly answered. "He produces a cloud of fumes that's deadly to 'bots if they're exposed to it long enough. Did you breathe any of it? Ratchet wants to know - he's having fits."
Samuel snorted. "I bet he is. Tell him that I'm fine. We didn't end up breathing any of it. But how does it hurt a 'bot?"
"It interferes with the filtration aspects of our internal cooling systems. We overheat and die if we can't use our cooling fans and that thick smoke clogs up the entire system. But he's dead now and so the smoke will eventually settle. Wheeljack says we'll want his help cleaning up the ash that's left behind. It'll be a dust that will do nasty things to a human body."
"Got it. And thanks, RaFly. I owe you." He patted the window sill almost affectionately and asked, "Did you sustain any damage?"
"Nothing that won't heal in a couple of days. Might want to call Ratchet about Bumblebee, though."
"Traitor!" blared out from the yellow car's speakers, and Mr. Witwicky hurried over to the other alien's open window.
"You okay, 'Bee?"
"RaFly thinks you might need some TLC."
In a different voice – quoting a different movie? – he said, "Uh-uh. Not him. Anybody but him!"
Something that sounded suspiciously like a repressed giggle came from the white alien's window.
In answer, Bumblebee quoted, "Stuck alongside the road? Call Jim's Towing at 555-TOWU!"
Mr. Witwicky chuckled. "You got it." Then he turned to look at me expectantly. "Anything you care to say, Mr. Ellis?"
I looked from him to Bumblebee to RaFly and back, suddenly understanding what was really happening here. "This was a set-up!"
He snorted. "You're an important man, Mr. Ellis, but winning you over isn't worth an Autobot's life."
"All we have is her say-so that the gray one is dead," I ranted back. "And we couldn't actually see anything in that smog."
"Why don't we step back inside for a minute," Witwicky said, a determined glint to his eyes. "We can take a ride downstairs and wait for the dust to settle until you're satisfied."
I followed him with narrowed eyes and joined him on the elevator. When we reached the level of the warehouse, I could see that the smoke was already starting to thin, the ash settling as a fine layer over everything. The movement of the elevator sent swirls of dust dancing away from us. A crumpled metallic form lay sprawled on the concrete floor, and the red glow of whatever that molten stuff was had faded to a sullen ember.
"When they're alive, they have a light in their eyes," Witwicky said almost casually. "Usually the Autobots have blue optics and the optics of the Decepticons are red, though that isn't always the case. They also have a spark in their chest. It's a physical ball of light, and when it is extinguished, they die."
"So that blue flash of light there at the end?"
"...was RaFly extinguishing his spark, yes."
"So it was real," I murmured, reluctant to believe it.
"Yes. It was real and is real. The threat is real, and so is the help the Autobots offer."
"It was a miracle no one was killed."
"No, it was great planning and execution," Mr. Witwicky indignantly retorted. "Do you think it was just coincidence that we had a panic room to retreat to? Didn't you wonder why Bumblebee kept going instead of stopping to fight when RaFly was actually there to help?"
I blinked several times, again trying to absorb what he was telling me, and I suddenly remembered the sirens and yellow emergency-vehicle lights. Bumblebee had done his very best to keep us humans out of harm's way.
With the exception of a couple of people from the Pentagon, no one I knew approved of having the Autobots here. Some were tolerant of the idea that they were useful weapons against the other aliens, but it never extended beyond their tactical applications – their use as tools. Many wished that both factions would just leave. Despite our expectations of eventually wearing them down to the point where they would share their technology, they were as adamantly racist as before – distrusting the entire 6 billion members of the human race.
Sam was an exception – the only exception I knew, and maybe I needed to start paying more attention to the exception than the rule. They trusted him to be their ambassador, and he trusted them with his life. If I understood it correctly, they considered him one of their own people. With sudden clarity, I saw why his secretary had pestered me so persistently – he wanted a chance for me to see exactly this: the Autobots were people, not tools. And it was important for me in particular to understand this because, as Head of the Defense Appropriations Committee, I was the one who held the purse-strings. We'd been talking about cutting their funding in an attempt to give them less incentive to stay. I shuddered to think what would have happened today if Bumblebee hadn't been around.
Looking up into Samuel Witwicky's eyes, I said, "What can I do to help?"