Chapter 27

Aziraphale. The Enemy, of course. But an enemy for six thousand years now, which made him a sort of friend.

- Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens

"Knock Out. In my office, please."

Well, here it came. The fallout that came when a supposed rookie exhibited professional skills. Knock Out sat straight in the chair in front of the desk, trying to project innocent curiosity. "Yes?"

Knockdown steepled his fingers. "The replicator."


"Would you be able to use it again?"

This was so unexpected that Knock Out didn't answer, just kept looking at the Seeker.

"We have a backlog," Knockdown said, "of some of the more commonly used parts. And since you showed some ability—"

"Oh, I see." Apparently Knockdown was more pragmatic than Knock Out had given him credit for. Very Decepticon. Who cares how a problem gets solved, as long as it does. "I'd be happy to work on that."

"On and off," Knockdown clarified. "I don't want to shut you up in that claustrophobic room too long. You can help around the lab the rest of the time."

"Fine by me."

"All right then. Dismissed." He waited until the red mech was almost at the door before adding, "Oh, and Knock Out."

Knock Out turned and lifted an eyebrow. "Yes, Herr Doktor?"

Knockdown leaned forward slightly, his optics fixed on his mirror image. "You'll tell me if your memory banks provide any other . . . unexpected information, won't you?"

We don't talk about Brakeline around him, his memory quoted. It upsets him.

"Of course," he lied. "Of course."

Bumblebee didn't know why he was even surprised to find Knock Out stealing a giant mirror out of Dreadwing's room. The scout just balled his hands on his hips as the Decepticon stood there, caught in the act of dragging a piece of black glass taller than he was. It looked like it had come from the side of an office building.

Knock Out finally broke the silence. "Would you believe I'm taking it to have it polished?"

"Definitely. Now ask me if I believe you were going to take it back."

"It was piled behind a bunch of junk. You couldn't even see it. Don't you think Dreadwing would want his objets d'art to be appreciated?"

"Don't!" Bumblebee threw his hands in the air. "Oh, fine, take it! I know you'll just help yourself when I'm not looking otherwise!"

"Ah, you're beginning to learn." Knock Out smirked.

"I got your message, by the way. Do you always send 'let's meet, we need to talk' comms while helping yourself to someone's belongings? Because I've got to say, it seems counterproductive."

"Well, you were faster than I thought. You brought the datapads, yes?"

"Yeah." Bumblebee held up the space bridge datapads.

"Good. Wait for me in there." He indicated Dreadwing's room. "I won't be a minute. Of course, this would go faster with the phase shifter . . ."

"Dream on, 'Con."

When Knock Out returned, Bumblebee had already cleared off Dreadwing's cluttered desk (he seemed to have a thing for human board games, and then there was the Cybertronian-sized chess set to deal with) and spread the datapads over the desktop.

"So I looked at those self-tests for the bridge certification thing," Bumblebee told Knock Out as the medic picked up the first datapad in the series, Intro to Space Bridges: A Journey into the Imagination! "It might take a while to do the course. It looks . . . fairly difficult."

It looked impossible. He couldn't make heads or tails of the information.

Even the first test, the one that was supposed to be review, was filled with quadratic whos-its and parallel whats-its that he'd never heard of. The Autobots had educated him, sure, but only in the essentials. Reading, writing, firing a gun . . . When you were sparked during a war, when your entire life consisted of fighting Decepticons, you didn't exactly have time to sit down and learn a little trigonometry on the side.

So Bumblebee was more than a little annoyed when Knock Out scrolled through the first practice test and said, "Well, it starts out basic enough."

"Oh, sure. It starts out simple." No fragging way was he admitting his weakness to this 'Con. "But as you go further on—"

Knock Out nodded as he continued scrolling. "It's a very technical field. But you don't need to actually earn the certification, after all. We only need enough information to build a basic model—something that will work once or twice so we can get home. I'll download the coursework onto this." He tapped the 1,001 Sudoku Puzzles datapad. "Just tell the drones—excuse me, the extremely individualistic Citizens—that it was too hard for you."

"It's not too hard for me," he snapped, then immediately regretted it when Knock Out shot him a shrewd look. "I'm just . . . more of a bot of action."

"Are you? Good, good. In this case the action will be scrounging around for the necessary parts and material. Fortunately Knockdown has given me permission to use the replicator. He doesn't need to know that I'm creating more than disposable syringes and energon drip lines."

"Oh—good, I guess. I don't suppose you could just type in 'space bridge' and it would pop one out?"

"Ha ha. Cute. No."

"What are you going to be doing while I get all this stuff?"

"I just told you—making the components. And supervising." When Bumblebee glared at him, he rolled his optics dramatically. "And figuring out the correct formulas so we don't get turned inside out when we go through. Really, I don't know why you're complaining. You have the easy part."

Bumblebee huffed because . . . it did seem like Knock Out had taken on more of the work. He didn't like that. Didn't like the idea of being in a Decepticon's debt, didn't like the idea of doing less than his share. It made him feel like he was shirking.

"Yeah, like I trust your mathematical skills. We'll probably end up in a weird shadow world where you can't touch anyone or communicate anyone except by cell phone—" He broke off he caught Knock Out's confused expression. Apparently the 'Con had never been informed of the shadowzone incident. "Or weird things like that! Ha ha."

"You Autobots," Knock Out said, "are a very strange breed. At any rate, after we've beaten the glitches out of this space bridge—this came to me last night and it's pure genius—you can bridge over to Autobot base and simply activate their bridge from there. The two bridges will overlap and, voila, back home."

Now this sounded more like Bumblebee's type of mission! Except . . . "How do I know you'll wait for me before bridging back?"

"Would I lie?"

"Are you fragging kidding?"

"Language, youngling!"

"I'm not a youngling!"

"By the way, where is that Autobot base?"

"If you think I'm telling you—"

"Then how will I bridge you to it?"

Knock Out smiled widely. Bumblebee just glared.

"We will find a different way," the scout said at last. "Even if I have to DRIVE to it."

"I will certainly be interested to see how you do that, considering we're in the middle of a lake."

"It's a bay."

"Whatever," Knock Out said, pulling over pad of holopaper as he began to take notes. "The point is we'll be home before you know it."

Every so often, Starscream took the medical team out for flight training. Technically, they were part of Starscream's armada—excluding Knock Out, who was classified as a General Assistant anyway.

Just as Brakeline was. One certainly hopes things don't end up like that again, she thought, tilting her nosecone up as she gained altitude. Although I don't see how they could.

She turned her attention to the matter at hand—the flight performance of Knockdown, Trauma, and the Twins. They followed her lead as she banked. "Wing to wing is as good as spark to spark," as the old Vosian saying went, and while that was not entirely accurate (and a little bit crass), she could certainly see the personalities of her charges reflected in their flight patterns.

On her right was steady, never flashy Knockdown. To her left, Trauma, whose reliability was interrupted by occasional moments of inspiration or impulsiveness. And behind her, the younger jets were once again playing "how close can I get to my wingmate without actually crashing."

"Ahem. Ampule. Jumpstart."

They guiltily straightened their flight formation.

"Thank you," Starscream said. "Now remember, be aware of your surrounding at all times, 360 degrees . . ." The lesson continued.

When Starscream finally led them back to the Heretic, she was wondering if she should set up a separate training schedule for the Twins. Knockdown and Trauma were steady enough but their maneuvers could certainly be improved. Starscream was hardly able to instruct them while she was focused on preventing the younger jets from crashing into snowbanks, however.

The five jets were briefly reflected in the thick ice of the bay before they landed. The top deck of the ship was still above water, luckily. (Or, at this time of year, above ice.)

Starscream transformed, black jet trimmed with maroon and gold to a robot mode with the same.

"Well done, all of you. Trauma, pay less attention to the scenery and more to the squad. Ampule and Jumpstart, you must learn to focus. I've seen many high speed crashes and they are not pretty." Not to mention the risk of being knocked out of the sky by Autobots, but ideally they would never be put in that situation. So far they hadn't been allowed near any battle fields. "Knockdown, I suppose it would be pointless to ask you to practice more."

"I do practice."

"Besides flying with me."

"I'm too—"

"Too busy, yes, I know." She looked down at him in exasperation. Even Starscream found time for a personal flight once in a while. Ah well. Some jets were like that. "Trauma, wait a moment."

The lavender jet turned to look at her inquisitively and a bit nervously. "Of course, Commander. Ah—my flying wasn't that bad today, was it?"

"No, no." She waved the information away. "Shockwave finally gave Megatron his information on cloning—which was apparently a hobby of his at one time—to each their own—and I offered to pass it along to you."

"Oh! Thank you!" Trauma's face lit up as he accepted the datapad she was offering. "This will help enormously with their therapy . . . So helpful to know what we're dealing with."

"I quite agree," she said, hands behind her back as she strode into the ship. It was the exact reason she had copied the files before passing them along.

Smokescreen asked everyone he could think of (except Prime) before going to Ratchet's med bay. The medic was working on an orange and white genericon strapped to a table. Reattaching a limb, it looked like. Even without a standard facial plate, it was clear that the Decepticon hadn't been implanted with Vehicon coding yet. It was rigid with fear. Smokescreen could see Ratchet's mouth moving as he leaned down to crimp a wire, but he couldn't tell what the medic was saying.

Like he cared.

"Hey. Ratchet."

The medic looked up. "Smokescreen! You finally came for that checkup. Sit over there, I'll be with you in a just a minute."

Smokescreen did sit, but only on the edge of his seat. There was a time, when he first joined the Autobots, when he thought Ratchet was nice. Always so cheerful! Always happy to see you in his med bay! Yeah, right. Ratchet was happy to see mechs in his med bay because no one with sense wanted to be there. Every visit was terrifying. The weird part was he couldn't figure out what made Ratchet so freaky. The med bay was clean and neat and he didn't go after Autobots with rusty needles or anything. But there was just something about Ratchet that left him unnerved. He did things that didn't quite make sense.

That Decepticon strapped to the table, for example. Why fix it up when it was quaking like that? Wouldn't it be easier to wipe out its mind and then fix its frame? That's what Smokescreen thought, anyway.

"I actually wanted to ask you something," Smokescreen said.

"In a minute, in a minute." The cyan and white medic waved away the question, but Smokescreen wasn't fooled. Ratchet was just stalling so he could trap him into staying for an exam.

"Okay, but it's a really simple question. About rust infections," the rookie invented. "How you get them and stuff."

"Smokescreen, I will indulge your curiosity as soon as I'm done with our friend here." He dropped a servo onto the Decepticon's helm, and his "friend" whimpered in fear.

"Sure, Doc, whatever." Smokescreen watched silently for a minute before casually saying, "Guess we got pretty many of these guys. Gonna do a raid soon, huh?"

"In a few weeks, yes."

Information acquired. And why? Because he was awesome, that was why. He had a cool head under pressure. So much better than Prime. If the Autobots would only listen to him, things would get done.

"Instead of sending the Vehicons in to scout the ship, we should just pack 'em full of explosives and get 'em to blow up an outer wall." See, that was an example. A great idea. "Kablooie! The place would flood and no more Decepticons."

Ratchet rolled his optics. "Smokescreen, the amount of explosives you'd need to break through the hull of that ship—"

"Uh, hello, it's got a hole in it. A big gaping hole."

"From the engine exploding, yes. We don't have that kind of payload lying around. Anyway, that's not the point. Yes, they're easy targets. Yes, we'll kill them eventually. But in the meantime . . ." He momentarily loosened the straps on the Citizen, pushing it onto its side before tying it down again. The Decepticon's fingers tapped against the metal table as it shivered. Ratchet smiled. "In the meantime they're spending their last days living in fear. Trapped there, always waiting for the next attack, never knowing when it will come or how many of these," he shook the Decepticon's shoulder, "will storm through. Can you imagine it?"

"Uh . . . yeah. Yeah! That would suck slag. Ha ha!" Frag, look at the gleam old rustbucket's optics. What an absolute weirdo. And that was why they were still sitting here on this mudball? That was the dumbest thing he'd ever heard. Just shoot them and get it over with.

Ratchet finished reattaching the wires between the genericon's arm and torso. "Ah, now I just need . . ." He moved over to the other side of the lab for a tool. Smokescreen took this as a sign to quietly rise from his chair.

"Help." It took him a second to realize the whisper came from blue-visored genericon. "Please, help me. I'm, my name is Slingshot, I wasn't even supposed to be at the mine, I was covering a shift for a friend, I wasn't supposed to be there, please, I'm a bot just like you, I know what they tell you but we're just like you, please—"

Smokescreen backed quickly out of the med bay. He didn't like Vehicons when they still talk.

"What is this? What is this?"

"What is what? Besides the exact thing you asked me to get."

"I said galvanized steel!"

"That IS galvanized."

"Yes! Galvanized iron! Idiot!" Knock Out threw the pipe at Bumblebee's head.

Two weeks in, the space bridge project could have been going better.

Bumblebee picked up the pipe, resisting the urge to throw it back at Knock Out's stupid face. He stalked back to his side of the room, or as Knock Out called it "the messy half." The 'Con had some nerve—like his chair wasn't surrounded by crumpled up pieces of holopaper! And anyway, Bumblebee's side was messy because he was collecting material for the space bridge—AND because Knock Out had shoveled "all this human junk" out of his side of the room! Horrible, hypocritical Decepticon.

Bumblebee growled to himself as he began disassembling a broken chair. (He was trying to salvage broken material when he could. It made him feel less guilty about stealing from the Deceptibots.) They were never going to get home. He was going to die here with the most superficial, annoying, temper tantrum throwing Decepticon there ever was. While pretending to be a clone. Frag his life.

"Are you even working?" Bumblebee said.

Knock Out put down his stylus and datapad. "What kind of question is that? Yes, Bumblebee, I am working."

"Sometimes you play sudoku."

"For a few minutes, yes. Oh dear, how dare I!"

"Well, we are trying to get home." Normally Bumblebee would have avoided sounding so sanctimonious and prissy, but since it got under Knock Out's plating . . . "I know this is hard for you to understand, but Autobots have this thing called work ethic."

"I only do it when your presence begins to eat away at my higher processor functions. All things considered, I've been the model of restraint."


Bumblebee returned to his task. Knock Out insisted that the different materials needed to be sorted out ahead of time before they were put into the . . . magic thing-creating machine. Figured that the 'Cons would have something like that and not the Autobots. So unfair.

"Why are you in such a mood, anyway?" Bumblebee asked after a few minutes. "Had another therapy thing with Trauma?"

Knock Out didn't answer, just leaned closer to his datapad.

"I don't get what your problem is. He's really nice."

"I don't have 'a problem'."

"Then why do you stalk around snarling after every session?"

"I don't."

"Oh yes you do. Why were you even in there, anyway? It's not your usual day, is it?"

"No," Knock Out said in a tight, controlled voice. Then he ruined the effect by tossing the datapad down and crossing his arms. "If you must know, Knockdown sent me there. A complete overreaction."

"Why? What did you do?"

"Nothing! Nothing at all. Hardly anything. This Citizen was brought in by some of his friends—"

"Who?" Bumblebee asked. He knew a lot of the Citizens now.

"How the frag should I know? One of the fliers. He botched his landing. Anyway, his friends were in hysterics—apparently having come through a war without ever seen spilled energon—and Knockdown told me to quiet them down while he dealt with the patient."

"You? Why not Trauma?"

"He wasn't there."

"The Twins?"

"He sent them top deck to retrieve the patient's arm."



"That was some accident."

"Eh." The medic shrugged. "It happens."

"So what was the problem?"

"There wasn't a problem. I told them to shut up and they did."

"And Knockdown got upset over that?"

Knock Out tapped his finger on his arm as he studied the ceiling. "I might have brought out my buzzsaws—"

"Uh huh."

"—and told them the first one who made a sound would find out exactly what their friend was going through."

"Wow, you didn't even threaten to murder them! Such restraint!"

"I wasn't going to do it. They'd have made me clean up the mess."

"Yeah, but that doesn't explain why Trauma gets your circuits in a snarl."

"Trauma, Trauma, Trauma!" Knock Out snapped. "I hope Megatron rips your voicebox out again so I can have some peace."

Bumblebee's hands slowly curled into fists. "Say that again." He was painfully aware of his warbles and beeps.

"I think you heard," Knock Out sneered, pushing his chair back as he rose. "Or are your audials as fragged up as your voice?"

"Get back here and face me like a mech, you worthless heap of tin!"

"No thanks. I wouldn't want to ruin your precious scrapheap of human memorabilia." Knock Out gave him a mocking smile from the doorway. "I'm going for a drive."

Bumblebee seethed. After all this time, Knock Out still wouldn't tell him where his "secret driving spot" was. If it even existed. "Fine! You do that!"

"Fine. I will."

And with that Knock Out flounced out.

Because of course he can't just WALK, Bumblebee thought, hands still clenched. Of course not.

He was tempted to stomp out and give the Decepticon a piece of his mind, and maybe a punch to the faceplate as well. But he didn't want to draw attention to Dreadwing's old room, especially now that a significant portion of the wall was covered with Knock Out's notes on space bridges.

So that type of revenge was out. But . . .

Bumblebee opened his arm compartment and took out the phase shifter, quickly slapping it onto his wrist. He carried it all the time now, partly in case Knock Out snuck into his room to search for it (which he was sure the 'Con had done at least once), partly because he never knew when he'd have an opportunity to scavenge for supplies.

He hurried out the door and just caught sight of Knock Out turning the far corner of the corridor. He followed at a safe distance, ready to dart through the wall into an abandoned room if Knock Out turned around. But the 'Con never looked back. He stalked through the ship, up ramps and around corners, until he pushed open a door and stepped through. Bumblebee hung back a few minutes before doing the same.

A blast of arctic air greeted him, a strong wind that blew through his seams and sent little snow flurries snaking across the deck. The wind kept the surface of the deck was free from snow for the most part, but Bumblebee could clearly see tire tracks in the light dusting that remained.

This was Knock Out's great, secret race track? The deck of the ship? Out in the cold?

Bumblebee's brows were tilted in confusion as he looked around for the 'Con. He didn't see him. Had he doubled back or—

A red leg kicked out from above, punting the phase shifter clean off his wrist. Startled, Bumblebee stared upward, but Knock Out was already letting go of the pipe he'd swung from, landing in a crouch and racing towards the phase shifter.

"Finders keepers!" he sang as he sped by.

"You filthy CHEAT!" Bumblebee shrieked. He lunged forward, catching the Decepticon's leg and sending them both crashing onto the deck.

"Leeet GO!" Knock Out kicked the scout in the head with his other pede as he scrabbled at the deck, the phase shifter just out of reach.

"Not in this lifetime!" Bumblebee crawled over the Decepticon, depending on his weight to keep him down as he, too, struggled to reach the relic.

"You're scuffing my paint!" Knock Out clawed at the Autobot's finish, but Bumblebee didn't care if he got some superficial scratches.

He did care if someone suddenly jammed their claws into his elbow joint, though, and that was Knock Out's next move.

"OW, frag!"

Knock Out pushed him off, but Bumblebee batted the relic away. They chased after it, Bumblebee almost grabbing it before Knock Out shoved his hand into his face and kicked phase shifter away. Both of them scrambling across the icy deck, slipping and shoving and smacking the phase shifter away from each other until.

"Oh no . . ."

Bounce, bounce, roll, the phase shifter skidded across a patch of ice as both mechs watched with horror widened optics.



Skid, spin, roll, right off the deck.

"You idiot!" Knock Out howled. "Look what you've done!"

"This is your fault as much as mine!" Bumblebee ran over to the side of the ship and looked over the edge . . . and gave a vent of relief. Of course, the ship was surrounded by ice, along with most of the bay. If he just crawled down the railing—

"See you, Autobrat," Knock Out said, doing just that.


"Who dares, wins," Knock Out said, holding the railing in one hand as he stretched to reach the phase shifter with the other.

"You're unbelievable." Bumblebee swung his legs over and climbed down after him.

It was an unhappy coincidence that his pede came down just as Knock Out shifted his stance and changed hands. Like most medics, Knock Out was protective of his hands. He saw several tons of Autobot about to step on one of them.

He let go.

"Knock Out!" Bumblebee's irritation turned to alarm as Knock Out landed on the ice. His spark churned in his chest, waiting for the ice to break, waiting for the Decepticon to sink into the depths of the freezing bay.

Knock Out remained frozen in an awkward, half-curled position for a few seconds before daring to straighten out. He looked at the ice under his hands. Hardened water, that's all it was. But he could see the thickness of it, the bubbles trapped inside going down, down, down.

He was lighter in vehicle mode; he lost weight and mass in the transformation process. With this in mind, he snatched up the relic and transformed.

"Well, well, well," he drawled, his tires rocking back and forth a little on the ice. "Looks like I win this round."

Bumblebee hopped over the railing, dropping into vehicle mode as soon as he hit the ice. "Oh yeah? Let's see if you can get it back on the ship."

"Easy," Knock Out said scornfully. But when he drove towards the Heretic, Bumblebee blocked him. Wherever he was, the yellow Urbana was there first. Most annoying! And he kept trying to sideswipe him, too, the brat! Knock Out had gone through so much to get his door back; he wasn't going to let it get wrecked by some hothead!

"Go to the Pit, Bug," Knock Out hissed, gunning his engine. He'd zip around to the other side of the ship and vault on board before the Autobot could do anything about it; yes, that's what he'd do.

He forgot to take the ice into account. He was hardly an expert winter driver; with the Nemesis' space bridge at his disposal he had never had to worry about such things. It was always summer somewhere.

So Knock Out was more than a little dismayed when his tires turned at the curve, but his trajectory did not. His rearview mirror twitched to reveal the Heretic getting farther and farther away. The Autobrat was pursuing him, though, and Knock Out could clearly hear his hollering: "HEY! Where do you think you're going with that?"

That, at least, was satisfying. And why admit to a mistake when he could take advantage of it instead? Knock Out straightened out his tires, waited until he felt he had some measure of control, and rocketed across the ice

Behind him Bumblebee slowed down, then sped up. Where? Where did that crazy 'Con think he was going?

"Knock Out!" he shouted, trying to gain on him, trying not to panic as he skidded. He lived in the middle of a desert! He wasn't used to this scrap! He tried to take a shortcut through a snowdrift and discovered that well-packed snow was no friend to a sports car with extremely low clearance. The worst part was that he could clearly hear Knock Out laughing at him as he struggled to back out of the mess.

Knock Out learned from Bumblebee's mistake; he skirted the snow drifts, following a meandering path over the bare, windswept patches of ice. Almost to the shore now, and praise be to Primus, there was a road. Covered with potholes, yes, and generally looking like it belonged in some post-apocalyptic movie, but still . . . a real asphalt road.

Knock Out put on a burst of speed and gained just enough momentum to fly up the bank, wheels landing with a thud on the asphalt. The same wind that was sweeping over his hood had kept the road mostly clear, piling the snow in thick drifts on the wooded slope to the left.

Pausing to examine the scenery gave Bumblebee a chance to catch up. He, too, skidded onto the road in vehicle mode.

"The relic, Knock Out." His engine growled threateningly .

Knock Out revved right back at him, meeting his challenge. "You want it?" His gas petal sank to the floor as he bypassed the Autobot. "Come get it!"

Bumblebee tore after him. They whipped around a curve, dodged around opposite sides of a deep pothole, and left snowflakes dancing madly in their wake. The powerful Aston Martin got a nose in front, then the sleek Urbana.

This was Bumblebee's chance—to cut across Knock Out's path, to force him to stop. Instead he shifted gears and increased his lead. He felt reckless, wonderful, his engine burning hot and his tires tearing up the pavement. Knock Out's engine rumbling as he fought to pull ahead, to win.

Trees whipped by to the left and the bay stretched out to the right, but the road was everything now. They screamed around a curve, losing a little speed as Bumblebee slipped, scraped up against Knock Out. Knock Out fishtailed enough to shove him away, but there were no taunts now, no cat-calls. Just the race. A burst of speed around a tight corner, with Bumblebee barely in the lead—

And he gave a shout as the road ahead of them disappeared. Transforming, he braced his feet as his arms wheeled backwards. Knock Out transformed as well, based on the Autobot's reaction, and Bumblebee managed to grab the medic's arm before he toppled down to join the debris of the landslide.

"Well," Knock Out said after a moment.

"Yeah," Bumblebee said. Probably he should have said something—about the relic, or about how foolish they'd been to race on an unknown, abandoned road, or about how they should get back to the ship before anyone missed them. But his sensors were still thrumming and his tires were still hot and pliable from friction.

Knock Out didn't say anything either, not even about his scraped paint. He wandered over to the guard rail, his engine pinging and plinking as it cooled. Bumblebee followed him when he slipped over the guard rail and picked his way down the slope.

Beyond the debris of the landslide was a small, rocky beach. Perhaps this part of the bay got more sun; whatever the case, there was a stretch of open water lapping along the beach, although it was speckled with ice floes.

Knock Out wandered here and there, prodding at an empty crab shell with his pede or breaking tiny pockets of ice with his pointed toe. Bumblebee dared to get closer to the water, leaning over to pick up a flat rock.

"I need the phase shifter, though," he said after a minute, "to gather material."

"Ohhh, I suppose." Knock Out carelessly drew the relic out and threw it to him.

Bumblebee caught it and clipped it to his wrist for safe keeping. He looked at the relic as he weighed the stone in his hand, then drew back his arm and sent the rock skipping across the smooth surface of the water.

He turned around to find Knock Out studying him—but the Decepticon immediately shifted his eyes, nonchalantly gazing along the beach.

"Might be a good place to test things out, later on."

Bumblebee knew it was just an excuse for another race.

"Yeah," he said. "Might be."