AN: Not so very long ago, Luki Dimension offered up a fascinating challenge in the tf2007fun livejournal community, which reads as follows: "I know that the Autobot Sam is easy because Sam was holding the Allspark when it was destroyed, which has so much fan-leeway. But what if just being in contact with the Allspark could give people sparks? Undetectable by any medical means unless they come in contact with metal - lethally."
A plotbunny immediately latched onto my ankle and wouldn't let go, and this is result of my attempts to regain freedom. It is unbetaed, so any constructive criticism y'all are willing to give would be most appreciated.
I hope you enjoy, gentle readers.
Bumblebee found him outside, perched atop a neatly stacked pile of construction materials, his head turned towards the setting sun. The small mech's frame was wrapped in an utter stillness that indicated deep thought, and only when Bumblebee paused at his side and hissed out a question did a sense of life once again fill him.
An annoyed thrum vibrated his chest like the sound of a revving engine, and he shifted slightly to fix the intruder with a single cold optic. "Don't blow that static at me, Autobot. Speak properly or not at all."
The doors that thrust out like two stubby wings from Bumblebee's back rattled in response, but the yellow mech merely crossed his arms and emitted a humanlike sigh, letting his irritation slide away. "You are fully capable of conversing in Cybertronian," he said mildly. "All you have to do is activate a simple subroutine. Ratchet can help you if-"
"I may have the ability," the other interrupted, "but I lack the desire." He turned his face away to continue his observation of the sky, the dying sunlight turning his burnt orange paintjob the color of rust. "What do you want?"
"Optimus told me you were leaving." The silence that followed that statement was affirmation enough, and Bumblebee looked down at his companion. "Where will you go?"
"It doesn't matter, as long as it's away from here."
"That is unadvisable. Barricade is still out there, always at the edge of scanner range, and more Decepticons will be making planet-fall soon. Alone, you will make a very tempting target."
"Perhaps." He laughed lowly; a cynical sound overlaid by static. "But they will have to catch me first."
The amusement faded almost as soon as it had begun, and he leaned forward, his blunt, tri-fingered hands gripping one of the beams that made up his steel perch. The backswept helmet and dual wheels that protruded from behind his shoulders gave him a hunched, almost predatory look, like a vulture listening for a death rattle. "There's no other option, anyway. You know as well as I do that I don't belong here."
"You would belong, if only you would allow it. Our history is less than ideal, but you're an Autobot now, and we take care of our own." Bumblebee sank down to the ground and folded back his doors, leaning against the stack of support beams. He tucked one leg beneath him and stretched the other out, getting comfortable before turning his head, now optic-to-optic with the other transformer. "Besides, any ill feeling we had toward you was mitigated the night you saved Sam's life."
Another static laugh. "'Mitigated?' You act as if I'd done something that required redemption."
Bumblebee stiffened, letting out a sound like the hiss of hydraulics. "So abducting the Witwickys from their home, interrogating the children and torturing me? You regret none of that?"
"The only thing I regret, Autobot, is not ordering my men to set the freeze guns at a colder temperature. You recovered much too fast for my liking."
He was not a violent mech by nature, but that smug tone made Bumblebee's weapons node pulse with the desire to activate his cannon. His right hand had curled into a fist in automatic preparation, and he unclenched it with difficulty, flexing his fingers with the faint clicking of moving joints. "So why did you do it? If you felt no remorse, then why did you save Sam?"
"He's a good kid," came the simple reply. "Stupid, with a lousy taste in friends, but good."
Trapped against the support beams, his doors still managed to vibrate like the buzz of a rattlesnake's tail, and Bumblebee inwardly cursed this little mech's easy ability to get under his skin. "Sam is not stupid."
"Oh, yes, he is," he said, cheerfully ignoring the note of warning in the other's tone. "I received a full debriefing of his actions at Mission City. The idiot didn't even have a pocket knife for protection, but he still decided to play tag with the biggest, baddest NBE of them all." He paused, and then shrugged with an audible rattle of his wheels. "Still… because he was too thickheaded to know when he was outclassed, and too stubborn to just drop the All Spark and hide like any sane person would do, he ended up saving the world. And, by extension, me. It seemed only right to return the favor."
He stretched out one slender leg and examined his wide, didactyl footpad with all the apparent detachment of a clinician. "And this is what I get in return," he continued quietly, "an eternity as a Frankensteinian mishmash of dead machine parts. The Decepticons aren't the only robots capable of cruelty, it seems."
A warning message flashed across his vision as his spark flared in ire, and Bumblebee found himself on his feet and rounding on the smaller mech without any noticeable time lapse. "Cruelty? Jazz was worth more than a thousand of you, but we still used his components to give you a new chance at life!" He bent over and planted his hands on either side of the object of his wrath, his battlemask down and mere inches from the other's faceplate. "After what we sacrificed, you dare to call us cruel?"
From his optics to his chin, the mech's faceplate was a blank sheet of featureless metal, like a permanent battlemask. The shutters surrounding his optics were highly mobile, however, and he used them to good effect now, narrowing his vision until his optic lights were nothing more than thin slits of amber fire. "You didn't give me a choice!" he shouted, his narrow shoulders hunching as he rose to a half-crouch, as if preparing for an attack. "What in your rusted processors made you robots think this is what I wanted?"
"All living things wish to survive," Bumblebee said thinly. "It was a logical assumption that you would be no different."
"Hang logic! Dying is something humans do very well. It is the one great constant in our lives. It is our right, and you damn walking toasters stole that from me!" He slammed a fist against the steel beam beneath his feet, the hollow clang accompanied by a cry tinged with the screech of tires on asphalt. The inarticulate sound of rage was unexpected and startling, causing Bumblebee to instinctively rear back. For a long moment, they both stood frozen, the air between them heavy with an almost palpable aura of barely contained violence.
And then the former human seemed to deflate, the dangerous moment passing as he sat back on his heels and stared at the ground beneath Bumblebee's feet. "I have a younger sister, you know, and two little nieces. They're beautiful, and they love their uncle. And I'll never see them again."
There was something new in his voice then, something lost and almost approachable in its muted sorrow. The tight knot of anger in Bumblebee's chest loosened somewhat, and he straightened out of his aggressive crouch. Flipping back his battlemask with an upward jerk of his head, he briefly touched the side of his face in an unconscious parody of Optimus, attempting to reign in his emotions. "That doesn't have to be," he said, his voice much calmer than he felt. "Your holographic projectors are the most powerful I have ever seen, next to Hound's. With practice, you could create a hologram virtually indistinguishable from your original body. You won't be able to touch them in that state, but you could still be a part of their lives."
The little mech snorted, that curious vulnerability gone in an instant. Bumblebee could almost hear the iron gates of his mind clanging shut. "So I can watch them grow up, grow old and die, while I remain the same? I think not."
The human sigh was a remarkably expressive vocalization, and Bumblebee indulged in it again, letting his optics roam absently over the Autobot's new base as he collected his thoughts. An abandoned military installation donated by the United States government, the sand-scored building's high roof was undergoing reconstruction. The exposed support beams arched high over his head, gleaming like a ribcage in the evening light.
"Your circumstances are regrettable," he said finally, "but none of us will apologize for preserving your life. The All Spark is lost to us forever, but it saw fit to leave behind a great gift for you and every human that touched it. Since you were not conscious to tell us your wishes, we felt it was our duty to help that gift become a miracle."
Bumblebee could not help the tinge of awe that colored his words when he spoke of what Ratchet's scanners had discovered, only a few short weeks ago. Unfortunately, his companion did not appear to share in the emotion, for he merely made a low sound of contempt and stood, his body shifting into an arrogant stance that Bumblebee knew all too well.
"And what about your pet?"
The abrupt shift in topic threw him, and the only response the larger mech could devise was a confused, "What?"
"Little Sam, who follows you around like a dog. And his hottie delinquent girlfriend, too. They both touched that blasted cube, so now they have one of these things nestled in their chests like a malignant tumor." The orange mech slapped a hand against his chestplate to add emphasis to his point, and then leaned forward provokingly, his bizarre optics blazing with an eager mockery that was rapidly approaching viciousness. "When the time comes, and they're bleeding out their lives on the concrete, will you let them choose for themselves? Or will you force another 'miracle?'"
Bumblebee froze like a statue in Medusa's garden, the question having pierced him to the core. An echo of the cold terror he had felt a month ago shivered through him again, and the memory played back behind his eyes in a flash of vivid clarity. Watching as a black shard of Barricade's armor ricocheted off the pavement and spun like a miniature comet towards Sam, Bumblebee pinned down by the enraged Decepticon and unable to help as the human froze in horrified shock. The sudden blur of another fragile body slamming into Sam's own, sending them both tumbling away in a confused jumble of flailing limbs. A bright fan of crimson, followed by an animalistic shriek that no human should have been able to make… and then stillness, horrid stillness as they lay tangled together on the shattered sidewalk, unmoving in an expanding pool of blood. Panic burning like a lightning strike through his neural net, giving him the strength to incapacitate his attacker with a double cannon shot to that dark chestplate, before shoving the sparking mech away as if he weighed nothing. And then relief, sweet, spark-searing relief as he gently pulled the two humans apart and realized that it was not Sam making those liquid gurgling sounds.
Not his human. Not his Sam.
This was not the first time that the memory had come back to haunt him, and so he was able to push it away only bare seconds after it had begun. "It will not come to that," he said with conviction. "Not while I'm alive to protect them."
"It will," the other replied with equal certainty. "You robots destroy everything you touch. Whether it's two months or two decades from now, one day they'll be too slow, too careless or just too unlucky, and your endless, pointless war will consume them."
The words stung, and Bumblebee wanted to purge them from his processors like a virus, but they held a kernel of truth that could not be so easily discarded. Sam and Mikaela were fine examples of their species; brave and resilient, with a deceptive cleverness that still occasionally caught him by surprise. They filled his life with a whirlwind of energy, unquestioning affection and a tangled mess of contradictions, providing him with an endless source of amusement, fascination, and not a little bafflement. He was proud to know them, and prouder still to call them friends.
But despite their force of personality, it was impossible to forget how fragile they were. All the courage and cleverness in the world was not proof against an evil that could crush them both with a single fist, and if this war was to begin again on human soil, as Bumblebee knew it would, then the children would be in terrible danger simply for knowing them. The Decepticons would not hesitate to exploit such an obvious weakness on the part of their enemies, which upped the possibility of tragedy from merely high to an almost statistical certainty.
But then, one day … a miracle. First discovered in a dying Sector Seven agent, and then found again in Sam and Mikaela, courtesy of one of Ratchet's detailed scanner sweeps. It should have been impossible, but the medic's three-dimensional recreation of the humans' internal structures was all the proof the other Autobots needed.
In each of the humans' chests dwelled a spark, burning beneath their skin with all the brightness of a miniature star.
Those little shards of light were a final legacy left behind by the All Spark, and they kindled a hope in Bumblebee that he had not allowed himself to feel until that moment. Instead of a few short years with the two beings that had come to mean so much to him, he had now been allowed a glimpse of eternity with them at his side. The prospect called to him like a siren song, filled with such sweet promise that it had not left his thoughts for an instant since Ratchet's revelation.
And yet a sense of disquiet lingered, a note of discord in the song that thrummed in time with the pulse of his spark. He would gladly sacrifice pieces of himself to turn the hope of forever into reality… but when the time came, what would the children want? Would they choose a metal body, with its promise of eternal youth, strength and near immortality? Or would they remain faithful to the call of their own flesh and allow it to pull them into the dark?
Bumblebee burned to know the answers to those questions, but he had not yet been able to bring himself to ask. He was too afraid of what their responses would be.
The little mech was staring at him solemnly, as if his thoughts had been etched across his forehead like a line of glyphs, and Bumblebee suddenly itched with the desire to see him gone. He pointed towards the setting sun, which was now nothing more than a thin curve of light at the joining of earth and sky, turning the wide expanse of the Nevada desert into a painter's dream of gold, scarlet and magenta.
"The Decepticons will be monitoring the cities," he said, "so if you insist on leaving, you had better avoid the heavily populated areas."
Optics shuttering in amusement at the obvious change in subject, the former agent shrugged and leapt gracefully to the ground. His head barely came past the larger transformer's knee, forcing him to crane his neck upwards to see Bumblebee's carefully expressionless face. "I always wanted to go on a road trip," he said, his voice heavy with irony. "Looks like I'll finally get my chance."
Not bothering to wait for a response that would never come, the little mech walked away until he was standing at the beginning of the road, which was barely more than a trail of hard-packed earth that slithered like a snake into the distance. He shuddered once in distaste of what was to come, and then look a leap forward, his body shifting with a familiar electronic sound. An instant later, the twin wheels of a sleek Ducati Supersport 800 touched down on the packed sand, his burnt orange patina glinting malignantly in the evening light.
The motorcycle coasted around in a graceful arc that brought him less than a yard from Bumblebee's broad feet. His engine revved once, a curiously reluctant sound, before he said stiffly, "If your pets are ever in serious danger, then you can call on me. Otherwise, I never want to hear from your kind again. Do you understand?"
Bumblebee nodded once; a single, sharp jerk of his head.
There was a pause, and then a low hum that vibrated up Bumblebee's legs like a micro-quake. A hologram flared to life a moment later, flickering dangerously until it solidified into a human form, sitting lightly atop the motorcycle with its fingers wrapped around the handlebars. Bumblebee felt a strange chill as the simulacrum turned its head jerkily to stare up into his optics. With its blank, soulless eyes and a bone structure that was subtly wrong, the hologram's face was not perfect, but Bumblebee would know it anywhere.
Agent Simmons' mouth twitched once, before curving into a familiar, acidic grin. "Go to hell, Autobot," he said convivially.
"You first, human."
It was the kindest thing he could think to say, and Simmons let out a final static laugh. His wheels spun in a haughty flourish that kicked up a prodigious amount of fine dust, and then he rocketed down the road with a deafening roar of his engine, the hologram's jacket flapping behind him like a cloak. Bumblebee watched him until he disappeared from sight, his frame swallowed up by the last shreds of the dying day.
AN: The idea for the Autobots to supply the metal for Simmons' transformation is based off Luki's incredible 'Format' fic, used with her kind permission, although the source of the metal is of my own devising. All hail Luki! Thanks for the fun challenge, chica!