A/N: This was written for a prompt on tf_rare_pairing on livejournal: "Barricade/Blackout/Bonecrusher - voice kinks", but Maggie and Glen invited themselves. Rated for Maggie's potty mouth, and some robot plug 'n play.
The sky opened up above their heads, thousands of glittering stars winking down at them. A perfect, clear night to listen for alien signals bouncing across the stars – or the Earth. Oh please, Maggie thought, let them be on Earth.
"Maggie," said Glen, Cheetos bag rustling as he grabbed for a handful. "I don't think this is such a good idea."
"Oh, come on," Maggie rolled her eyes, one hand adjusting the headphone covering her left ear. "You didn't say 'no' when I brought this up two days ago."
"But, two days ago you didn't say anything about stealing equipment," Glen said. Thankfully, a mouthful of Cheetos prevented him from whipping out the 'criminal' line again.
"We didn't steal anything," said Maggie. She twisted around, looking back into the cab of the pickup truck, where the headphones were attached to a recording device that cost more than her college tuition. "We're just borrowing it. Besides, everyone's so busy listening for other Autobots, I think they're forgetting several Decepticons went missing after Mission City."
Glen swallowed. "You think they're still here?"
"Yes," said Maggie, a wild look in her eyes. "In fact, I think they all got away. Or were let go."
Glen's eyes were as wide as the moon. Hm, maybe she should rein in the conspiracy theories. The ones that would probably get her fired from her new job in the United States Government and blow her chances at that position with RAND.
"Anyways," she said. "I've used the hack signal that came from Qatar as a source. The Autobots communicate almost just like the Decepticons, but the differences are astounding. Like their language has split off and evolved in two completely different ways."
"What, like, German and French?" Glen relaxed a bit, but didn't go for the fake-cheese snacks again.
"Something like that," Maggie said. "Only more complex, more -"
Her tongue stuck to the top of her mouth when a low, grinding pulse hissed out of her headphone. Maggie scrambled for the laptop, sending the bag of Cheetos flying off the hood of the truck.
"Oh my God," Maggie breathed, watching the program flare up in response to what it was receiving. "Glen, it's – this is the signal source! Not just the hacking frequency, but this is the one from Qatar! The -"
"Uhh, Maggie?" Glen interrupted her, tugging on her jean jacket sleeve. She gave him an irritated look, but froze when he took his headphones off, pointing up.
Maggie didn't give up her own earpiece, but tried to tear herself away from the 'con signal. There was a rhythmic thumping, one she'd heard countless time since arriving on Hoover Dam in the middle of an alien blood feud. It was the sound of a chopper, either flying nearby or headed their way.
"Oh," said Maggie. "Shit."
"What!" Glen squeaked. "You wanted to come out here and find them! Didn't you figure out what you'd do if you did!"
"Honestly?" Maggie gave him a wavering grin. If these robots knew they were listening, they were dead meat out here. If she called for help, then she'd have to explain what they were doing, and why they had top secret, super-expensive equipment. There had to be a middle ground.
Having kept her headphone on, Maggie heard the second signal, and watched the diagnostic on her screen light up again. There was another one. They were communicating and – well, this was something she hadn't seen before. Autobots had conversations like most humans: one spoke, then the other spoke, taking turns. Right now, it looked like the two Decepticons were talking over one another. But were they really?
"Look!" Glen grabbed her arm again, pointing across the vast space of the Nevada desert. Blue and red lights danced in the dark, and the sound of a police klaxon echoed over the rocks, dulled by distance. The roar of the helicopter came from their left, and it passed by them some ways off, heading for the lights. Were they sending each other coordinates? No, no they were too close for that.
They watched the chopper circle a few times, floodlights a tight beam aimed towards one spot on the ground. Not until it landed did Maggie let out the breath she'd been holding. There was no sound, but the diagnostic feed on the laptop screen continued to pick up signals.
"We should g-" Glen started, but Maggie had already shut her laptop, sliding off the hood of the truck. Glen looked relieved.
"We're going out there," Maggie said, and the relief leeched from Glen's face. It was replaced with a sort of horror, and an understanding that nothing was going to change her mind. "I can get a better recording, and get some visual of what they're doing while they're speaking."
The Autobots were either too careful to slip up around them, or they were as human as they acted. The Decepticons? Oh, this was the chance of a lifetime to see these aliens communicating like they were supposed to!
The only problem with the entire situation was that her voice of reason, Glen, was too terrified to speak.
"This way!" Maggie hissed, Glen stumbling in the dark behind her. Why was it that she could walk through the desert in high heels, and Glen could barely manage in his sneakers? Honestly.
"I really," Glen paused, sucking in a deep breath. "Don't think... this is a good idea!"
"Quiet!" Maggie snapped. They were getting close, that much she knew. Driving the truck without headlights had been dangerous, but it had saved them a lot of time. She'd left the equipment back in the truck, as well as their cell phones and anything remotely technological. Which probably reduced their chances of getting caught by 1%. For all she knew, the Decepticons could smell them coming.
Finally Glen was silent, except for the scrabbling across the rocks and his heavy breathing. She fancied she could hear an engine purring now, probably the police cruiser, as the chopper had landed long before they'd even parked the truck. Her heartbeat jumped when the engine growled again, but it sounded closer, deeper, almost like -
"Glen!" Maggie barely had time to grab her friend and throw them to the ground before another vehicle came roaring at them, headlights blinding even the moon. The thing was massive, and it bounced across the uneven terrain, engine sounding furious at the effort. Dirt and dusty foliage were tossed up over them, and then the vehicle was gone.
A third one! It had to be! She thought desperately back to her laptop, hoping it was recording everything. If this one had hopped on the frequency, she could only imagine what it looked like now. Were they all talking over one another, or did a third voice change the dynamic? Her head was spinning with ideas, and she barely noticed Glen pulling on her jacket again.
Brushing themselves off, they continued on, now tentatively following the tire tracks as best they could. Maggie was actually more than a little rattled now. That had been a close call – had it seen them? Would it tell the others? The smart thing to do was high tail it back to the truck (a quick look behind them was met with empty sky, so it hadn't been exploded lately), and report to the right people. Hell, at the very least she should send Glen back. He didn't deserve to become human paste because Maggie had a wild streak a mile wide.
They stopped dead when something made their hair stand on end. It took her a minute to pick out the low pitched sound, but it ended almost as soon as it started. Wow, what had that been? Blood pounding in her ears, Maggie picked up the pace, desperate to see this conversation before the opportunity flew away. Or ran them over.
Maggie and Glen didn't realize how close they were until floodlights flashed over them, and they both ducked immediately. Nothing came at them, but they could both hear metal scraping on rock, and Maggie finally dared to poke her head back up. All of the lights focused inwards now, the three Decepticons standing in a tight circle. Dead silence seemed to be the topic tonight, and even Glen was curious enough to take another look. Finally, the tallest one – the helicopter – spoke, and Maggie's fingers curled into the dirt.
It was, Maggie thought, the most amazing sound she'd ever heard in her life, and would likely ever hear again. Something not of this earth, so complex and dense it would be years before they had a clear understanding of the language. And if even their language was beyond their grasp...
The three robots started talking over one another again, and she ached to dissect those signals. They didn't seem to be angry at each other, but then again, she had no idea if their body language was anything like theirs. The Autobots mimicked human behavior to fit in and make their allies comfortable. Decepticons didn't have to waste any time with that nonsense.
What they were listening to was pure, unadulterated Cybertronian. The thought that this was being recorded sent thrills all the way down to her toes. It was a three way tie between whose voice went the deepest, but with careful listening, Maggie could pick them out. The police car was sharp, staccato, to the point. There was no fanfare, just plain simple fact in the way he spoke. The one that had nearly ran them over, some sort of military vehicle, reminded her of a bulldog. The syllables pulled together with a bizarre reverberation, like he was pulling air in and out through his words.
It was the chopper, though, that held her attention. The trills and echoes at the end of each sentence (word, paragraph, emotion?) that slipped into the next slew of sounds spun into an absolute symphony. The conversation, or whatever it was, rose and fell according to his will. Every time his pitch changed, even just a bit, the other two instantly followed in kind. Was he changing the subject? Hell, she didn't even know if it was an actual conversation!
The military vehicle suddenly stopped with a rattling, echoing hack, and the harmonics were shattered. The chopper reached for its neck, but the cougher stumbled back. Not fast enough, though, and Glen tensed next to her as the chopper hauled the other one back by the neck. The police cruiser snapped something deep and sharp, and the chopper responded with a hum that went on like someone laughing for longer than was appropriate. Maggie didn't know if it was the sound of her nightmares or her dreams.
The cougher struggled for a moment, then gave up with a bark of feedback. The chopper dropped its hand, but in the flash of light between their frames, Maggie could see cables snaking out from its wrist. What did that mean? Part of her dreaded that it was some sort of hardwired communications systems, and she wouldn't be able to hear anymore.
Light danced between them again as the smallest one moved in, and the cougher barked again, but didn't move away. She had never seen the Autobots do anything like this before – there were cables strung between them from their wrists, plugged into chest compartments, woven together like some otherworldly spider web. Maggie's heart leapt into her throat when the chopper spoke - well, it did something with its vocal chords, which set off the other two.
Maggie didn't think they were talking over each other anymore. This was a conversation that no human was ever going to comprehend, and probably blew the eroticism of phone sex out of the water. It made the hairs on her arms stand on end, and she had to bite her lip as her jeans chafed the sliding of her thighs.
"What are they...?" Glen couldn't finish the question, practically shoving his fist into his mouth when the chopper grabbed the police cruiser, who in turn sank its claws into the tan vehicle. The pitch of their vocalizations changed completely, and it sounded like a complete mess of signals interfering with one another. There was, Maggie could hear, a strange synchronization to it.
"Oh my God," Maggie breathed. If only she could have brought a video camera! The way they were moving, the way they touched one another – it was almost human. Almost. The dance of the lights and the song of their vocals was like nothing on Earth, nothing she could catalog or parse or dissect. It was beyond her, beyond Glen, and, she suspected, beyond even the Autobots.
Above all else, though, she knew it was the most beautiful sound in the universe.
"I need a shower," Maggie said, easing the truck back onto the road. The crazy robot orgy had ended with some kind of robot nap or something, so they'd made a clean getaway. Maggie had nearly cried when she saw the entire exchange had been successfully recorded. The second she got home, she was making a million copies. No way was this one getting away from her.
"Me too," Glen sighed. "Man, it's dusty out there!"
Well, Maggie wasn't concerned about the dirt, but it was probably better that he'd misheard her. He had been quiet the entire trek back. What else were they supposed to talk about? Hey, you see the way that military vehicle shuddered whenever someone's hand went into a wheel well? No, that was awkward. To talk about, anyways. Maggie was starting to drift off into some sort of robot fantasy when a siren sounded behind them, blue and red lights flashing in the mirror.
"Shit!" Maggie hit the steering wheel in frustration. What the hell was a cop doing this far out any – oh. Ohhhhh. "Shit."
"Maggie?" Glen squeaked. "That's not...?"
Whether or not it was an alien was answered when she saw the cop car stand up in the rear view mirror. Ohhh fuck. They were so dead. Glen squeaked again, and Maggie's brain tried telling her hands to shift into drive, and her feet to hit the accelerator. It was no good – she was frozen in terror and awful, morbid curiosity.
The robot sauntered up alongside the truck, all casual and acting like it was a real cop. A human cop. That was like 15 feet tall and looked like it had claws on its face. It stopped by the driver's side door, then bent over, one taloned hand propped up on its hip.
"License and registration, please," it said, and Maggie caught a glimpse of her death in that toothy maw.
"What?" Maggie's voice was so small it was a wonder the Decepticon even heard her.
"License," it repeated slowly, as if speaking to a child. "And registration. Please."
Maggie nodded, and without looking away from the monster, she hit Glen, a primitive signal meaning 'get my purse.' Glen scrambled for the purse, fumbling with it before pushing it into her outstretched hand. After more nervous fumbling, Maggie had her license and registration clutched in one hand. She hesitated a moment, then held them out to the robot, trying to control her shaking.
It snatched the papers up, not even glancing at them as they were shredded with a flick of its claws. Maggie whimpered.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?"
"I was...speeding?" Maggie tried. Oh, just don't let it be because I was spying on you and your friends having kinky robot sex. Or whatever the hell that had been.
"No," the cop car said, sharply. Maggie winced, bracing herself for a painful death. "Your seat belts."
Maggie blinked. Glen stared out the window, slack jawed.
"Your seat belts," the robot snarled, and both of them jumped, scrambling to buckle themselves in. Satisfied, the robot took a step back, giving the truck some space. "Now, I'll let you off with a warning this time. Let me catch you without seat belts again and -"
Whatever followed was not English, and it made Maggie's heart slam up into her throat. What could have been a laugh rattled in its chest, and then the Decepticon folded down to its alt mode. The siren sounded once, and then it tore off, throwing up dirt and dust in its wake.
"Why aren't we dead?" Glen finally asked, having sunk so low in his seat he could hardly see over the dash.
Maggie didn't have an answer. Maybe she didn't want to know.
"Did you get it?"
"Of course I got it. Humans have apparently evolved past their 'fight or flight' instincts, and have settled for 'stare and wait to get stepped on'."
Barricade pulled up alongside Blackout, popping his passenger door open so Frenzy could get out. The drone staggered under the weight of the laptop and the primitive recording device, clutching them to his chest with an unopened bag of Doritos as padding. Stupid humans hadn't even noticed him climbing in and out of the truck with such valuable equipment. Well, valuable for those fleshbags.
"Extract what we need, then destroy it," Blackout said. "This ought to be good."
"Good blackmail, you mean," Barricade snickered. "Bonecrusher's gonna be pissed when we wave that recording in his face."
"He'd be pissed if we didn't," Blackout said.
The bag of Doritos exploded with a POP and Frenzy let out a wild laugh. Barricade's passenger side door flew open, nearly taking Frenzy's head off. "Extract the data so we can get on with this!"
"How much did they get?" Blackout asked, side door rolling open as Scorponok's curiosity got the best of it. The scorpion stared down at Frenzy, watching with interest as the hacker pulled the laptop into about a million tiny pieces.
"Hmm," Barricade waited until Frenzy uploaded the data, then went back to breaking the laptop into even more pieces. Scorponok's tail thumped against Blackout's floor. "Just audio. Primus, do I really sound like that? Maybe I won't use this as blackmail."
"Don't sell yourself short, Barricade," Blackout rumbled, the vibrations hitting Barricade's still-raw energy field just right. It was a little distracting when Frenzy started banging the recording device against a rock, just out of reach of Scorponok's claws. "Unless you're saying you want another go. You know, for demonstration purposes."
Barricade's engine revved before he could stop it, and Frenzy took off, followed immediately by Scorponok. The broken fragments of laptop and recording instruments heard it all again, but this time there was no sharing it, no repeat performances for either human or alien.