Author's Note (Eowyn77): I know I said "The Tie That Binds" would be my first fanfic priority, but this plot bunny bit me hard. This will be a series of one-shots (updated whenever the muse moves me) about Bumblebee and Arcee. IDW's Transformers: Defiance establishes them as friends but (as usual) provides very few of the details. Hopefully this fic will correct that a little bit. :) Since it's a prequel to "Bright Spot," the relationship between Bee and Arcee will be purely friendship, but an increasingly deep one.
Oh, and just to clarify, in my little 'verse, opposite-gendered creators give life to sparklings (with parent/child bonds) and single or same-gendered creators give life to younglings (with sibling bonds). If you'd like a better explanation of all that, please read chapter 9 of TTB. Hope you enjoy!
The yellow 'bot paused in the corridor outside the barracks he shared with a dozen other mechs. Turning to face the speaker, he smiled at the off-white femme who, while close to his mass, was about half his height. "Radio Flyer."
She shook her head at him. "RaFly. And I have a mission for you, if you're up to it."
'Bee's antennas lifted in interest. RaFly was a family friend; his creator Goldbug worked in special ops recognizance. Essentially, 'Bug made a cometary entrance into enemy territory and hunted down the intel the Planetary Defense Forces needed. Three rendezvous points were set up and if he didn't make one of those three, he was assumed to be dead. Frequently, RaFly worked with him in these assignments, sometimes joining him planetside and sometimes heading up the retrieval team.
She also had been one of the workers at the Planetary Defense Forces recruiting rally when he graduated. She had been manning the munitions research booth right next to Prowl's All Spark temple guardians department. They'd talked for a while before he admitted that his intelligence ranking wasn't quite high enough for her department. It was the truth, he was only a few points too low, and she'd been sympathetic. RaFly had tried to cheer him up with stories about mechs and femmes she knew who had started out as grunts in some of the less glorious departments only to win positions of authority through skill and upgrades. It was with her encouragement that he'd approached the unapproachable Prowl and signed on as a temple guardian instead. Bumblebee shared most of the Defense Forces' opinion that the temple guardians tended to be low-end builds but at least it was better than the alternative.
If there was any femme he wanted to impress, it was Radio Flyer.
"Of course I'm up for it! Is it dangerous?" he teasingly added.
"Very," she solemnly answered as she and Bumblebee turned to walk back the way she'd come. "You'll have to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve critical intel. You'll be lucky to get out of there alive."
Something in the growling admiration in her voice triggered a realization. "You're sending me into the Science Division?" he asked, surprised.
"That scare you?" she demanded, this time with a hint of humor in her optics.
"No, but I'd never be able to pass for one of those chipheads. What do scientists do for torture, anyway? Intraspacial physics lectures?"
She gave him a sidelong grin. "No. Intraspacial physics jokes."
Bumblebee groaned in mock-terror and RaFly laughed.
The mission, it turned out, was far more interesting than mere spying and pranks. It was well known that the commerce clans had some artisan upgrades that were practically magic – impenetrable forcefields, invisibility cloaks – but they were far too expensive for other 'bots to even dream of purchasing. Even for the defense forces, the technology was impractically pricey. So RaFly's department had been working on more economical versions of some of the commerce-clan upgrades, and they had one ready to try out.
Bumblebee shifted uncomfortably as RaFly attached the collar to him. The weight of it rested mostly on his shoulders, but four rods extended upward and out, forming the four points of a square above his head. Then she tapped into his energy conduits, rerouting power from his weapons to the experimental device.
A lumbering green mech named Isotope snorted. "You look stupid in that thing."
"You won't look anything in an astrosecond," RaFly reminded 'Bee, cutting him off from tossing back an insult. "Invisibility cloak, remember?"
"I'd feel better if it had some kind of control mechanism."
"There's already enough hardware," she lightly said. "Adding a physical control just makes it that much more complicated. Besides, I've seen your intelligence rating. You can handle the software. Trust me."
"But what if I lose focus?"
"Then you'll have to endure a night at the Science Division comedy club." She let that horrific mental image sink in for an astrosecond, and then stated the obvious for good measure. "If you value your sanity, don't lose your focus."
RaFly patted his shoulder and then returned to her place behind a control panel. "Go ahead, 'Bee. Give it a try."
With a thought, Bumblebee activated the program and energy crackled along the rods to make a cubic outline around him. Then a curtain of power fell, silently encasing him in a transparent shimmer. "Is it working?" he called.
When they didn't answer, he tried a comm. /Is it working?/
/Perfectly/ RaFly answered, glancing down at the console. /It's masking your spark signature and damping sound waves just like it should. Even the comm is pretty weak – I'd say a range no greater than a few strides./
/So if I get caught, I'm on my own./
She rolled her optics. /Stop being such a pessimist. You have your orders – now shoo!/
He moved stealthily down the hallways, trying out this new toy. He had to remind himself that he was invisible and dodge out of other mechs' way sometimes, but for the most part, the whole experience left him feeling pretty smug.
His orders were just dangerous enough to make this trial-run of the cloak really fun. Apparently Radio Flyer and another femme from the Science Division had collaborated together on some underground imaging techniques for the archeology department. The project had ended half an orbital cycle ago with only moderate success. Then a few solar cycles ago, Lieutenant Skywarp told Radio Flyer that Arcee, the other femme, had withheld some of her findings. Everyone knew that Skywarp tended to be a bit of a troublemaker, but he swore up and down that it was the truth, so Radio Flyer decided to get to the bottom of the rumor and test out the invisibility cloak all in one go. Bumblebee was supposed to sneak into this Arcee's home, find her personal data storage device, copy the information in it, and bring it to RaFly. Simple! Radio Flyer had even timed things so that he could just wait a little bit until Arcee left for the solar cycle and slip in while she was on her way out.
Armed with the femme's address, Bumblebee made his way through the research and production towers until he came to Old Street, the unofficial boundary between the Science Division's physical part of the city and that of the Planetary Defense Forces. He'd never seen how the other half lived, and he couldn't think of a better way to find out. With a grin and an adventurous spring in his step, he crossed the street and plunged into unfamiliar territory.
It wasn't until he was half-way between Old Street and Arcee's home that he wondered why RaFly didn't test this out herself. It wasn't until he was within sight of Arcee's residential tower that he realized she didn't live in a barracks like most 'bots – she had private quarters, something reserved for department heads.
Engrossed in the report she was reading, Arcee absentmindedly waved goodbye to Chromia as she and Firestar headed out for the morning. They were going to a holo-program and then, knowing Firestar, those two would drop in on the Healing Arts department to flirt with the mechs there.
"Be back by mid-solar," Arcee called to her youngest sister.
"The games tournament isn't until sunset," Chromia protested.
"I want to get in some practice before we're actually in the arena, and you lose track of time, especially if you're around large mechs. Mid-solar, or I'll come looking for you, and I have better things to do on my solar cycle off."
Chromia huffed and stalked out of their apartments.
Arcee reached across her bond to her other sister, Elita. 'Remind me why we created Chromia.'
'So that if anything ever happened to you, I wouldn't be alone,' Elita answered, gentle humor flowing back to soothe Arcee's irritation. 'And vice versa. Your life would be diminished without her,' Elita added.
With a sigh, Arcee admitted, 'You're right, you're right. But if she brings home Wheeljack again, I swear I'm finding new quarters for her. That mech is bad enough in a lab – the thought of him standing in our apartments is downright terrifying.'
Elita chuckled. 'He's not going to spontaneously explode.'
'He already did. Twice. First time was before you were brought online.'
'I didn't realize he was that old.'
Arcee snorted. 'Most of him isn't. Why does she have to be so infatuated with things that blow up? Never mind, I can feel you're distracted. I'll let you get back to work. But thank you, sister.'
Arcee turned her focus back to the screen in front of her and frowned thoughtfully as she continued to read. Two more promising archeological sites on Beta Luna had turned up nothing more than shattered stonework. The closer they got to the strata in which legend stated the Primes ruled, the less physical evidence they found. For a span of two hundred orbital cycles, there was not a single intact artifact anywhere in the Cybertronian realms. At first, the theory had been coincidence – the strata were deep, after all, and time eroded even Cyberton's creations. But as more archeological evidence had been unearthed intact, it became apparent that there was a clear gap in the record. Some speculated that there had been a mysterious calamity – the explosion of a large, unknown star, perhaps. The theory was that the catastrophic event physically disrupted the strata, crushing the artifacts within the ground, or interfering with Cybertonian culture to the point that the ancients were reduced to a primitive lifestyle that left no physical remains.
She lifted her head, looking away from the datapad, and began running probabilities. Elita would be the best one to do this, but Arcee didn't want to interrupt her again. With the addition of this new data from Beta Luna, the patterns previously hinted at became a little clearer. She didn't have the evidence to prove it yet, but Arcee was increasingly convinced that the gap in the record was deliberate, that an intelligence was at work in all this destruction. Even cataclysm wasn't this thorough.
And then she blinked. For a split astrosecond, there had been a shimmer there by the fuel dispenser. Puzzled, she moved closer. Were she the superstitious kind, she would suspect a ghost, but the only ghost who might visit her would be her extinguished creator Aren, and frankly, Arcee would have expected a visit long before now.
She focused every last one of her sensors on where she'd seen the shimmer, and she had a pretty formidable array of them. Light, heat, sound waves all read perfectly normal, but when she analyzed the motion of the molecules of the air, there was a…well…pile-up. The molecules were thicker in density around a boxy shape in front of her, almost like they were being doubled
or tripled. Had this anomaly been solid, the space around it might have had a slightly increased density as the randomly-moving air molecules ricocheted off it. This was something different entirely. Arcee extended her hand to touch whatever this thing was, and shrieked as a mech materialized in front of her.
The yellow mech bolted toward the door, but Arcee launched herself at his back, hitting him right between the doorwings and toppling him. Over her sister bonds, she said, 'Get security up here – there's an intruder in our quarters.'
'Frag security,' Chromia answered, and Arcee could feel that her youngest sister was already speeding home. 'I don't want to them to know I killed him.'
Elita wasn't far behind. 'But then where would we hide the body?'
Being larger in mass, the yellow mech bucked against Arcee ,trying to knock her off him, until he felt a blade stab down between the gaps in his armor. He froze as diagnostics told him it was resting on the neural wiring that went to his spark chamber.
"Glad I got your attention," Arcee snarled. "Now tell me what in the Pit you were doing in my rooms!"
"Nothing…?" he ventured.
"What's your name?" she demanded.
"Bumblebee? Um, could you please move that blade back just a little bit?"
"No. Not until you tell me what you're doing here!"
Chromia and Firestar burst through the front door, Chromia's weapons primed and ready. She relaxed slightly when she saw Arcee had the situation under control. "What do you think of his build?" she asked her oldest sister. "If we blow his helm off, will that kill him?
"That would be best," Firestar sagely interjected. "Spark chambers are harder, by all accounts, and a lot bigger mess to clean up."
Arcee smirked as she felt a shudder run through the mech beneath her. "And how would you know that?" she asked Firestar.
The red femme shrugged. "That's what Inferno says. He's had to clean up after a few domestic disputes."
Elita dashed into the quarters and, like Chromia, relaxed when she saw Arcee was unharmed.
'We've got him terrified, sisters,' Arcee said over the bond. 'Play it up a bit and he'll confess everything.'
Elita nodded. "It's good we didn't call security. Chromia is right that it will be easier to deal with this ourselves."
"But like you said," Arcee answered, looking to Elita, "where do we hide the body?"
Chromia waved her hand dismissively, "Oh, Wheeljack can take care of it for us, I'm sure. Just like last time."
'Easy,' Elita warned her. 'Don't make it too outrageous.'
By now, Bumblebee was trembling and Arcee was desperately fighting a grin. She shifted, easing the pressure on Bumblebee's neural wiring ever so slightly. "He is kind of cute in the yellow, though, and not many mechs can pull that off. Maybe we could let him live?"
Chromia scowled. "He broke into our quarters. I say blast him."
"You would," Firestar retorted with a chuckle.
Elita crouched down to where she could meet his optics. "What is your name?"
"Bumblebee," he repeated, grateful for the calm in her voice and face.
"And why were you in our quarters?"
"Because…because I was looking for information."
Arcee narrowed her optics at this revelation, but Elita didn't miss a beat. "About what?"
He hesitated for a moment and then seemed to come to a conclusion. "Lieutenant Skywarp thought that Arcee was hiding information from the munitions development department."
"The underground imaging," Arcee hissed. "Did Radio Flyer put you up to this?"
"She was just doing what Skywarp told her to," he defensively said.
"How were you invisible?" Arcee demanded.
Chromia and Firestar exchanged a glance at that one.
"It was a prototype. They were trying to mimic the commerce clans' upgrades."
"Well obviously it didn't work, now did it," Arcee goaded. Looking up, she said, "What do you think, sisters? Turn him over to Chromia or to Skywarp?"
Elita reached out and snapped one of the rods off the invisibility cloak's collar. "I have an idea."
Bumblebee hung his head, his battle mask dropped over his face to hide his shame. It was bad enough that he'd been taken down by a 'bot a third his size – but these were Science Division 'bots. They were geeks! Weak geeks, according to Megatron anyway. It was like being overpowered and trussed up by glitch mice.
The femmes had put him in stasis cuffs, attached a lead to the collar, and marched him down to the local precinct station. A femme security officer named Lancer just about fell over laughing when Arcee told her what happened, and now the two femmes were parading him through the Science Division. At least the gentlest femme had suggested they give him back to Radio Flyer instead of Skywarp. He hated to disappoint RaFly but was terrified of what the Seeker's reaction would have been.
Mechs curiously poked their heads out of offices and labs as they passed, and Bumblebee's wings drooped lower each time. Maybe it would have been better if the femmes had blown his head off.
RaFly met them in one of the corridors, shaking her head, and Bumblebee's humiliation was complete. Arcee handed off the lead to the off-white femme, saying, "Better luck next time, Radio Flyer."
With a sigh, she accepted the leash, but there was a stubborn undertone to her voice when she said, "Back to the drawing board, then."
RayFly continued down the corridor, still leading 'Bee. It wasn't until they were in an elevator that she finally took pity on him and removed the stasis cuffs and the collar. She looked up at him, somewhere between amused and exasperated. "Lost your focus?"
His whole frame drooped in embarrassment and guilt. "Lost my focus," he admitted.