Transformers Revisited

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One: Ron and Irony

Irony. A word I rarely got to use. But I guess it’s appropriate to use it now. You see, this thing that was trashing everything in sight pinned me down… and I was fresh out of ideas how to manage.

My name is Ronald Charles McKenzie. Six-foot-six, brown-haired, brown-eyed, two hundred and ninety pounds. Yeah, I know. But I’m trying to reduce my weight. Really.

People don't call me Mac because that would be my Dad, so my friends call me Ron. I was a Metro Police lieutenant connected to the Major Case Victims Unit of the police department. But I haven't always been with the police. Just before I became a cop, I was a captain in the Marines. My last posting was with a special support team for a UN combined command unit called NEST. Although I didn't know it at the time. Top secret, et cetera. All I knew was that we had to catch the fallout from whatever they were doing, and whatever they were doing was probably something major, given how tough our assignments were, or how messy things got after NEST gets through with a combat zone, and we were sent in to clean up after them, taking care of stragglers, snipers, hidden mines et cetera. And Decepticons. In the end, it got a bit too much and I decided to retire. Either that or PTSD and burnout.

So I became a cop.

Being with the Major Case Victims Unit wasn't any kind of picnic either, though, and, yeah, it's a bit like living episodes of the TV show ‘Law and Order.’ So many people needing to be put away; so many people hurt and needing help.

Part of my role in the department was to sometimes interface with the press. My captain said I had a flair for it, and my compassion for the people involved in my cases made me the ideal mouthpiece for the department. So he said.

It's fun, sometimes, when I get to be on TV. But most of the time, I just feel pressured by all of the TV reporters yammering at me and asking me all sorts of questions I couldn't answer. I did get to meet a couple of good ones that had a real empathy for victims and didn't use me to score points against the police or the establishment too much - one was a newspaper reporter from one of the city's major dailies who eventually became a good friend. He might be transitioning to another job soon, though - his paper, like most papers, were in danger of shutting down.

Another was a TV reporter named Susan Blu.

Susan was actually a high school friend - a close one. I had a major crush on her back then and I guess one of the reasons I didn't stay in touch after high school was because, despite us being such good friends, Susan never felt the same way about me. But now that I was back in town, and with her job and mine always throwing us together, we couldn't help but reconnect.

Though she's a popular, big shot local news anchor and TV reporter now (it was just a matter of time before she goes national), we still got along, and that old friendship just sort of came back. And I found that the old flame was still alive. Even more than before, I think. Guess it couldn't be helped - with her being the same person that she always was despite the success. Plus the fact that she's so much more gorgeous now. I couldn't believe she wasn't married yet. Not even a boyfriend. I thought it might be because of her job. But I thought I could get around that if she ever gave me a chance.

Anyway, I was at her station, being interviewed about the latest incident of urban violence in the city. There have been five bad ones these past few weeks, and we have been getting screwy reports that these were perpetrated by robots and such. The automatic conclusion was that it was the Decepticons, but so far as my connections knew, it wasn't them. Such confusion was probably connected with the hysteria that such things bring with them. There were even screwy reports of statues coming to life and killing people with electrical bolts. I told the interviewer that we didn't know anything yet, but we're getting close to having suspects... Yeah, pretty lame, I know.

After my interview, I looked up Susan and invited her out to this intimate restaurant my partner knew about. Susan suggested another place, though, and I agreed. And then during dinner, I found out why she was still single. Getting turned down is a big blow, but also finding out that the reason that she turned me down was because she wasn't into men... Talk about a double blow.

And… I was back in that place again. Yup – the restaurant where Susan broke up with me. Not that we were ever really an item.

It was a big, fancy restaurant with a clientele that was made up mostly of young and trendy women, and it was Susan’s favorite place. Not as exclusive as the high-class places uptown: the neighborhood was a bit blue-collar – it was just a block or two from the Jubilee Center, after all, but pretty fancy nevertheless.

In any case, this was the place where Susan turned me down a week ago. And the way she did it… well, what chance did I have with a lesbian? I should have known she was a lesbian – the place's clientele was mostly female, and it was just next door to Foxtails after all, a nightclub known to be a lesbian hangout, according to my police partner, Jenny.

A pretty girl like Susan without a boyfriend… I should have known she was a lesbian. Maybe not back in high school, since I was so clueless back then. But at least now I should have. I was so afraid I would be stuck in the “friend zone,” when in fact I have ALWAYS been in the zone. I was like the mayor of the Friend Zone.

And I was about to die in the same place where I got my heart crushed.

Irony.

At least that thing that had me pinned down got the place practically flattened out... What was I thinking? That wasn't even funny. Maybe it was sort of a sense of revenge that I was feeling. But what about the people that were in the place? I hoped Susan and I were successful in getting everyone out of the place.

That thing spoke again.

“Undoubtedly you are asking yourself what is this in my hand. This, my dear Captain, is a piece of what the Cybertronians called the AllSpark.” Its voice was low and sounded electronic, with an odd reverberation like it was coming from within a tin can. But it indeed sounded female.

She knows I was a captain... When I was still attached to one of the support teams for NEST, I heard Bill Lennox talk about the AllSpark a few times, but what it really was wasn’t at all clear to me. And since this... thing knew about Cybertron and the AllSpark, it makes sense it would know about NEST, and hence it would know about me.

“There are many things that can be done with it,” the thing continued. “It can make inanimate objects live, for instance. Look at this!” The walking Venus de Milo statue gestured with a robot-like arm that was grafted onto her right stump at a banana-yellow Volkswagen New-beetle. It was parked right beside me near a little newspaper shack. The yellow car was Susan’s little girly Volkswagen.

The statue waved the small metallic-gray cube at it and jagged arcs of electricity flew out towards the car, like those from a Tesla Coil. After a few moments, it lowered its arm. “There – see?”

I looked at Susan’s little bug. Nothing was happening. I looked back at the statue.

“Perhaps it needs a little more time to work,” Venus said a little sheepishly. “But I definitely know what it can do to people.” And she waved the little cube again, this time at me.

“Time to die,” the statue said.

I threw the empty and useless P90 away (actually a sawed-off-barrel civilian PS90 destined for the precinct evidence room), dove behind Susan’s car and pulled out my pistol instead. It was a souvenir from my days with NEST. It was a Ruger-GE 45-caliber Polymer-Frame Electric - a small handgun-sized weapon that fired off large-caliber bullets without gunpowder or other chemicals using technology based on rail guns. They say my gun’s tech was based out of Autobot tech. No wonder. It was not as powerful as a real rail gun, of course, but it could fire bullets at least one-third faster than the velocity and distance of a comparably sized conventional gun, and with no explosion and almost no recoil. I was told that the velocity was throttled back so that the bullets didn’t break the sound barrier, though I didn’t believe it. That’s why they called them Pocket Rockets. But these puppies were never mass-produced since the government restricted their use. I was one of the last to be issued a pocket rocket. There was no ammunition for it anymore, but I knew how to get mine: I just get the gunsmith to make 45-caliber bullets without the case and the gunpowder. They’re actually cheaper, too because of that.

- - - - -

I used my pocket rocket and fired my entire clip at it, walking the gun across her torso. The impacts threw her backwards and I knew I hurt her. When she stood up, I could see large cracks on her abdomen area, and a reddish fluid leaking out.

In an attempt to hit me, the statue sent bolts at me, but she missed. Instead, the arcs splashed against the little yellow car. After a few seconds, after I was sure there were no sparks anymore, a power cable fell and dangled from the power Iines above and touched the roof of the car. More sparks flew, but this time, it was just normal electrical sparks. The cable kept on jumping around touching the beetle’s roof each time, but after a last powerful crack, the cable was knocked up and away.

When I was sure there was no danger from the cable anymore, I put a fresh magazine in my gun, pulled myself up by the beetle’s door handle, gun at the ready, and risked a peek through the slightly-tinted window. When I was halfway standing, I saw the statue through the window, smiling at me with an evil-looking smile. Lightning arced from her hand again, and flew through the glass window towards me. My spine snapped backward and my muscles suddenly seized. Both the car and my body crackled again with the unearthly lightning bolts.

When the arcs switched off, I collapsed backward onto the newspaper shack, the force of my impact knocking the flimsy wooden structure down. I felt a kind of energy surround me, filling me with so many things. It was like I could taste sound, hear colors, and my sense of touch was like I could feel every grain of sand, every little pebble underneath me, and over everything - a kind of familiar warmth, but one I also knew I had never felt before.

Before I completely lost consciousness, I noticed that I still held my gun in a grip made strong by paralyzed muscles, and that I was lying face down near a pile of girly magazines. Fighting the growing numbness, I turned my head as much as much I could, and saw that my hand holding the gun seemed to have melted, like cheese in an oven, and it had melted and buried my gun in what looked like melted pink flesh.

A few of the girlie magazines were open in front of me, and I had an eyeful of this very, very tall fair-skinned, green-eyed brunette nymph, like an angel in a frilly and very revealing, feminine babydoll nightie inside a pink-and white room full of frills and lace, having hot, girly sex with this six-foot tall platinum-haired, blue-eyed amazon beauty dressed in a similar nightie but in pastel green. The colors of their clothes and the room, and the frilly nature of everything made me think of strawberries, marshmallows and other stereotypically girly-type things. The brunette was pumping this enormous pink dildo in and out of the tall blonde while the blonde licked her out. In the picture on the adjoining page, the brunette seemed to be in the throes of an orgasm as she held the other girl’s head against her with her hands. In another picture, the gorgeous blonde had her hand on one of her breasts as she looked into the camera. Her silver-blonde hair and blue green eyes standing out against her very fair skin, and against the brunette who had smooth, tanned skin. As for the brunette, she was crawling on her knees on the bed towards the blonde, one leg saucily pointed upwards as she crawled, and her high-heeled leather pumps giving her an even more sensuous air. They were beyond gorgeous.

Porn wasn’t a big thing with me, but the two girls were incredibly hot. I should have had an enormous erection right then, but I was totally paralyzed, unable to move anything anymore, including my eyeballs, nor even to feel anything or hear anything. At least I still had my eyesight even though I couldn't move my eyeballs. At least I had a nice view. Oddly enough, though, my heart was still pumping and I was still breathing, so I wasn’t completely paralyzed. That was my last thought just before a weird kind of pink goo with red striations obscured my vision, and I finally lost consciousness.
 
 
Two: Susan and Fear

After I had escorted the last of the people out of the area, I went back for Ron. I had my old little Ixus camera out, taking pictures of everything I could. As I was doing so, I saw Ron crouch behind Betty (Betty was my pet name for my little Volkswagen beetle). The thing that was stalking Ron looked like a duplicate of the Venus de Milo statue in the Louvre (took me a bit of research later to confirm that association). Well, that is, if the statue was seven feet tall, had its hair down, wore a bikini and high-heeled boots, and had robotic metal arms and hands grafted in place of the statue's missing ones.

It stood about thirty feet away from Betty and held something up in the air and was telling Ron something, but I couldn’t hear it, or rather her, very well.

The fact that Ron was hiding made me hide, too. So I crouched behind what was left of the front wall. I peeked over the rubble and was just in time to see Ron being hit by what looked like bolts of electricity, like blue-white arcs from an electric generator or something, and coming from the Venus de Milo thing's hand. He was knocked back and he hit a little wooden shack – the kind you see on sidewalks where you buy newspapers or magazines. He hit it with such force that it collapsed around him.

The scene was oddly silent for a moment, except for the water gushing from a broken water main, the crackle of a few isolated fires, falling timber or cinderblocks, and a few car alarms in the far background.

I started creeping towards Ron and, fortunately, the thing didn’t see me. It was scanning the farther side of the ruined restaurant - maybe it heard something there. But I accidentally dislodged a pile of rubble. I froze as the lose blocks and bricks fell, making a racket I couldn't suppress.

“Is there a little mouse hiding?” the thing said. “Come out, come out, little mousie.” The sound of crunching gravel told me she was making her way towards me. “No need to hide, mousie. I won’t hurt you… much. Hahahaha!”

I saw a big piece of concrete fly overhead, and heard it crash against the broken wall to the left and to the rear of me. The thing was throwing rocks. I didn’t know why she wasn’t zapping me with lightning bolts instead. I risked a peek over the broken wall and saw the thing with rocks in both metal hands.

“There you are!” she said. “Are you the one that was hiding my little treasure?” I ducked back down as she threw the pieces of rubble at me. Just in time, too. One rock hit the upper edge of the concrete I was hiding behind, and caused pieces to crack and fly around me. The other one flew through the air where my head used to be. “Stupid,” I said to myself. Now that thing knew where I was. So I moved away from the spot as quickly as I could, and as quietly as I could.

As I crept towards Ron, I wondered about the “treasure” the thing was referring to. My hand snuck inside my shoulder bag and felt around for the envelope with the little piece of black volcanic glass that UPS messenger delivered to me yesterday. It was the only thing that could be it.

- - -

The delivery girl (for it was a girl) that delivered it to me was too pretty to be just a messenger – she looked more suited to being a fashion model. With a too-tight, short-sleeved khaki shirt barely hiding small, perky incredibly sensuous-looking breasts, and very short khaki shorts that were not doing a good job of hiding her spectacular dimensions, she practically had all the males in the office drooling. Me, too, actually.

But she had a distinct smell, very faint, actually, but unmistakable. She smelled like… motor oil or something similar... I was sure no one else noticed but I did. Faint but very distinct. And as she walked away after handing the envelope to me and making me sign her form, I noticed her wrist. At first I thought it was like a very tight, wire-thin silver chain or bracelet, but now I think it was more like a seam in her wrist. In fact I thought I saw her hand swivel around slightly instead of her arm turning, as you would normally expect if someone were to hand something to someone else and the angle was a bit off. As if the bangle was indeed a seam or something where the wrist twisted. But that was impossible, so I assumed that I had just imagined it.

When Ron was in my office yesterday, briefing me about the latest case my TV station was covering, I told Ron about the girl in passing - the oil smell, the bracelet that I suspected was actually like a joint or seam, the supermodel-good-looks. I don’t know why I did except I wanted to tell someone about the weirdness of that encounter.

“A pretender,” he said under his breath, and pulled out his cellphone. He then called Sector Seven, whatever that was, and had a long, mumbled conversation with someone.

This morning, Ron came back to my TV station and asked about the thing the messenger gave me. I got the envelope and gave it to him. He peeked inside and fished out the little piece of black volcanic glass or rock. It was roughly the size and shape of a disposable pen's cap - black with iridescent structures running through it, but sharp and pointy at both ends.

After contemplating it for a moment, he slipped it back into the envelope, handed it back to me and hurriedly pulled me out of the office for lunch.

"We're having lunch, Suzy-baby," he said.

"What? I don't want to go on a date with a... I mean, dressed this way..."

"No date. We need to talk. Lemme make a call and I'll meet you in front. We'll use your car."

He was far too… masculine, and therefore unattractive, for me to date him, but he was also a good friend. And I was still feeling guilty after what I told him last week. So I nodded yes. Besides, he said it wasn’t a date, and I was hungry.

"I get to pick the place. I'll call ahead and see if I can get us a table," I said.

He waved as he rushed out. "Great. See you in a few, Suzy-baby."

"And stop calling me that!" I belatedly noticed all the people. "You ummm... know I don't like you calling me that... ummm..." But he was already gone and I was speaking to empty air. I looked around, smiled sheepishly at the people, went back in my office and started making some calls to see if there were any places where we could go for lunch.

He's the only one who calls me that. And he knows I don't like it. Grrr...

I ended up bringing him to my favorite place - the place where I had that last disastrous "real" date with him last week. I wasn't thinking - it was inconsiderate and in poor taste, and only realized my mistake when we parked.

And here we are.

- - -

I was worried about losing my purse and therefore the little rock (since it seemed to be important), so I had taken it out of the envelope and dropped it into my blouse’s little front pocket that had a button-down flap. I've always thought that shirt pockets on girls' tops were more for getting guys' attentions and focused on us and our boobs. But apparently breast pockets can be useful for other things, too.

As I continued my slow crawl towards Ron, I heard little rocks like gravel pepper the concrete around me. God, the rocks were coming so rapidly, they were like big bullets from a semi-automatic rifle. How is that possible?

As the rocks continued to hit the ground, I heard a voice, a different one coming from behind me this time.

“Attention!” I heard a male voice call through a megaphone. “This is the police! Anyone there?”

Seems that thing that was responsible for the rocks heard, too, and stopped.

“Stay away!” I screamed. “There’s a thing here, it’s the one that destroyed the building! Stay away!”

This was greeted with silence.

“Are you Susan Blu from the TV station?”

“Yes!”

“Major Lennox got your message. Is Captain McKenzie with you?”

“I didn’t send any message! And, yeah, Ron McKenzie is here, but I think he’s hurt!”

I waited some more but the voice wasn’t saying anything else. Undoubtedly that statue-thing had heard everything we said, and, more importantly, it now knew where I was. I continued to creep forward with renewed urgency.

I heard some mumbling and the sound of movement. The police were up to something. I couldn’t help but worry as I slowly crept towards where Ron fell.

As I climbed over yet another pile of broken masonry, I looked up and saw the statue standing over me.

“Hello, little mouse,” it said.

I screamed in terror and scrambled backwards as the thing raised its arms, about to crush me with a big piece of broken concrete.

From behind my head, I heard the sound of machine gun fire. I saw the statue peppered with bullets, little pieces of marble (I assumed it was marble) being chipped from it. The statue fell backward, probably because it was off-balance on the loose rubble with the piece of concrete it was holding up, and not just from the bullets. As it fell, four SWAT officers leaped past me, pointed downwards at the fallen thing with their assault rifles and started firing.

After maybe ten seconds of firing, they stopped and looked around. The lead commando gestured and two of them left, to reconnoiter or something. “Get yourself and the captain out,” the lead commando said to me. “We’ll take it from here.”

I got up and looked at the statue. It looked like it was knocked out. The marble was broken in places, and some viscous reddish fluid was oozing out, like motor oil leaking from a car engine. Underneath the marble and the fluid, I saw metal chrome parts.

Thanks," I said to the lead guy. "How did you find out about this? I didn't…”

“Courtesy of Major Lennox and NEST, Ma'am. Captain McKenzie gave the Major a call, using your phone, I guess, and here we are.”

“Nest?”

“’Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty,’ Ma'am. We work with the Autobots.”

Later on, I would google NEST, and all I would find are references to the "Nuclear Emergency Support Team," sort of the government's version of SWAT, but for nuclear terrorist situations. This was the first time I ever heard of this version of NEST, and I couldn't find anything on the net about it. Then again, there's not much material out there about Autobots, either.

So Autobots aren’t just stories after all. Good God, there really are living aliens on Earth!

“Is that a - what do they call it again? A Decepticon?” I gestured to the fallen statue-thing.

“We don’t know, Miss. Ultra Magnus doesn’t know either.”

“Ultra Magnus?”

“He’s the leader of the Autobots, Ma'am. We've been in constant contact with him since we got here. We transmitted a picture of this thing just now," he indicated a small camera on his helmet, "and he said he doesn't recognize it. He’s actually at Fort Lewis, and is waiting to debrief you and the captain.”

“How do you know Ron?”

“Captain McKenzie was in the Marines, Miss, before he became a cop, and he’s also a friend of the major’s.”

“Can you tell me…”

“I’m sorry, Ms Blu. No time. I don’t have the manpower to spare so you have to get the captain out of here yourself. Now.”

“But…”

We heard the sound of rubble scattering, which galvanized us into action.

“No time! Move!” The SWAT officer pointed at the statue with his gun again and opened fire. His companion did likewise. I stood up and ran as fast as I could towards Ron.

“Ronnie!” I yelled, but he didn’t respond. I looked around and saw my car. I got to my car which was, incredibly, completely intact except for some minor dings and scratches, and, using my car as a landmark, walked to where I recalled the news stand was. I found Ron covered in what looked like transparent goo shot through with red and pink splotches, and stripes that obscured most of his head and upper body. In fact, the only way I knew it was him was because of his clothes, and the fact that it couldn’t have been anyone else since Ron and I were able to get everyone in the area out in time. And the fact that the only six-foot-six person in the place was Ron.

New commandos came, this time in olive-green fatigues instead of dark blue. This time they looked military instead of SWAT. They ran past us and scrambled over the rubble.

With renewed machine gun fire in the background, I hunkered down and wiped the goo off him. “Ewww,” I sub-vocalized. What the fuck was it?

It wasn’t too… gooey, actually. It was chunkier, more like the consistency of thick jello than anything else, and I was able to scrape most of it away with my hand. It fell off from Ron in big chunks, leaving his skin strawberry-pink clear, clean and intact, though his clothes had become very thin and fragile, tearing off with the gelatin-like stuff in strips like wet tissue. Actually, the goo smelled nice, like vanilla, strawberries and peaches. I had half a mind to taste it but didn’t – if it was able to do that to Ron’s clothes, it must be capable of some kind of acid action. I was vaguely afraid of what it could do to me, but I had to help Ron.

I peeled away what looked like a half-melted porn magazine stuck to his face, and checked if he was breathing. I chanced to look down and I noticed that the gelatin that had fallen away from Ron in chunks were quickly melting away into a liquid, and afterwards drying up very quickly, leaving no residue at all.

I wiped him down and looked him over as best I could, and he seemed fine – no wounds or broken bones, arms or legs. I sat him up, hugging him against me as I checked to see if his back was also undamaged. His back seemed fine. I wiped his back clear of the gelatin as well, wiping away larger, mushy swathes of his clothes. When I was putting him back down, my blouse seemed to have gotten stuck to his chest: As I laid him down and sat back up, my blouse tore as if it got stuck on a pin on Ron's chest. I looked down at my blouse and checked, and was relieved that it was only the front pocket of my expensive designer blouse that tore. I can have that fixed easy. I also cursed myself for thinking of such trivialities at a time like this, pulled the scrap of cloth (my front pocket) from Ron's chest and sat up. I felt around Ron's chest but couldn't find a pin or any other thing that my blouse could have gotten stuck on. I never noticed before how soft and smooth Ron's skin was.

I wanted to check his pulse and lifted his right wrist. I was surprised at the heaviness of his arm and felt some odd lumps under the skin. He may have some broken bones. I checked his pulse using his left wrist instead. My amateur efforts showed he had a slow but strong pulse.

I tried to wake him up, patting his cheek gently and calling out his name. He moaned, like someone in a deep sleep that didn’t want to be woken up. But more than that, he sounded… different. Gunk in his nose and mouth?

New explosive gunshots echoed around the buildings and I heard the Venus statue scream out its anger.

Putting that temporarily out of my mind, I concentrated on the here-and-now. I tried pulling Ron towards the car, and the rest of his clothes tore off easily, half-melted by the goo, and his shoes slid off as well, made slippery by the goo. I tried to be mindful of the splintered wood and broken masonry cutting Ron's bare skin as I dragged him, but I was more concerned about getting us out of there quickly, like the guy said.

Wiping as much of the fruity-smelling gunk off and taking off the rest of his jello-covered clothes (more like scraping them off), I sat him up in the back seat and buckled him in. His right arm hit Betty's fender and it made a loud clunk. I lifted his arm and put it on his lap. It felt heavy to me.

I cringed at the thought of my upholstery getting smeared with the goo, but it couldn’t be helped. With most of his clothes and the goo wiped away, he was completely naked. He looked somewhat sexy, though I still thought he was too… male.

I checked his back, arms and legs and, amazingly, there seemed to be no cuts from my moving him. I went to my car’s storage compartment and opened my emergency overnighter. I was glad that I always had several changes of clothes in my car for last-minute trips or emergencies, and, oh boy, was this ever an emergency.

I got a jacket and a couple of the blouses, and used the tops to wipe Ron (and me) of the remaining gunk. I didn’t like doing this to my blouses, but I had no choice. At least the thought of shopping for replacements cheered me up a bit. I gently wiped his face with the softest part of my spare cotton top. As I wiped away the remaining bits of gelatin-like chunks, I couldn’t help but notice Ron’s delicate features. The line of his jaw, high and well-defined cheekbones, and the delicateness of his nose - why didn’t I notice them before? Together, these delicate features made him quite attractive. Well, as attractive as any guy could be for me.

After I made sure he was sitting comfortably (he was a big guy and I had a hard time getting him in) and was as clean as I could make him, I threw my soiled blouses away, put the jacket around him and buckled him up in a way where he could lie down. The oversized (for me) trench coat-style snow jacket was long enough but clearly a little too small for him.

I went to the driver’s side and got in. Incredibly, I still had my purse. I fished inside it and got my car keys. “Start, start, start, please…”

My little Betty started right up. “All right, girl…” I maneuvered as best I could around the rubble and, when we were clear, I stepped on the gas, screeching out of the place, but I was brought up short by a roadblock.

A soldier came around.

“Ma'am?” he said, “are you Ms Susan Blu?”

“Yes, I am. Listen, I have a friend who’s in a bad way. I need to get him to a hospital.”

The private peeked at the back seat and pulled out his radio. More soldiers ran past us. I guess the fight’s still going strong. “Sarge,” he said into the radio. “I have the subject. I’m here at the roadblock.”

“Which one of them do you have, soldier?”

“Umm, I think both of ‘em, Sarge. Though I’m not sure about Captain McKenzie.” He peered closer at Ron a little quizzically. “That is Captain McKenzie, right?” he asked me. I nodded. He clicked his radio again, “Yes, sir, it's the captain. Lady sez the captain’s injured.”

“I’ll be there in a second. Stay put, Private.”

The marine shrugged at me and put away his radio.

I looked back at Ron, and I was surprised at what I saw. The gunk had dried off and he was looking better. Lots better. Except that his hair was dry now, and was really shaggy, and was up to his shoulders. How come I didn't notice that before? Noticing how cramped he was in there, I decided to move the front seats forward and give him some more room.

“Miss?”

I turned back around and saw a sergeant had joined the soldier.

The sergeant had a black, leather-covered box with a strap, and he was pointing at Ron with it. The box emitted an electronic kind of whining, and I couldn’t help but giggle and think the thing was a bit Star Trek-y.

“So, Sergeant,” I said, giggling, “how are Ron’s ‘life signs?’”

The sarge decided to take the question seriously. “He actually seems fine, Miss, aside for a low metabolic rate and high-amplitude delta waves, which are indicative of fatigue and a sleeping state.”

“Huh?”

“He’s just tired, Miss, and he’s sleeping it off.”

I coulda told him that… But is he ok? What about getting zapped. And the goo? "I still think I should bring him to the hospital."

“No need for that, ma'am. I assure you." The sarge wiggled his black box. "Actually, we have orders to take you and the captain to Fort Lewis for a debrief,” he said, “but all our assets are committed to containing that… thing.” He gestured towards where we had just come from. “They’ll be equipped to check out the captain more thoroughly over at HQ, you know. But can you make your way to the fort by yourself?”

I wanted to tell him about the hair, but I had second thoughts. Besides making me sound nuts, it would have been pointless since he didn’t have anything or anyone that could help us here anyway. And what if it was all in my mind. “Umm, I have my car, but I don’t know where Fort Lewis is.”

He snapped his fingers at the private. “Give me that phone, soldier.”

The soldier handed him a white iPhone, and the sergeant tapped some stuff on it.

“Here,” he said, handing over the phone to me. “When you’re clear of this area and are near the freeway, turn on the navigation app and locate Fort Lewis. Fort Lewis is all the way in Tacoma, Washington State. HQ nixed air transport, so it's the highway. Just follow the directions. Clear?”

That was all the way on the other side of the country. They expect me to drive? Jesus. The least they could do was get us a flight, but maybe they knew something we didn't. “'Clear, Sarge.” I didn't know how to get there. Thank God there's an app. I didn't know that app was even available on the iPhone.

“Good deal. Now go, lady.” He slapped Betty on the roof, and stepped away.

I waved a small farewell and started to pull out. “Drive slow and regular until you're on the highway, all right?” he said. “Don’t attract attention to yourself.”

I nodded and waved again. “Let’s go, Betty,” I mumbled, and goosed her accelerator. The sound of machine guns and explosions faded as we got further and further away.

I looked at the man sitting in my back seat. Yup, my jacket clearly was too small for him. It was just large enough that it fitted around him snugly, but the edge reached barely below his tushy when it was supposed to be below his knees, but at least the sleeves were loose on him, and would reach his knuckles when you unfold the folded-style cuffs (or would have if I had put his arms in them). I felt myself blush as I reached back and tugged the jacket down as it had ridden up quite a bit.

Something must be wrong with Ron. He couldn’t have taken being zapped like that and come away unhurt regardless of what that sergeant's magic box said.

As we drove towards the toll gate, we encountered more military vehicles, ambulances and a couple of rescue trucks going the opposite direction, obviously to help ‘contain’ that statue-thing and help whoever needs helping. But one military Humvee broke away, turned around and crossed the grassy median to follow us. A couple of other cars did the same - a gunmetal-gray Volkswagen CC and a blue Shelby GT500 with a white racing stripe trailed the Humvee.

The Humvee accelerated and pulled up to my window. The soldier in the Humvee gestured for me to lower it.

“Major Lennox sent us, Ma'am!” the soldier yelled through the window, above the sound of the traffic and wind. “We’re to escort you to Fort Lewis!”

I nodded. “Those two behind you!” I yelled, and gestured. “They’re with you?”

“Yes, Ma'am,” the soldier replied. “The Major thought that civilian cars would get less attention, so he sent over a couple of Autobots to help!” He leaned back to listen to his driver. He nodded and turned back to me. “We’ll pull back just enough to make us less conspicuous!”

“We can’t fly instead of drive to wherever?”

“I’m afraid not, Ma’am. Decepticon surveillance can pick out planes very easily.” Damn.

“Those are Autobots?” I said, gesturing behind us. The soldier nodded. Autobots really are real. “Wow!”

The soldier grinned. “We’ll be about fifty feet behind you, Ma'am,” he yelled. I nodded, and the Humvee pulled back. The VW CC, however, raced forward and "took point," as Ron might have said. As soon as I got to the highway and was past the tollbooths, I turned the iPhone on. I activated the navigation app and found it already set for Fort Lewis. I peeled the double-backed tape someone had thoughtfully stuck on the back of the phone and mounted it as best I could on Betty’s dash.

- - - - -

Betty ran smoothly and impeccably. And with the smooth highway, I started losing track of time and was starting to get sleepy after what felt like days of driving. My leg was just on this side of cramping, and my butt felt like it was glued to the seat already.

Wanting to do something to keep me busy, I used Google on the iPhone and tried to locate this Fort Lewis, and found it just at the foot of Mt. Rainier. It was quite secluded as far as mountains went, judging by the map I was looking at. I clicked "directions" on the Google Maps-like app, and it said I could expect at least a travel time of between four to five more hours. I checked and I couldn't believe we've been driving for twelve hours! And I was starting to feel bone tired. I might nod off or something. I could have gone to a hospital that was closer, but I thought it best to go to this Fort Lewis instead. Well, at least much of that was via the highway. “But five more hours? Damn… wish the travel time’s shorter.”

Suddenly, the car sped up. “Hey!” In surprise, I inadvertently caused the car to swerve a bit. I tapped the brake, but nothing happened. “What’s wrong with my brakes? This ain’t a Prius! Slow down!” And the car slowed down to its previous speed.

“What?” I couldn’t understand what was happening. Maybe it was me. Maybe I WAS tired.

The iPhone rang. I tapped the phone and switched to speakerphone. “Yes? Who is this?”

“Ms Blu, this is Sergeant Boone. In the Humvee behind you? Thanks for turning on the phone. We noticed you suddenly speeded up. Anything wrong?”

If I said something was wrong, they might pull me over, and we’d lose more time.

“Umm, nothing. I made a mistake. I guess I'm feeling a bit tired and stepped on the gas a little too hard.”

“Well, there’s a rest stop coming up. Why don’t we pull over, rest up or grab a bite or something. Would you like someone to spell you?"

“I'd rather go on driving, but maybe we can at least top up Betty’s tank, and I can stretch my legs a bit.” (And have a bathroom break, too, I thought.)

“Betty?” the marine asked.

I giggled. “Sorry, that’s my pet name for my little car.”

“Oh. Right.” The Sergeant laughed. “Okay, right, Ms Blu - pull up at any rest stop you want. We’ll hang back so no one will suspect we’re together.”

“Okay, thanks.”

After a few minutes, I saw a sign illuminated in the lamplight. “Ahhh! There's a rest stop coming up. Time to pull over.”

As I said that, the right-turn signal light started blinking, and the car slowly made its way to the right lane. "Acknowledged, Miss," a voice said.

“What!” Where did that voice come from? I tried to move the steering wheel and get the car back onto the middle lanes, but the wheel wouldn’t budge.

“Well, Miss,” someone said, “you did say to pull over.”

“Huh?”

“You told me to pull over?”

“I said no such thing! Who are you, and how are you doing this?”

“But you did, Miss Susan,” the voice said, and then I heard a recording of me saying, “Ahhh, there's a rest stop. Time to pull over.”

I looked around the inside of the car. There must be some kind of microphone and speaker, but I couldn’t find any.

“Miss, if you need something to focus on, perhaps you should look at the radio.”

I looked at the dash. Right below the two center vents for the AC was the radio. It was running, but I didn’t remember turning it on. On the digital display, it said, in little LED letters, “Hello there.”

I screamed and let go of the steering wheel. I belatedly realized that people wouldn't be able to hear me unless they were close because my windows were closed. I also belatedly realized that the car didn’t swerve or anything even though I was stepping on the brake the whole time. Even as I realized this, the car was smoothly pulling up and parking beside the hi-test gas pump. I frantically pulled at the door handle but the door wouldn't budge.

I took stock and tried to quell my panic. I realized I was at their mercy, so I decided not to cause a scene until I figured out what to do.

“You did say you wanted to top up my tank?” The cover to Betty's tank popped open.

It was one of those fancy, twenty-four hour, full-serve attended gas stations in the style of the old fifties service stations. A kid in uniform coveralls came over. Something automatically rolled down my window.

“Fill ‘er up, Miss?” I wanted to say something to the kid, even something as simple as "help!" but I didn't. I must have nodded since the kid unhooked the pump, went to the side and stuck in the pump's nozzle.

I heard the ding-ding-ding of the pump as the tank filled up. As it did so, I tried to calm down. Whoever was talking, she had a pretty voice. She sounded European, perhaps a touch of a German accent. Pretty sexy, actually.

The kid seemed to have finished up because he had hooked the hose back up. Still on automatic, I looked at the pump meter. I reached for my purse and, instead of reaching for my credit card, I took out enough cash to cover the gas. I handed it to the attendant and waited for my receipt. As soon as the boy handed me my change and receipt, and before I could even turn the wheel or step on the gas myself, my little bug pulled out and smoothly got back into traffic.

“I suppose we are headed for that place that's in your phone's map?”

“Yes,” I said, intimidated and scared at the same time.

“Sit back, then, Miss Susan, and relax. I will get us there as quickly and safely as I can.”

“You’re kidding, right? How am I supposed to relax?”

The radio switched back on and started hunting for stations all on its own. It stopped at a nice easy-listening station playing a tune that I liked. The seat started reclining, making me jump again.

“Stop that!” I grabbed the steering wheel harder.

I’m sorry, Miss. I just wanted to help you relax.”

“Well, stop it, okay?”

“Okay.” The seat went back up and the radio switched off.

After about a minute of silence, I decided to start a conversation.

“Okay, let me get this straight,” I said, without preamble, “you’re telling me that you’re my car?”

“Indeed, Miss.”

“How’s that even possible?”

“I do not know, Miss. All I know is that I… became aware the moment you and your companion got in and left that... scene of destruction.”

“But that was just hours ago! In that case, how do you know me? Where are you, really?”

“Again, Miss Susan, I do not know. All I know is that I know you. Actually, I know a great deal about you.”

“I have to think about this,” I said, trying to play for time.

“That is all right, Miss. I will take care of the driving.”

“You do that.”

“Ummm, I will maintain control of the steering wheel, then?"

“Oh! Sorry…” It took an effort to let go of the steering wheel. And it felt real scary with no one holding the wheel and the car moving down the highway.

“Imagine yourself as a passenger, Miss, with someone else driving,” my car said. “I am sure you will feel better if you do. Think of me as someone else in the car. And you can still hold the wheel if you wish.”

“I’ll try. Though it’s difficult to do that. You’re my car, not a person, if that's even true. You don’t even have a name.”

“But I do, Miss.”

I thought a little bit. “Don’t tell me you really are named Betty.”

“It has been my name ever since you started calling me that.”

“Ummm. Okay.” After a moment, I asked, “do you like the name Betty?”

“I like it that you take care of me. I like it that you drive carefully. I like it that I am your car. Yes, Miss, I like it that my name is Betty. Just because it was you who gave it to me.”

That brought a smile to my face, but what she had implied was that she remembered the time before she became self-aware. It made me wonder how far back she remembered. Wait! Do I really believe I'm taking to my car?

I actually felt that my car was smiling, and somehow, I had started to think of the voice as my car Betty's voice. Or at least entertained the possibility that it could be. A friendly, polite sort of person, even. Though I was a little freaked out, still, I felt comfortable enough that I actually leaned the seat back a little and relaxed a bit. I did hold the wheel again, as ... Betty suggested. I couldn’t budge it, but it did give me the feeling of being in control a little bit.

I thought back to all that had happened up to now. And if it's true, then what happened to give my little car a mind of its own? It was so preposterous, but with Autobots in the world…

And all throughout the long trip, in between naps, we sort of got to know each other. And I guess I started really believing.
 
 
Three: Ron and His New Reality

I woke up, my mind hazy and my body weak. I raised my head a little and looked around. I was lying in the back seat of someone's car, naked by the feel of things, but covered with someone's jacket. It fit real well, actually, despite it not being mine (I usually have to buy shirts in triple-extra large, or get from the Big & Tall section), although it was a trifle short at the hem, and the stretchy fabric was just this side of being too tight. I wasn't too surprised, though - I was six-six, after all. Someone had clicked a seat belt over me, and I felt a vague sense of gratitude to that person for being so thoughtful. But where were my clothes?

I heard two women talking from the front seats. Fighting my light-headedness, I felt like I was waking up from a deep sleep, and struggled to wake myself up. I couldn't recall what happened, but as I slowly came back from sleep, it was useless trying to recall anything. So I tried to concentrate on the voices near me instead, maybe pick up more information that way. After a while, I was able to decipher the talk a little bit. Two women. And after a little while, I realized that one of them was Susan. That woke me up.

Feeling like my body weighed a ton, I nevertheless tried to sit up, ducking a little bit to avoid hitting the roof. I unclicked the seat belt, instinctively wiped my hair away from my face, straightened up slowly and looked around. I saw the cars on either side of us, the trees and a few buildings whizzing past. I looked forward and saw Susan at the wheel, but where was the other girl?

We occasionally passed underneath some green highway signs and, judging by how fast we passed them, Susan was driving at a pretty fast clip. I clutched the jacket closer around me and leaned forward, grabbing at Susan's seat back to steady me.

"Hey, Suzy-baby," I croaked almost right into her ear. "So, where we goin'?"

"Ahhh!" Susan screamed, and leaned away from me.

"Huh? What! What's wrong?"

"Who are you? Stay away!"

"Susan, it's me! What're you..."

"How'd you get in my car? I..."

"Susan? What's wrong? It's me!"

"Betty! Who is this? How'd she get in?"

The other girl I heard Susan talking to responded. "I don't know Miss Susan, but..."

"Susan!" I said. "It's me! What the hell's wrong with you?"

"Stay away, I said! I don't know you!"

"What?"

"Miss Susan," the other girl said. No one else was inside the car. She must be speaking from some two-way radio. "Your friend is not in the car anymore," she continued, "only this person."

"What! Where'd Ron go?"

"Dammit, Susan! I'm right here!"

"You're not Ron! Shut up!"

"What?"

Susan smacked me on the front of my shoulder to push me back to the rear. I fell backwards hard, the wind whooshing out of me. "Ow!"

She held what looked like a pepper sprayer on me as she kneeled on the driver's seat facing my direction.

"Susan! The car! Don't let go of the wheel!"

"Shut up!" I could see her hand with the pepper spray tremble. She was really scared. Somehow, the car kept on going straight. She looked at me, and then at the back seat. Keeping the pepper spray trained on me, she looked down at the back's footwall area, looking to see if someone was there.

"What have you done with Ron!"

"Dammit, Susan, it's me!"

"Hah! You crazy bitch. How can you be Ron?"

"I'm me! I'm Ron!" I gestured, thumping my chest emphatically.

Susan looked at me disbelievingly.

"Really," she said dryly, sarcastically.

I looked down at where she was looking, which was at my hand on my chest, and I noticed my hand. It was so skinny, and awfully white, not to mention the long nails shaped into light-pink almond ovals. And then I noticed how my chest looked and felt.

I then belatedly started paying attention to the sensation of the jacket on my skin. I looked down and pale-yellow, almost silver-colored hair obscured the periphery of my vision. I brought out my other hand from under the jacket that was covering me, and I brought the hair closer to my eyes. Long silvery-yellow hair... I was so confused.

I then lifted away the jacket covering me a little bit and peeked underneath.

I fainted.

- - - - -

I woke up again after what felt like days. And I was now sitting up and in the passenger's seat in front. It was pushed all the way back so I could have room. surprisingly, Susan's car was comparatively roomy.

I also noticed that the jacket that was draped over me before I was now wearing: my arms were now in the sleeves with the cuffs turned down, and it was zipped up. Though it was a bit tight, the fabric of the jacket stretched a bit, so it felt okay. And I noticed it emphasized my new breasts. Good God... But at least it was zipped up. That gave me a secure kind of feeling, even though the hem barely covered my ass. I tugged it down a bit.

I tried looking around but it was dark outside, the bright highway lampposts whizzing by at regular intervals. I saw Susan at the wheel looking at me, almost studying me. I smiled nervously at the attention, and gestured to the highway. "Pay attention to your driving, Suzy-Baby," I mumbled. I finally noticed: my voice...

She nodded but kept on looking. Oddly, though, I didn't care about her driving as much as I should have. Well, it's her car - who am I to tell her how to drive. And who cares if she wraps us around some lamppost? Why was it that I didn't care?

I looked at my hands. They were half-obscured by the sleeves, which extended almost to my knuckles. The cuffs seemed to have been unbuttoned and unfolded so that they were now long enough to reach past my knuckles. I pushed them back and marveled at my long and lithe fingers, soft, sleek, slim arms and strawberries-and-cream complexion.

I took a hank of hair and brought it in front of me. The platinum-blonde hair was so pale, it looked like it was silver, or maybe chrome would be more appropriate, given how... bright it was.

As I was feeling that soft hank of hair, I was looking at my other hand. It was so thin! I looked at the shiny, slightly pink nails and marveled at how precise they were shaped. They were very hard, too, like little chits of hard porcelain or thick acrylic plastic, and clear, shiny nail polish seemed to have been applied on them. I tapped them on the dashboard and heard the hard clicking of porcelain on linoleum.

"What are you doing," I heard that disembodied voice of Susan's phantom companion say.

"Nothing," I said. "Just passing the time."

I looked at Susan, who was still staring at me. "How different am I?" I asked.

"Very," she said. I could hear the awe, or whatever it was, in her voice. "You're sure you're Ron?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Watch the road, Suzy-baby."

Susan waved that away. "Let Betty take care of the driving," she said, and continued staring.

"Betty?"

"Betty, say 'hi' to Ron."

"Good evening, Captain McKenzie," the accented voice said. "I am Betty."

I nodded to myself. Yep, it's from the car. "So your name really is Betty, huh?" I said.

"Yes, it is. It has been ever since Miss Susan got me from the car dealer's lot."

"From what?"

"Ronnie," Susan interrupted. "Betty is the car. Believe it."

I looked at Susan. After a long while, I nodded. "I was gonna say, 'bullshit,' but I know it's probably true. Look at me, for God's sake, and that thing back at the restaurant... look at me..."

"Yes, Ronnie. Look at you..."

I shrugged. Reaching up, I flipped the sun visor down. I looked in the little vanity mirror in there and saw my face for the very first time.

Good God...

I saw my heart-shaped face. My almond-shaped eyes were like sparkling dark-blue pools of water in the middle of shiny white marble. The bright, platinum hair, the smooth strawberry-alabaster skin, the small, slightly-upturned nose, the startlingly-red lips framed by my oh-so-fair face...

"Good God," I said again, for the umpteenth time. And my voice! "Good God..."

"Ron? Ronnie? Dammit, don't faint on me now!"

At her sharp rebuke, I sort of snapped awake.

"Okay, okay," I said. "I'm fine." I looked down to escape the image in the mirror, and was confronted with my jacket and my pants-less condition.

Underneath the ladies' designer jacket, I could see the unmistakable outline of a pair of breasts.

"I got boobs," I said softly.

"Yep," Susan said. "Pretty ones, too, I think." I could hear the giggle in her voice.

I squeezed my eyes as I felt the sting of tears. "Boobies..." I whispered.

"Ronnie, don't," Susan said. "It'll be all right. Trust me." I was so ashamed that I couldn't stop crying. She reached over and held my left shoulder in a light, friendly grip. "It'll be okay."

"Sure it will, Susan," I agreed. But I couldn't stop the tears.

Susan unbuckled and reached over to hug me.

"We'll find out what happened, Ronnie. The people in Fort Lewis will know what to do." That gave me hope. At least something I could focus on. I did my best to put this aside for the moment, until I could understand it better. For a soldier like me, having a goal, a mission... okay, don't think about it for now. Focus on the mission.

"Fort Lewis?" I mumbled against Susan's shoulder. I need some more details.

"That's where we're headed. It's where we're going to get you some help, and to find out what this is all about." She told me everything that had happened since the restaurant, up to her encounter with Sergeant Boone.

"I hope they really can help us," I said, referring to the people in Fort Lewis. Like most of the people in the military who had some info about NEST, I knew that Fort Lewis was their sort-of base of operations.

Susan nodded. "It shouldn't be long now," she said. "Betty, how long?"

"We shall be there in less than an hour, Miss Susan," Betty responded.

"How are we doing for gas?"

"We have more than enough. Incredibly, we have only used up less than two percent of my tank."

"How much is that?"

"Under half a gallon. It seems my gas mileage has improved as well." I could hear a hint of pride in her voice.

"Why do you say that, Betty?"

"Well, that would mean my mileage is now about fifty-two times better. About nine hundred miles to the gallon. My exhaust emissions have also been reduced to zero."

Susan giggled. "Wow! That's incredible, Betty. We're gonna save a ton of money on gas."

"Better call the EPA," I mumbled against Susan's shoulder.

Susan giggled some more, pulled back and gave me a kiss. That felt wonderful.

"How do you feel?" she said.

"Physically? Pretty good, actually. Though a little light-headed."

"Low blood sugar, probably. You haven't eaten anything since lunch at the restaurant." She tried getting something from the back seat but I wasn't letting her go. She giggled, kissed me again and pushed me away a little bit so that she was able to reach for whatever was in the back.

"Betty and I stopped at a 7-Eleven an hour ago, and I got some snacks." She handed me a couple of large paper bags from the back and a Big Gulp from the car's drink holder. Smelling the food, my mouth started to water.

Susan sat back in the driver's seat and watched me in obvious delight as I inhaled the food. I don't know if it was hunger, but everything tasted so good! The texture of the fries was incredible - salty and crunchy, yet soft; the hotdogs were rubbery but filled with a taste that reminded me of the best beef casserole I ever tasted, and it contrasted so well with the pillow-like and subtly-sweet taste and feel of the bun. After finishing off the hotdog and fries, I made short work of the bag of Doritos and the two apples that were in the 7-Eleven bag, including Susan's half-finished Cheetos. The chips and the apples were both crunchy, but whereas the chips gave a feel of incredibly tasty bits of wood, after the initial crunch, the apples would transmute into something akin to a sweet and tangy bed of mush. I let out a moan that sounded like I was having incredible sex or something, which wasn't too far off the mark - it was like a taste orgasm or something. Susan was looking at me goggle-eyed.

I picked up the Big Gulp and sucked on the straw until there wasn't any liquid left in the big cup. It was like drinking at some effervescent fountain made of spicy-sweet crystals! And I never even thought you could taste crystals.

I gave a loud, long belch, and when I noticed Susan looking, I blushed in embarrassment.

"Ummm..." I said. Susan broke down and laughed. I love it when Susan's happy.

I licked the orange powder of the Doritos from my fingers. "Any more?" I said.

"Dearie, you finished off everything!" She laughed some more. "You were real hungry, huh?"

I shrugged. "I guess. Susan, it just tasted so good!"

"Well, rein in your appetite for a bit 'coz, according to this iPhone, we're almost there. Just twenty or so minutes away."

The iPhone screen changed - there was an incoming call.

"Yes, Sergeant Boone," Susan said after swiping the answer key. "What is it?"

"We're right near the mountain entrance, Miss Blu," a slightly tinny voice answered. "One of the Autobots will be leading us in. Be sure to follow him in."

"Right."

After a few minutes, the other Autobot following us - the blue Shelby Mustang GT500 - zoomed over and cut in in front of us. Susan, or rather, Betty, expertly followed the VW and the Mustang, and as the sun was rising, we drove into Fort Lewis.

At the gate, a big tank barrier lowered into the ground and allowed us to pass. I looked into the rearview and saw the Humvee. following us closely.

After a bit, the car led us into the entrance of a big rectangular building whose backside was buried into the side of the mountain. As soon as we cleared the entrance, big blast doors rumbled downwards and big, stadium-style lights clicked on.

The car led us to a big blue semi truck parked in the middle of the floor of what felt like nothing more than a big, empty high-vaulted airplane hangar. I knew my vehicle recognition book well enough to know that the semi was a blue Freightliner Argosy flat cab-over truck. It had a shiny blue-and-silver paint job that made it obvious this wasn't really used for hauling stuff. It seemed to be more of a showpiece or racing truck rather than a utility truck, which made it look out of place in a military camp. But then a Freightliner was out of place in a military camp regardless.

Betty pulled up near the truck. The Shelby and the coupe peeled away and drove up a concealed ramp, going who knows where. The truck left us and the people in the Humvee.

Susan looked at me. "What now?" she asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. "I guess we wait for someone to fetch us?"

People got out of the Humvee and went to us. Susan rolled her window down and spoke to the soldier standing outside her car door.

"What now, Sergeant Boone?" Susan asked.

The soldier saluted. "Yes, Ma'am. Ultra Magnus will be taking care of your debrief in a moment. Would you mind stepping out of the car?"

Susan and I looked at each other. I shrugged again, opened my door and stepped out. Susan did likewise.

As I stepped out, I was reminded I was naked (save for Susan's designer jacket) because the slick concrete floor was cold against my bare feet. Also, I got the feeling that I had gotten taller as well since I had more trouble getting out of the car.

I went around to Susan's side and I automatically reached for her hand. It felt inappropriate now, when it didn't before, but somehow it fit. "Old habits," I thought to myself. "Will I need to change those?"

We stood there together and looked to Sergeant Boone. His companion, a taller lanky fellow, was dressed in military fatigues just like him. Both held assault rifles in a loose carry-stance. The tall soldier gestured at me.

"I thought..."

"Shut up, you idiot," Boone replied almost angrily. "Just shut your trap."

The tall guy whistled.

"Stop embarrassing yourself and shut up, dammit!" Boone turned to face Susan. "Ummm, Ma'am, we just wanted to know that you're okay. We'll leave you now to give you some privacy, so you can have a private discussion with Ultra Magnus, but we'll be right over there if you should need anything." He pointed to a shadowy part of the big enclosed hangar, right against the wall.

"When is he coming down, then?"

"He's already here, Ma'am." He nodded towards the truck. He and his friend stepped back, saluted and went back to their vehicle. In a few moments, they had moved and parked their Humvee beyond the oval of light that was aimed down at us, and we could barely see their vehicle.

We belatedly noticed that there were two folding chairs and a desk placed in front of the truck, but no one was there.

"Wonder where this Ultra Magnus character is then," Susan said. "Let's check the truck."

I remembered the stories of my friend Bill. Major William Lennox, or "Wild Bill" to his army ranger friends, was one of the more active officers assigned to NEST and the Autobots, and he had told me some stories about them, a few of the stories were even about the famous Optimus Prime.

"Ummm, no need, Susan," I said. I pointed to the truck.

"Yeah," she said, misunderstanding my gesture "But apparently he doesn't want to come out. Let's check inside the cab."

Before I could answer, the sound of gears and electric motors reverberated in the enclosed space, and we saw the big truck start to change - hidden panels on the semi opened and closed, and big metal components folded out of hidden compartments.

Susan shrieked and clutched at me. Instinctively, I grabbed her, shielding her with my body.

But in moments, the weird sound of gears stopped. The truck had re-formed into the figure of a big, robotic man in blue wearing a blue helmet.

Susan looked at the big humanoid robot, as slack-jawed and dumbfounded as me.

"Greetings," the big robot rumbled. "My name is Ultra Magnus. I am the leader of the Autobots."

I looked up and saw how tall he was. He stood at least three stories tall, his helmet almost scraping the ceiling. The smokestacks had relocated over to his arms and shoulders. The tall stacks emphasized every move of his arms, and it didn't seem to bother or hinder him. In fact, despite the blockiness of the robotic body, his movements were fluid and natural.

"Umm, hiya," Susan said, and waved a little awkwardly.

So this was the great Ultra Magnus. He didn't disappoint - he was tall and powerful looking, and exuded an air of authority that made one want to trust him. I had this impression that I wasn't really looking at a robot but at a person. A person in a robot suit, perhaps, but a person nevertheless. I wanted to get closer to examine him.

As I moved forward, Susan pulled me back by my hand. "I just wanted to take a look," I said.

"It's all right, young lady," Ultra Magnus said. "Do not be afraid. I mean no harm."

"Are you sure?" Susan joked.

"Susan!" I exclaimed and squeezed her hand for emphasis. "Be good."

"Ow! That hurt."

I ignored her. "I apologize for my friend, sir. It's the first time for us to meet an, ah, Autobot... ummm, face to face... Sir..."

"No need to apologize for Miss Blu, young lady. I was told of what she has gone through today. But I am at a loss as to who you are. We were actually expecting someone else to accompany Miss Blu."

"I'm Detective Ron McKenzie, sir." I saluted crisply, although I had a suspicion that I looked ridiculous in a jacket and no pants. "Metropolitan PD. I used to be a captain in the Marines and worked with Major Bill Lennox."

"Major Lennox is a good friend of Optimus Prime and myself. I know him well."

"Optimus Prime?"

"He was the leader of the Autobots, but he had to... leave. With the Autobots' consent, I assumed leadership. We all miss him." His sadness came through his voice.

"But I do remember all of the... adventures we had with the major."

I grinned at that, recalling all the stupid things he used to do, and sometimes even involving me in them.

"But I am confused. I was told that Captain McKenzie was a male human..."

I looked down and did not know what to say. I could understand why I was embarrassed, but I felt ashamed as well... Why?

"No, I'm Ron McKenzie, sir."

"Are you..."

Susan squeezed my hand. I looked at her and she smiled encouragingly at me, and leaned up to give me a kiss on the cheek.

"She is, Mr. Autobot. Trust me. We don't know what happened. But it's true. She IS Ron McKenzie."

"That is difficult to believe, Miss Blu," Ultra Magnus rumbled. He gestured at the chairs, and Susan and I sat down. Hyper-aware of my trouser-less condition, I crossed my legs at the ankles the way I saw many girls do. And I finally understood why they did it that way. The feel of my legs sliding against each other - it was different, to say the least.

Susan dragged her chair closer to me, which gave me a lot of comfort. I held her hand as we settled down. Ultra Magnus sat down on the cement but he still towered over us. Still, we appreciated the gesture.

"Betty," Susan called. Her little banana-yellow beetle started up and pulled up just beside her.

Susan patted her right front fender. "Thanks, honey," she said. Betty flashed her lights once and went into idle.

"What?" Ultra Magnus said, surprised. Of course, the Autobot didn't have much facial expression but the surprise in his voice at Betty's response to Susan was obvious. Susan shrugged.

Ultra Magnus stared at Betty. Betty's idling was very smooth and quiet, it was hardly audible. I tried to smell her exhaust and was surprised to find out that she didn't make any.

Ultra Magnus continued to look at Susan's car for a while, but he forced himself to look back at us. The questions he wanted to ask were obvious, but he didn't ask them. "You must have an interesting story to tell," he ended up saying. "I am listening."

So we told him everything that happened since the beginning, right from when Susan received the package from that "girl." We took turns telling him what had happened, and Ultra Magnus sat, seemingly very relaxed, except at certain points where he hunched forward and peered at us intently. (We didn't see much expression on the silvery metal robot face because of the goggles over his eyes, but we felt it.) He was very interested in the delivery girl, the little cube made of black volcanic rock that the Venus De Milo thing called her "treasure," and the transformation of Betty from a normal car to a self-aware vehicle, and what happened to me, of course.

"Can I see the rock the delivery person gave you?" Ultra Magnus asked.

Susan reached into her shirt's front pocket, but found the pocket torn off.

"Oh no," she said, suddenly remembering. "I forgot. I think I lost it. I tore my blouse when I caught it on Ron's shirt. Was it important?"

"How did you lose it, exactly?"

"I lost it back in the restaurant. I was afraid I would lose my bag so I kept it in my blouse pocket, but when I leaned over Ron as I was cleaning him of that goo, my blouse got caught on a piece of metal or something in Ronnie's shirt. I suppose it fell out when my pocket tore." She scratched her head. "Was it that important?" she repeated.

Ultra Magnus looked at us for a moment, shrugged and told us to continue with our story. So we did.

After our stories petered out, Ultra Magnus leaned back. "Well," he said. After a moment, he stood up and walked towards Betty.

Betty revved up and moved to our back.

"Miss Susan," Betty quavered. There was nervousness in her normally assured-sounding, posh, German-accented voice.

Susan stood up. "Hey!" she said, and protectively stood in front of Betty. "What're you doing?"

"Stand aside, Miss Blu," the big Autobot said. "I will not hurt your friend. I promise."

She put a protective hand on Betty's hood as the little Volkswagen cowered. At least it felt like she was cowering. It was slightly ridiculous - Betty was so much bigger than Susan, yet she went behind her for protection. Although I didn't think Ultra Magnus would hurt Susan or her car, I had to go with my lady. I stood as well to back Susan up.

Ultra Magnus held his hand up. "Stand down, you two. I will not hurt you or your friend. I swear. But I have to do something."

Susan and I looked at each other.

"Betty," Susan said. I think we can trust him."

"Are you sure, Miss Susan?"

"As sure as I can be, honey. Don't worry, I'll be here." She patted Betty's hood again.

Ultra Magnus came closer. "Don't be afraid, young one," Ultra Magnus said, and gently put his hand on top of her roof. After a bit, Ultra Magnus's goggled eyes lit up with a bright white light. It was obvious that he was doing something, but we were blown away when a 3-D image came out of Ultra Magnus's eyes and floated in the middle of the air.

"How did you do that?" I asked, amazed.

"All Autobots can create recordings of anything that happens around them that is within their sensors' range," Ultra Magnus responded.

"You mean Betty's an Autobot?"

"Perhaps. I am not sure yet."

It was like several video vignettes being run in reverse order - not literally in reverse, just scenes arranged in reverse chronological order. Scenes of how we got here were projected first - arriving in Fort Lewis, and then our long trip going to the fort, then it cut to a chest-high view of the road, and then it cut to another view of the inside of the car as seen from above. The video slowed at that point, and we could see Susan and the new me sitting in front chatting. The video flashed several vignettes back and we saw me sitting in the back, leaning forward and talking to Susan. Susan hit me on the shoulder and I fell back. After our video images talked some more, the recorded video showed me fainting. Unfortunately, there was no sound.

At that point, it flashed several scenes backward again until we saw me - the original me, lying back on the seat, sleeping, covered by Susan's jacket and belted down by the seat belts.

Ultra Magnus put his hand to the side of his helmet and the view changed to a close-up of my head and jacket-covered shoulders. At which point, the view moved forward - not as fast like in a fast-forward video, but still faster than normal.

In the three-D video, we could see my face change from my original face to the face I now had, like a transformation scene from some movie. My features changed like clay under the expert hand of some invisible sculptor, cheekbones and forehead changing as if being kneaded and then smoothened. In spite of myself, I was amazed - so this was what happened to me.

The shot changed to a close-up of my left hand sticking out from underneath the jacket. Like my face, my hand changed, this time the fingers looked like they were being pulled like taffy, changing my thick and knuckley hand to one with long, graceful and lissome fingers.

As I watched, I unconsciously touched that hand, feeling the narrow bones underneath and the softness of the skin.

The shot changed back to one of my face again. My features seemed to be done changing. As I watched, my naturally swarthy complexion started to lighten in patches. The blotchy color change seemed to start from below the neck up, implying that there were also changes that had happened lower down. And as soon as the color change smoothened out and completed my skin's transformation to a smoother, strawberries-and-cream complexion, the hair on my head, eyebrows and eyelashes started changing. My short wavy, black hair, which was longer than before became distinctly straighter and verrry much longer, and as it did, the color also changed - the change seeming to happen one random strand at a time. And in the time-lapse video, the change finished in less than a minute, changing me from a swarthy, masculine man with a crew cut-style haircut to a platinum-headed, fair-skinned Nordic beauty, with long, platinum lashes and pencil-thin barely-there eyebrows.

I felt a hand on my face - Susan was using her fingers to wipe away the wetness on my cheek. I took her hand and smiled at her a little sadly. She wiped the rest of my tears away with her other hand, and gave me a hug.

"So," Ultra Magnus said softly and not unkindly, "you are indeed Ronald Charles McKenzie."

"Can you turn it off?" Susan said.

"Of course." Ultra Magnus took his hand off Betty's roof and the floating pictures disappeared.

I swiped my hand across my eyes and sniffed back more tears. "Why did this happen to me?" I said. "How? Can it be reversed?"

"That is difficult to answer, Captain. I will need to ask some of my fellow Autobots to help determine that." He put his hand against his head again. "Rachet. Perceptor. I need you two in the encounter arena."

"Now, Magnus?" we heard a cultured, slightly-British-sounding Autobot voice say. Or maybe upper crust Boston. "I am in the middle of a project and..."

"Now, Perceptor," Ultra Magnus said, sounding a little exasperated.

"Of course, Ultra Magnus. I will be there in moments. Did you copy, Rachet?"

"Wilco, Perceptor," another Autobot replied. "Be there in less than five. I'm just coming in but I should be there shortly."

"Excellent," Ultra Magnus replied. "Be here as quickly as you can."

He then turned to us. "I am still unsure of Captain McKenzie's case," he said to us, "but it is clear what has happened to your car." He gestured to Betty, like you would a pet dog. "Betty, come here."

Betty revved her motor nervously, and nudged Susan's chair with her right fender. Susan patted her on her right headlight. "It's okay, Betty," Susan said. "He's okay. Go to Ultra Magnus."

The car pulled back and then slowly approached the big Autobot.

After she parked near him, Ultra Magnus leaned forward and looked her over. He was about to put his hand on her hood but Betty backed away sharply and revved her engine threateningly.

"Betty!" Susan exclaimed and stood up, clearly intending go to them. "Stop that!"

"It's all right, Miss Blu," Ultra Magnus said to Susan, and turned back to Betty. "Don't be afraid of me, young one. I am a friend. Come here."

After a bit, Betty inched close, and allowed Ultra Magnus to touch her.

"Do not be afraid, Betty. I am your friend." Ultra Magnus turned to us, but kept on patting and stroking Betty on her hood.

"Five or so years ago," Ultra Magnus said to us as he tried to calm Betty down, "we Autobots were involved with that incident in New York that I am sure you have heard about."

"The one that practically destroyed...?" Susan asked.

"Yes," he said.

I knew a little bit of it, and nodded to Susan, confirming what he said.

"The rumors were true, then - you guys were part of that. Wow..."

"Indeed. But that is not what I wanted I to talk about. The AllSpark - the source of our civilization - was destroyed. And a few years later, after our... misadventures that culminated in that incident in New York, two of our human friends, Sam Witwicky and Kae Banes, found a shard of the AllSpark, just like that fragment that was delivered to you and Captain McKenzie, and just like that larger fragment that facsimile of the Venus De Milo statue had." (He had made the same connection with the statue that Susan had.)

"So that was what that thing she was holding," I said. "But it was a cube, not some broken shard."

"Yes, indeed. From what we saw, and what you told us, that fragment is a much larger piece than any other fragment we have found. And because it was a cube, I can't help but think it's like an echo of the AllSpark."

"Echo?"

Ultra Magnus shook his head. "I will explain later."

"You have other pieces?"

"Yes. Small slivers and pieces only. They are all under secure lockdown at a secret installation. But it seems we missed two other fragments - yours and the statue's.

"In any case, our friend Sam found that even small pieces of the AllSpark can still do what the intact AllSpark was meant to do."

"Which is?"

"Primarily - to bring machines to life..."

"Huh?"

"My species, as you see, are essentially sentient robots. We do not dispute that. We are indeed robots - mechanisms designed to be tools. The original Autobot-type robots were non-sentient machines, built by our original makers on Cybertron to be all-purpose tools, much as you humans make your machines, while the original Decepticons were weapons and military equipment, such as your tanks and fighter planes. But by the mystical energy of the AllSpark, each of these mechanisms were transmuted into our ancestors - beings with independent minds and intelligence, even souls you might say, as well as the ability to transform. Later on through the millennia, through the AllSpark, our ancestors were able to convert more machines into our brethren. It is the AllSpark that made it possible to create our civilization of sentient mechanical beings.

"Through the AllSpark fragment, the biomechanical statue that you encountered let the AllSpark energy loose upon your vehicle, and though it intended to destroy it, it was unable to, and inadvertently created a new sentient mechanical."

"You're saying Betty is an Autobot?"

"Not necessarily an Autobot. A Cybertronian, to be sure. Betty will have to pick which side she is on, eventually, but there is no need to for now."

"How about the KSI robots? Aren't they alive?"

"Yes, but they are essentially deactivated Cybertronians given new robotic bodies made by KSI. The KSI robot, Galvatron, for example, was essentially a KSI robot imbued with Megatron's essence. Dr. Joshua Joyce called them zombies. Betty, on the other hand is truly a new entity, with a newly-born mind and essence."

Susan stood beside Betty. "Hear that, Betty? Now we know."

"Yes, Miss Susan," Betty responded.

"Can she change into a robot like you, Mr. Ultra Magnus?"

"I believe she can, Miss Blu," Ultra Magnus said. "But she will need to discover how on her own, just like any newly-born Cybertronian. This is a momentous time for us. Imagine - Betty is the first newly born, fully sentient and fully functioning mechanical in over a million years.

"That’s because, due to the millennia-long civil war between the Decepticons and the Autobots, the AllSpark was lost amongst the stars. The Decepticon known as Megatron stole the AllSpark and we and Megatron's Decepticon brethren have been looking for it ever since.

"A few years ago, we and the Decepticons traced the AllSpark to your world. It was a lucky break in our centuries-long search. Both we and the Decepticons arrived on your world at roughly the same time, searching for the AllSpark, and we waged war yet again for possession of the prize. But the AllSpark was lost to us again, this time permanently, as Optimus had decided to destroy it to deny the Decepticons access to it, and prevent them from creating an army that could subjugate your world as well as many others."

"But then..."

"Indeed, Captain. In doing so, Optimus had also condemned our race to eventual extinction. But we still believe that it was a small price to pay to halt the advance of the Decepticons. However..."

"However?"

"When Sam Witwicky, our first Human friend, showed us that there were still fragments of the AllSpark that still had the energy of life, we searched the entire area of New York - the place where the AllSpark was destroyed, and we were able to recover the piece that the Decepticons had, plus a few other pieces. Perceptor and our other Autobot scientists studied them, and eventually made some intriguing new discoveries. We now think that it is possible for us to create a new AllSpark from the fragments that we had."

"It's not easy to make one?"

Ultra Magnus seemed to stare at me, trying to get my measure.

"No, it's not."

Just then, another humanoid robot entered the big chamber, followed by a futuristic little orange car.
 
 
Four: Ron and The Newborn

The new robot's dimensions were closer to a human's but, even though it wasn't as enormous as Ultra Magnus, the new one was still more than twelve feet high, and it had what looked like a large telescope mounted on its left shoulder.

Though it was wearing a helmet as well, it wasn't wearing a mask or goggles, and we saw its robotic face looking at us in curiosity.

The little orange car also transformed, and turned into a robot, this time, a little Autobot with a matt-silver face. And when I say "little," I meant in comparison to the others - he was over eight feet tall. He turned and smiled at us. I couldn't escape the feeling that I was looking at a kid. Maybe because he was so small.

"Hi," he said to us, in a voice that sounded like an eight-year-old. "My name Wheelie."

"Good evening, Ultra Magnus," the other new arrival said, turning to the Autobot leader. "Sorry for being away. I was observing some anomalous readings in the east coast of the country. Curiously, the electromagnetic signals are very similar to the AllSpark signature. Let me show you."

He pulled out some sort of device from somewhere and fiddled with it.

As he was about to hand it over to Ultra Magnus, Ultra Magnus sighed a long-suffering sigh of exasperation, and gestured the device away.

"Later, Perceptor. Can't you see we have guests?"

Perceptor looked down and finally acknowledged us.

"Oh! I apologize. How rude of me. How do you do? I am Perceptor."

He extended a robotic hand towards us. We didn't know how to react, but Susan decided to accept the gesture.

"Hello," Susan said and reached up to shake his hand. "I'm Susan Blu." The Autobot's hand engulfed Susan's much smaller one, and they shook hands.

Following her lead, I shook his hand as well.

"Hi, I'm Detective-Lieutenant Ron McKenzie, Metropolitan Police."

"Glad to know you," he said. He glanced at the yellow car but dismissed it as just another non-sentient human-made car, and turned to Ultra Magnus.

"I'm sorry," Susan said. "I forgot to introduce you to our friend Betty. Betty? Say hello to Perceptor."

Betty maneuvered so that she could face the new robots.

"Good evening, sir," Betty said in her sexy, German-tinged accent. "I am Betty. I am Miss Susan's vehicle. I am a 2010-model Volkswagen hatchback New Beetle. I have a two-liter gasoline engine with a six-speed tiptronic transmission, and I am capable of..."

"Betty," Susan giggled, "I don't think Wheelie and Perceptor need to know all that." I looked up and I saw Perceptor looking shocked.

"Oh. I apologize..." Betty trailed off, sounding a little abashed.

"Magnus?" Perceptor asked.

"Perceptor," Ultra Magnus said, "these three had an encounter with a robotic entity..."

"Ultra Magnus!"

The big Autobot sighed.

"Yes, Perceptor?"

"That's a new Autobot!"

- - - - -

It turned out to be a long night. The news about Betty spread throughout the Autobot community in the base, and every robot that didn't have any immediate duties found some excuse to drop by and take a look at their newest sibling. Somehow, it reminded me of people fawning over a newborn baby.

Initially, Betty was intimidated by the attention from the Autobots but Susan and I felt that, towards the end, Betty started liking all the attention and didn't mind Perceptor doing some tests on her.

Perceptor, the Autobots' lead scientist and, later, Rachet, their "doctor" (I would have said "mechanic" but what he did was more akin to what a doctor does), did almost the same thing as Ultra Magnus - they put their hands on Betty's roof and concentrated. But with them, they did it faster, and didn't project any images. Later on, Rachet told me they were looking through her recordings, just like Ultra Magnus did, but didn't bother to project them.

Like mechanics with built-in pockets, Rachet and Perceptor produced devices that came from inside their robotic bodies, and used them to examine Betty thoroughly. The consensus was that she was indeed one of them, although a very young one, younger even than Wheelie. Only time would tell when she would be able to transform into her humanoid form and what that form would be exactly, or if her chameleon circuits would even allow her to transform into other mechanical guises other than her default car configuration and her humanoid form. But everyone was patient with Betty and her shy demeanor, and accommodated her in her current Volkswagen Beetle configuration.

Several military people also came over to debrief us, so we left Betty with the Autobots, and Susan and I went with the soldiers and went through our story again. It was hard for them to believe us, to say the least, so, to provide some corroborative evidence, we asked Ultra Magnus to provide a recording of the video he showed us. After a short wait, Perceptor came over and handed us a conventional computer memory stick/thumb drive.

The captain in charge got out a computer and they scanned through the videos and, in the end, they believed.

They called in more science-types, and the both of us went through very thorough examinations which included x-rays, ECGs, EKGs, skin samples, hair samples, tissue samples, blood samples, saliva samples, pee and poop samples and so many other samples I couldn't recall them taking. A stethoscope wasn't even used.

Eventually, they quit, and said that they will be back with the results of the tests, and will be doing more tests in the morning. I chuckled a little - it sounded like some kind of threat. Doctors are the same everywhere.

It was near four in the morning. Susan and I were too tired to keep awake and we decided to turn in. But before we did, we got a report back - we were a hundred percent okay, and though they couldn't explain why I was a girl now, they at least said that I was a completely normal and healthy female version of myself.

We went and searched out Betty, which wasn't too hard to do. We just followed the trail of Autobots. Eventually, we found her back in the encounter arena surrounded by a lot of robotic admirers and well-wishers.

We said our good nights to Betty and the others, and as we were about to be led into some hastily prepared rooms in another building, Betty insisted on accompanying us.

Since there were no accommodations in the transients' wing of the camp big enough for Betty, Susan and myself, Perceptor offered to put us up in one of his seldom-used labs. Sergeant Boone was able to get some foldable beds, pillows and other stuff, and a few soldiers set them up in Perceptor's hastily-cleared lab. Boone was even able to get us some clothes and toiletries. Susan kept on smiling and winking at me the whole time, and I couldn't understand why.

Susan and I thanked him and the other soldiers, said our goodnights and they and the Autobots left us.

As Boone and the others left and we were all alone, I turned to Susan.

"Okay," I said. "Tell me."

"Tell you what?" Susan giggled, sitting down on her foldout bed.

"Tell me why you kept winking at me."

"Moi? Winking at you? Whatever made you think I was winking at you?"

"Dammit, Susan!"

She laughed her beautiful laugh. "Okay, okay - keep your panties on."

I thought it ironic that she would say that, since I wasn't wearing any. Actually, all I had on was Susan's jacket, Susan's too-small stretchy running shorts which I had put on after the first hasty medical exam, flip-flops that someone found for me earlier, and the barrettes that Susan clipped to my temples earlier to keep my hair out of my eyes. Good thing Sergeant Boone left us all the clothes.

Hands on hips, I glared at her.

"It's just that someone has a crush on someone," Susan said in sing-song.

"Indeed," Betty said.

"What!"

"Honey, Sergeant Boone has it bad for you!"

"Indeed," Betty repeated.

"Stop saying 'indeed,' Betty!"

"Oho, but it's true," Susan chortled.

Seeing my angry, disbelieving face, she got up and steered me towards a long mirror attached to the side of the metal closet Sergeant Boone had wheeled in for us.

I looked at this statuesque Norse goddess reflected in the floor-length mirror in a kind of shock. I was beyond beautiful.

The first thing you noticed about the new me was that I was so tall. Later on, I would find that I was six feet-nine - three inches taller than my height when I was still a normal man. Though tall, my old height was still within the range of the normal human male. Now imagine some supermodel who was taller, and you can imagine the impact the new me had. True, my... dimensions were still within the realm of what was normal, but very, very, very rare for a girl. And, though I was tall, my dimensions still put me in the classic, sexy hourglass-supermodel-bombshell dimensions - only on a taller scale. From now on, the moment I walk in a room, I would be sure to get everyone's attention.

The next thing you would notice was my platinum, almost silver, hair, which was currently down to the top of my ass-cheeks. I moved my head from side to side and my hair seemed to wave like sparkling water on a beach, like each strand was chrome-plated. It looked artificial but you just knew it wasn't. My borrowed red barrettes highlighted my hair's color perfectly.

The next thing was my face. My gorgeous, ultra-feminine face, and the sultry, almond-shaped eyes just oozed sensuousness. Any expression I could make just couldn't take that away. I smiled experimentally, frowned, stuck my tongue out, raised my eyebrows and did everything else I could think of, and I looked sexy no matter what expression I tried. Just for the heck of it, I tried looking deliberately sexy, and the smoldering sex-charged expression I made just multiplied the sexy-factor a hundredfold. With just one glance, I had the power to weaken the knees of any red-blooded man (I’m exaggerating, of course... well, at least I think I’m exaggerating...).

Thing was, my face looked familiar. I just couldn't place it, and it really bothered me that I couldn't.

And then the rest of it: Like I said - supermodel. Susan's fitted designer jacket fit me like a tight glove, and followed the spectacular curves of my torso and what must be at least double-D bra-less boobies. I could just see the abbreviated shorts peeking below the jacket's hem, putting my smooth, sexy legs on display, my flawless strawberries-and-cream complexion just highlighting their shapeliness. The only wrong note was the pair of flip-flops I was wearing. If I should happen to have been wearing some heels or something like that, I'm sure I would have just been right at home on the cover of some fashion magazine.

Susan was right. Sergeant Boone didn't have a chance.

I looked back to Susan. She was grinning.

"I know, right?" she said. "I've been having a hard time trying not to jump your bones since I first saw you as a girl. You're unbelievable, Ronnie."

"Ronnie," I thought. "Guess that fits now... Guess I should get used to it."

Susan thought I was sexy. I was glad that she finally thought of me in that way now, but I was angry that I had to be turned into a girl for that to happen. I wasn't angry with Susan - I couldn't imagine myself being angry with her. I was angry in general - angry at fate, perhaps, but mostly angry with the walking Venus De Milo that turned me into this... female.

I turned back to my reflection and continued to examine myself more closely. I leaned forward and looked at my face a little closer. My new face looked very familiar but I felt so frustrated that I still couldn't place from where. I wracked my brain but I really couldn't. I then suddenly had another question. If this face I was wearing was indeed of someone I had met before, then why did I look like her anyway?

I took a peek at Susan and saw she was busy rooting around in Betty's storage compartment. While she was preoccupied, I decided to get a full view - I unzipped the jacket, took it off and dropped it on the floor, and kicked away my flip-flops. And, except for the too-tight short shorts, there was the new me in the mirror, in my full feminine glory. Even I was gob smacked.

My curves were perfection, but that was just my own personal opinion. And, looking at me in full frontal, I looked even more familiar.

I only realized that Susan was beside me when I felt her arm slip around my waist.

"Ohmigod, Ronnie," she whispered reverently. "You're incredible."

"I can't believe it, Susan."

Susan started rubbing her hands along my flanks and I couldn't stop from shivering.

"Susan," I said hoarsely.

"Yes?"

"Please, Susan. Let's not do this. I'm not ready..."

Susan looked a bit perplexed. My need for some kind of sexual release was probably very obvious.

"But..."

"Please," I repeated hoarsely, on the verge of tears.

Susan met my gaze in the mirror. She relented.

"All right, honey," she said. "I won't rush things. I can wait until you're more comfortable as the new you." She reached up, pulled my head down gently, gave me a chaste kiss on the lips, and used a tissue to wipe my face. I only fully realized then that I was indeed crying.

She then walked away from me and went to her cot. On it was a large overnighter, which I'm sure she got from Betty's storage compartment.

She started rummaging through it, got out a fresh, slightly crushed box of tissues and handed it to me. She then got some fresh clothes for herself, walked to my cot, which was next to hers, and went thought the articles of clothing that Sergeant Boone had left.

She walked back to me and handed me some clothes - a plain, short-sleeved cotton crew tee, gray sweatpants, a bra, cotton panties, white socks and brand-new tennis sneakers. She also included two large terrycloth towels and some toiletries.

"Let's go take a shower and then let's get some sleep," she said. "There's still all of tomorrow."

I nodded mutely, still crying.

"Oh, Ronnie," she said, and touched my face. "Don't cry. I promise you we'll figure this out."

She took my hand and we went in search of a shower.
 
 
Five: Susan In The Showers

Taking a shower never felt better. It was almost forty-eight hours since that fake UPS girl went to my office to deliver that piece of volcanic rock; since that disaster at the restaurant where I was almost killed; since Ron was transformed into Ronnie.

I haven't had sleep since then, except for catnaps on the long highway drive to Tacoma. Boy, was I beat. Now we're here in a military outpost on the other side of the country, surrounded by giant mechanical aliens, with my car turned into a self-aware robot, and my friend Ron changed into an incredibly hot girl. A lot of stuff had certainly happened.

As I soaped up and washed away the dirt and grime of the past couple of days, and as the hot water soothed the stiffness, tiredness and soreness right out of my body, I couldn't stop thinking of Ron - the new Ron. Ronnie. I had just told her that I've been having a hard time trying not to jump her bones since I first saw her as a girl, and it was true. I couldn't stop wishing that she was beside me in the shower right now, and imagining she was the one soaping me down, and I was doing the same thing to her.

Ronnie and I had had to walk a little bit to another building to find some showers since the building we were in was designed mostly for the Autobots, and therefore didn't have many amenities for humans. We did have a small lavatory in our new room, but no shower.

Since this building was a fairly old one, the women’s showers it had were designed like old-fashioned communal showers - just shower heads in a bare, tiled room, almost like the men's gym showers I saw in movies - no privacy at all.

I wasn't shy at all about such things and didn't mind showering this way, but Ronnie, in her new girl's body, was extremely shy. She was turned away from me as she took her shower. I tried not to make her more uncomfortable and didn't look her way, but I couldn't help sneak frequent peeks. Even from the back, she was spectacular. She was so tall that her head was actually higher than the showerhead, and she had to stoop to wash her hair. Her tush was the best looking one I've ever seen, her wet hair flowing across her back and almost touching the tops of her asscheecks. I was so distracted I had a hard time paying attention to my own shower. She was so hot.

A few minutes later, she was almost done. I hurried through my own shower and we finished at the same time. Once done, I patted myself down and rubbed my hair as dry as I could. I then wrapped my torso in the spare towel I brought and turned around.

Ron had finished drying as well, and she mimicked me, wrapping herself in a towel, too, even though she didn't quite know how. (I couldn't help notice that the towel was too small for her - the bottom edge barely covered her crotch. Ohmigod...)

"Here," I said, and approached her. I tucked in the corner of her towel properly so it wouldn't fall off. "There!"

By accident, my hand brushed her long hair, and I noticed it wasn't wet. I took a handful of the soft, silver-gold locks to confirm, and her hair was indeed dry.

"You didn't wash your hair?" I asked, even though I saw she did.

"I did," she responded. "I even used the shampoo you gave. Why?"

I sniffed her hair and smelled my shampoo. So she did wash it. "Well, you hair is completely dry now."

"I guess they have pretty absorbent towels here."

I shrugged the matter away and took her hand. "C'mon, let's get dressed." We walked over to the adjacent locker area and started to get dressed.

With my back turned, I put on my fresh underwear, slipped on the yoga pants and long-sleeved cotton Henley I picked from what I had in my overnighter, and slipped on the brand-new sneakers that I bought a few weeks ago and kept in the trunk. I was not in the least bit embarrassed that Ronnie was around. Actually, I was showing off a bit - I felt like a naughty little exhibitionist. I combed my hair free of snags, clipped it back into a high ponytail and turned to Ronnie.

Ronnie was almost done dressing as well. She had the sweatpants and panties on but she had to make do with the flop-flops again since the shoes they left her were too small. She had the bra on but she hadn't hooked it up in the back yet.

"Susan, can you help me with this?" she asked plaintively. "I can't reach behind me." She was blushing furiously.

I made an effort not to giggle and made her sit down so I could reach. I extended the straps and adjusted them as best I could. When it was the best fit I could make it, I tried using the last pair of hooks and hooked up the bra.

"Okay," I said, "turn around and let's see how they fit you."

She stood and turned. The band fit but the straps were clearly cutting into her shoulders, and the cups were definitely too small.

"Susan," Ronnie said, "I haven't worn bras before, but these really feel very uncomfortable..." She was almost beet red from embarrassment.

"No wonder," I said. "Those are clearly too small for you. Better take 'em off, Ronnie. I'm afraid you have to go bra-less until we can get you a pair in the right size."

She looked at me and I had to shrug as if to say, "it's up to you, girl."

She looked down at the tile floor, and after a bit, she shrugged out of the bra. She grabbed the crew tee and slipped it on fast. Poor Ronnie. She really was trying.

She stood up and held the bra out to me. I took it but couldn't take my eyes off her. The tee was a little too small for her as well, and was so tight it was like it was a painted-on baby tee. I gulped. Her bra-less condition was obvious and my eyes were almost falling out of their sockets as I took in her sexiness.

I shook myself out of it. To distract myself from my not-so-innocent thoughts, I made her sit down, brought out my brush and started brushing her hair. I found her hair quite fine but very thick and full, and, surprisingly, her hair combed out real easily, with nary a tangle. I clipped her hair back at the temples with the barrettes I lent her before, and pulled her up. I held my hand out to her and, with Ron carrying all our stuff, we walked back to our room in the other building.

Betty was patiently waiting, and I gave her a pat on her bonnet when we got in.

"Hey, Betty," I said.

"Did you and the captain have a good shower, Miss Susan?" Betty said.

"Very refreshing, Betty, thank you."

"Perceptor gave me the remote control frequency for the room. Just let me know if you want the lights dimmed or the air-conditioning turned up."

I laid my cheek against her driver-side window in lieu of a hug.

"Thank you, dear."

I went to my overnighter again, rummaged through it and found my little traveling sewing kit, a pad and a pen.

"Listen," I said to Ron, "I think we need to get your measurements and get you some proper clothes. You can't keep on wearing..." I gestured at her outfit.

Ron looked down at herself. She looked back at me and nodded emphatically. I giggled.

"Stand up?"

Ron obliged and I used the tape measure from my sewing kit to get her measurements (I made an effort to keep things totally platonic, of course) - which included her height, shoulder width, neck size and height, arm length (elbow to wrist and shoulder to wrist), chest and bra size, inseam, torso length (from the base of the neck to the base of the spine), pant length (base of the spine to the pants' cuff), rise length (from the middle of the back, over the crotch and to the bellybutton), crotch depth (from the seat to the waist while sitting down), waist, hips, thighs, leg, calf and thigh length, foot size, shoulder-to-floor and all the other essentials for picking out ready-to-wear stuff as well as custom-tailored bespoke clothes. I knew my obsession for clothes would come in handy eventually. She blushed as I took her measurements, and more so when I measured her rise length, crotch depth and other things. Several times I had to ask her to sit so I could properly take shoulder, neck, arm measurements et cetera. She is awfully tall for a girl. Actually, she is awfully tall even for a guy.

"You're very good at this," Ronnie said.

"Occupational hazard for people who work in TV," I said. "It comes from needing to look good all the time." That sounded plausible and made me sound not at all obsessive...

I looked over the figures I've been jotting down. "So, here's what I got - you're six feet nine inches tall exactly, your measurements are 47-30-47, a 40G bra, and your shoe size is a ladies' size eighteen. I also got other measurements to help in picking out dresses." I didn't bother to tell her what the other measurements were anymore, since they were really only useful to a dressmaker or a tailor.

"Ummm, are my measurements okay?"

I giggled.

"I mean," Ron said, "Aren't 40G boobs and size eighteen shoes pretty big?"

I giggled again. "Well, yes, I suppose so. But you ARE a six-foot-nine girl. I know no other girl as tall as you."

But her question did start me asking the same thing. 40G's ARE pretty big. Gigantic, actually.

"Lemme do some math here," I said.

Using the pen and paper in my hand, I started calculating. Let's see... if Ron had 34" hips instead of 47"... 47 is about 1.38 times larger than 34... So assume the same thing for everything else... that gives her a waist that's 22" and...

"What're you doing, Susan?" Ron asked.

"Hold on, dear, I'm almost done."

"Susan?"

"There," I said in satisfaction. "Assuming you weren't as big as you are now, say, you had 34" hips instead of 47", and we cut all your sizes down by the same ratio, you'd be about 5'7", with a 34-22-34 figure, 30D boobies and size eight shoes."

Her eyes went all big and round. "Wow..."

I giggled again. She clearly didn't know how spectacular her measurements were, and it took this small math exercise to bring it home. "Given your height," I said, "your measurements are perfect. Supermodel-perfect, in fact, except for your stripper-sized boobies, heehee. And your feet are quite appropriate for your height. Lemme call a friend and see if she can set you up with some clothes."

While Ronnie got ready for bed, I stepped out of the room and gave my friend Pat, who works for one of the fashion houses in New York, a call. It was just a little before eight in the morning there, and I caught her in the middle of her commute.

She was my unofficial fashion consultant and buyer that my network had put on retainer for me as well as for some of the other TV people I worked with, and I relayed to her my problem.

"Well, going by her measurements," Pat said, "she sounds like one incredible-looking lady. But it'll be difficult to shop for her. I don't even know where to find 40G bras!"

"Oh!" I exclaimed, "I forgot to mention that she's a platinum-blonde with hair down to her butt, and extremely fair, a heart-shaped face, big blue eyes and a cute nose. Extremely gorgeous." I giggled. Worried that she overheard me, and that she might be embarrassed, I looked back to Ronnie, but she was already in bed and it looked like she was already asleep. Thank goodness.

"Good grief! Well, that is something else," Pat said.

"Anything else you need? More measurements?"

"Well, I have everything I need for now, I think. But one of these days, she'll have to come in for a proper fitting. Anything in particular I should watch for?"

"Well, like I said, she lost all her luggage, so she'll need everything - underwear, et cetera - the works. Let's play it safe and set her up with enough outfits for maybe a couple of weeks or so. A couple of sophisticated outfits - high-end fashionista-type stuff, but the rest being chic but casual and serviceable, maybe a dozen outfits."

Pat whistled. "Couture and casual? For a couple of weeks? It's like you're creating a whole wardrobe for her from scratch. AND in her size! That'll be expensive, Suzy darlin'... Makeup?" she said.

"Sure, makeup. Perfume, too. But put in a bunch of samplers so we can allow her to pick a scent of her own. Accessories and jewelry as well. Nothing real, of course but tasteful accessories and costume jewelry from your stash of replicas. I know, I know, but I don't mind - I'm not exactly poor. Put it on my personal account,'kay? Don't put it on the station's account. And be sure to include lots of casual stuff like I said, and I think she'd like a lot of pants as well, and maybe some good walking shoes, too. And some jeans and sneakers. But keep all of it high-end and tasteful."

Pat sighed. "Colors?"

"I trust you - I'll leave it up to you. Oh! Her eyes are bright, pale crystal blue, a very light shade, like they're glass, almost glowing. So make sure you complement that?"

"Wow. okay. When do you need the stuff?"

I bit my lip. "Today?"

"Susannn..."

"I know, I know! But it's an emergency, Pat. Ronnie's making do with crew-neck tees and jogging pants that are way too small for her. Please?"

Pat sighed. "Okay. I just arrived at the office, actually, so I can go over to the stockroom now and pick her up half a dozen outfits to tide her over for a week, if I can get any that're even remotely close to her measurements. Sonya's available for alterations, which, believe me, will be necessary. And I'll get the rest to you later. If I can find 'em in her sizes, like I said, so no guarantees. What's Ronnie's full name so I can put it on the shipping tag?"

"That's Detective Ronnie C. McKenzie, Metro PD. I'll get you the address to send it all to in a little bit."

"Okay. So that's R.C. McKenzie, Metropolitan Police Department? Charge to you?"

"Yes."

"'Kay. I'll wait for your text for the address. With her measurements, Suze, it'll be tough. And expensive."

"That's okay, Pat. I'm not poor. Do what you can. I trust you. Byeee..."

I hung up and called my department's executive assistant. I told Bonnie I was taking an emergency leave for a few weeks, and to get together a portable one-man remote kit - the smallest rig they had, with lots of spare power packs, chargers, and lots of biiig memory cards. I told her to get a dozen outfits of mine together, and that I will contact her later and tell her where to send all of the stuff.

"Ohhh," Bonnie said, knowingly, assuming that I was on one of those secret trips as I chased one of my stories. "One of those 'emergency leaves,'" she giggled. "Are you aiming for another Emmy, Susan?"

I giggled with her, letting her think that. It was a good cover, and the highest ups won't be the least bit suspicious.

"Just do it, okay?" And I hung up. The advantage of being the boss... I brought out the little white iPhone I was given before, dialed Sergeant Boone's number, and hoped he would answer.

After a couple of rings, Sergeant Boone answered, voice crisp and clear.

"Good morning, Miss Blu, this is Sergeant Boone. How may I help you?"

I giggled. "Don't you ever sleep, Sergeant Boone?"

"I try to get six hours a day if I can," he said wryly.

"What's your first name, anyway, Sergeant Boone?"

"It's Darryl, ma'am."

"Okay, Darryl. Please call me Susan."

"Thank you, ma'am."

I sighed in exasperation and laughed a little. "Okay, Darryl. Have it your way. Anyway, the reason I am interrupting your sleep is because I need some help. I am having some stuff shipped over here, and I don't know how to go about it."

"What is it you're shipping over, ummm, Susan?"

"It's a little embarrassing, actually, Darryl. I'm actually having some clothes shipped over for Ronnie and myself. Plus some camera equipment for me."

Darryl was silent for a while. "Ummm, was there a problem with the clothes I left for Mizz McKenzie?"

"Oh, Darryl, we really appreciate the effort, but I'm afraid they were in the wrong sizes."

"Oh, no!"

"That's okay, Darryl. Anyway, I'm having some stuff delivered. Hope that's all right."

"I'll take care of it right away, ma'am."

I gave him Pat and Bonnie's contact information, and he said he'll take care of everything.

"Ummm, Susan?" Darryl said hesitantly. "Is it all right if I get Captain McKenzie's measurements? I'd like to replace the stuff I left with the correct ones."

"That's so kind of you, Darryl," I giggled, and relayed to him Ronnie's new sizes, at least the basics. Darryl whistled.

"Tell me about it," I said.

"Ma’am, one of the girls here used to be a seamstress. I think she can help."

"There is?" I exclaimed happily, and gave him all of the other measurements I took. "I am sure that will help," I said.

He dutifully noted the info down, said goodbye and hung up. He was so obvious I had to smile.

I turned off the iPhone and put it away. No need to call Bonnie or Pat anymore, but I did text them that someone from the army named Darryl Boone will be contacting them. Before going to bed, I gave Betty a pat on her bonnet and said good night. I went over to Ronnie. She had the covers over her chest, and was sleeping soundly. I couldn't help it - I leaned down and gave her a kiss on her cheek. I could clearly smell my shampoo and soap, but other than that, I smelled her own unique scent, which was like a mix of strawberries, cream, baby powder, musk, and a unique scent that was all her. The mix of scents was very subtle, actually, but unmistakable. I breathed it in, sighed, gave her another kiss, and went to sleep.

I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Several hours later, I found myself being gently shaken awake by the shoulder.

"Hey, Suzy-baby," A gentle feminine voice said. "Wake up."

I opened my eyes and was greeted by Ronnie's beautiful, smiling face floating over me.

"Hello, my love," I said sleepily, and her face lit up like the morning sun.

"Hey there, Suzy-baby," she said.

I gave her a small kiss on the lips and sat up.

"What time is it?" I asked and stretched.

"Twelve noon, I think." She handed me a sealed envelope. It had the name "Susan" on it.

It was from Pat. In it, she said she was amazed that barely an hour after my call, a bunch of soldiers came by to pick up my order, so she hurried up and got together everything. She had trouble looking for the stuff I asked for, though, but she was able to get some, and had them altered in time. She was extremely curious about what I was doing, and asked if she can meet Ronnie, but she said she'd just wait for me to tell her when I was ready. Good old, Pat. I knew I could count on her, and her discretion.

There was another note, this time from Bonnie, and my travel suitcase from my office.

I finished reading and looked up at Ronnie. She seemed totally wide-awake, hair well combed, and she was dressed casually in a crisp, white, long-sleeved button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up (and I could tell she was wearing a bra, too), tucked into straight-cut blue jeans, and tennis shoes. Casual and totally gorgeous.

"Look!" Ronnie said, and did a little pirouette in front of me.

"You look good, Ronnie."

Ronnie smiled. "Sergeant Boone got me new clothes, and they all fit this time." She giggled.

"What?"

"I managed to put my bra on all by myself, too," she grinned and giggled again.

I giggled, too. "Well, good for you. Does it fit better?"

"Yes. Sergeant Boone did a good job with the sizes. He said that he had to get some of the other clothes in unisex styles, though."

I got up, gave her another kiss, got some fresh clothes for myself, gave Betty a good morning kiss on her hood, and went to the lavatory in the adjoining room. No shower but that was okay - I just had a shower a few hours ago, after all.

After my morning routine, I went back and found Ronnie surrounded by soldiers. She was easy to spot - she stood at least a head taller than anyone in there. I shouldered my way through the admiring throng and stood by Ronnie. I huffed and shooed the men out. I wondered at my actions - I was acting like some overprotective, jealous girlfriend.

Darryl stayed, along with several cardboard boxes and a black transport case - the kind used to ship electronic equipment. Darryl pointed out the boxes. "We had crews at the locations you gave," he said, "and as soon as the stuff was ready, we had them shipped via priority military transport. They arrived a while ago.

"I'm sorry about the camera equipment, Susan," Darryl said. "Perceptor had to go through them and make slight modifications, to insure against tapping and unauthorized transmission."

I was expecting that so it wasn't that big of a deal.

"How about the other ones," I said, pointing at several cardboard boxes.

"Oh, Perceptor said they're safe. Clothes, I take it?"

"And other things that are close to a girl's heart," I giggled.

"Well, I wouldn't know anything about that. But there sure are a lot of them."

"What? This? This is just barely enough clothes for a week!"

"Well, whatever," he grinned and tipped a nonexistent hat to me. He turned to Ronnie. "Captain McKenzie - just give me a call if you need anything. Anything at all." He gave Ronnie a snappy salute. I had to hide my smile - Darryl was so obvious.

Ronnie took it seriously and answered in kind. "Thank you, Sergeant," she responded crisply.

"Chow's available at the mess in the next building, anytime you ladies want, ma'am, although lunch service ends at fourteen hundred."

"We'll be there before then. Thank you."

"There's a meeting at fourteen-thirty. It's happening in the encounter arena, where you first met Ultra Magnus. The base commander has requested that you and Ms Blu attend. The Secretary of Defense is going to be there as well and...," he looked Ronnie up and down. Later on I found out that, per military protocol, everyone had to be in dress blues.

Ron looked at him worriedly. "I take it..."

"Yes, Ma'am. Someone will be dropping off your uniforms later, in the proper sizes, I might add." He grinned.

"What's the meeting going to be about, Darryl?" I asked.

"I think it has something to do with that... entity you two encountered, Susan. Everyone in Cyber Command has heard about it. But that's just rumor - I don't really know."

"All right."

"Oh! Before I forget, Major Lennox wanted to make sure the captain got this." He handed Ronnie a couple of boxes the size of cigarette cartons. He saluted again and left.

Ronnie opened the boxes, and I saw what looked like little medals, Velcro-type patches and what I think military people call shoulder boards, each in their own little cellophane-covered package. She looked at them for a while. Eventually, she shook her head in some gesture of acceptance, picked out two of the pins, pinned them to her collar.

She handed me something. It was a round pin that looked like a blue-and-gold globe. Later, I would find that this was the insignia of the US military's semi-secret Cyber Command.

I thought it pretty, and aping Ron, I pinned it to my collar. "Thought you might like that," she smiled.

Ronnie put the boxes under her pillow, took my arm, and escorted me to the officers' mess hall. The mess was a fairly nondescript cafeteria-type place, and was deserted except for a few people in uniform having some last-minute chow. The food was okay, but Ronnie's company was better, although Ronnie wolfing down her food like a lumberjack, and getting at least four servings of everything detracted from it a little bit. Far from being turned off, however, I found it amazing that she can pack away so much food, and it still was funny. Ronnie smiled and allowed me to wipe her mouth. She told me her appetite seemed to be going down already.

"Sure," I smirked.

I tried not to be too obvious, but I think Ronnie could tell how I felt. I felt like such a hypocrite - I had told her before that I didn't have any feelings for her, but that was before she changed. And now that Ron is Ronnie...

It couldn't be that it was just because Ronnie was such a gorgeous girl (in fact, I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world). I don't think I'm that shallow. I just think that, when Ronnie was still a guy, I already had feelings for him. It was just that he wasn't a woman then, and I wasn't acknowledging it. And now that she's a woman, subconsciously I probably felt safe to acknowledge it, and her. And it doesn't hurt that she is so beautiful now. Heehee... listen to me - I sound just like my therapist.

Speaking of which, Ronnie was unfortunately someone I couldn't tell my therapist about, nor anyone else for that matter. Not to mention everything else I now know about Autobots, Decepticons, Cybertron and all that. Ultra Magnus and General Hawk, the base commander, made that abundantly clear to Ronnie and I. Ronnie took all this top-secret stuff as if they were matter-of-fact and nothing out of the ordinary - that keeping secrets was okay. This was totally against my journalistic sensibilities. But, to be a credit to Ronnie, I agreed as well. Besides, even though I was a newsperson, I was cognizant of the larger issues here, and understood the need for secrecy for the sake of the greater good. Despite that, the general's aide still made me sign what amounted to a sort-of nondisclosure agreement.

Ronnie and I talked a bit about what happened, and we went over everything we remembered, so in case we were asked by the Secretary of Defense or the President or something, we wouldn't miss any details. Between the both of us, she seemed to be the one with the better recall, recalling everything in minute detail: aside from turning into a girl, her memory seemed to have been improved as well. I told Ronnie I was prepared to tell the whole truth. She nodded at that in appreciation.

Seeing us two hot civilians on our own, some junior lieutenants came over to chat, but when they saw the little pins Ronnie had on her collar, they became stand-offish, started calling her Ma'am or Captain, and left right away.

I giggled - men are so one-track-minded. I saw Ronnie's somewhat nonplussed look. "She'll be okay," I thought, "once she realizes the impact she now has on others."

We finished up and headed to our room. When we got there, there was a wardrobe bag and a shoebox on Ronnie's bed, as well as a paper-wrapped bundle.

On the wardrobe bag was a tag that said "RC McKenzie, Captain - US Marine Corps, Fort Lewis Cyber Command."

Ronnie didn't move and just looked at the stuff on her bed. After a while, I saw the tears on her face.

"Ron?" I asked. I went to her and held her hand. "It's just a uniform, honey. You don't have to wear it."

She looked at me and smiled through her tears. It broke my heart. I reached up and hugged her.

"You're still you," I whispered to her. "You didn't lose anything. You might look a little different, but you're still you." I gave her a kiss on her cheek.

A little army sergeant knocked on the jamb of the open extra-large door of our room, and cleared her throat. "Excuse me, Captain," she said.

Both of us straightened up. I handed Ronnie a couple of tissues to blow her nose and wipe her eyes.

"Yes, sergeant?" Ronnie said.

She saluted. "I'm from the Supply Office, Ma'am. I have some stuff for you, which includes a couple of extra sets of uniforms, some battle fatigues and flak stuff, plus boots, pumps and several packs of sundries."

Ronnie nodded and the sergeant pushed in a small cart with all the stuff she mentioned. She went straight to the wardrobe-slash-locker inside the room (which I hadn't looked in yet) and started hanging up the stuff she brought, or just putting them inside.

"Captain?" she asked quietly as she hung up Ronnie's new clothes. "Would you need assistance in... getting dressed? I was told you have a meeting with the Secretary of Defense, and... well, dress blues, you know..."

I went to Ronnie. "Go ahead, Ronnie, she means well, and you do need the help."

Ronnie nodded. "Thank you, sergeant. If you don't mind..."

"Not at all, ma'am."

After hanging Ronnie's uniforms in the locker, she went straight to Ronnie's bed and unzipped the wardrobe bag.

"What's your name, dear?" I asked.

"Arlene, ma'am."

“Hi, Arlene. I’m Susan.”

“Good afternoon, Ma’am.” She said and we shook hands. She turned to Ronnie. “I think this is everything, Ma’am,” she said, and proffered a long-sleeved white blouse and a navy blue dress coat.

“Thank you, Sergeant,” Ronnie said, but didn’t make a move to take the clothes.

“Ma’am,” Arlene said quietly, almost gently. “We heard what you went through…”

“You did?”

She nodded. “Yes, Ma’am. Some of the guys in my unit were helping the scientist types yesterday, and they saw the videos of you. We’re sorry for what you had to go through, and we would like to help. I asked Sergeant Boone if I could bring your clothes myself so I could help you if you needed it." She hesitated a little bit, probably thinking that it might not be her place, but she reached out to take Ronnie's hand. "We take care of our own, Ma'am."

Ronnie became teary eyed again. “Thanks…”

I reached up and gave Ronnie a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll just be outside, Ronnie,” I said, thinking that she might not want to undress in front of me. I got a bunch of my clothes and gestured to Betty. “C’mon, Betty. Let’s leave Arlene alone with Ronnie so she help her get ready.”

I turned and gave Arlene a hug, and Betty and I left the room, closing the oversized door.
 
 
Six: Susan, With "RC" In Uniform

I got dressed in the Ladies one floor up. I had picked a business-like gray suit with a nice lemon-yellow blouse and business-like high-heeled pumps, and, after twenty minutes or so, I was ready. I got in Betty and we went back to our room. Driving up to one's room was still a novelty, but in a place as big as this, it's actually convenient. And it helps that Betty doesn't produce exhaust anymore.

At our door, I got out and knocked.

“Ronnie?” I called. “Are you ready?”

The little sergeant, Arlene, opened the extra-large door and ushered us in. As I stepped into our quarters and Betty rolled in, I saw Ronnie standing there in uniform. She still hadn't put on the dark-blue fitted coat but was already wearing the matching skirt and white blouse. She wore a red neck tab as opposed to a necktie, nude pantyhose and black leather pumps with what looked like three-inch heels. Arlene was helping Ronnie pin what I would later find out were Ronnie's ribbons onto her coat. They were mounted on what I found was called (what else) a ribbon mount. They were trying to pin it on her jacket's left chest. Given Ronnie’s impressive… build, the lines and darts sewn into the coat were making it difficult for them to find the best position for it. I couldn't help but giggle.

"I have a suggestion," I said, smiling.

"Yes, ma'am?" Arlene said.

"I think Ronnie should put the coat on, and while she has it on, you try and find the best position for that."

Ronnie nodded and shrugged the coat on. I had to say Ronnie looked real good with the full uniform on. Cute as a button but all official-like.

"There!" Arlene exclaimed when she had the ribbon mount pinned just right. She then pinned a nameplate on Ronnie's jacket on the other side. The shiny nameplate said "RC MCKENZIE."

"Okay, Ma'am, I'll just sew it on and you're all set."

Ronnie turned and looked at herself in the mirror. From her expression, I knew she liked how she looked. I know I did. She took the jacket off and gave it to Arlene, sat down on the bed and waited while Arlene did some quick stitching with a hand machine.

After a minute, Arlene returned it and Ronnie put it back on. She stood up straight and looked my way, smiling ruefully. "Guess I'm all set."

Arlene nodded at that. "Yes, you are, ma'am. I'll be going, then, Captain. Good luck."

"You know, after helping me get dressed, I think we're beyond calling each other 'Captain,' and 'Sergeant.' Don't you think so, Arlene?"

Arlene smiled merrily. "Okay, RC. At least when there're no other officers around. Alright?"

"Alright." Before Arlene left, Ronnie reached down and gave her a hug.

"Good luck, RC," Arlene said. She waved goodbye to me and left, pushing her now-empty cart.

"'RC,'" Ronnie mused. "Sounds kinda okay."

"Why RC? Don't you like 'Ronnie?'" I asked.

"I guess I want a fresh name to go with... everything else. 'Ronnie' is just too close to 'Ron.' And..." She looked at her reflection again. Different emotions flitted over her face, but it was mostly a kind of sadness. She looked at me. "I guess I'm not him anymore. You know?"

I nodded, understanding her a little. "You're still the same where it counts." I said, tapping my temple. "But whatever makes you feel better. Besides," I smiled, "I like it. RC... Sounds kinda cute." I reached up, spritzed her lightly behind the ears with one of the perfume samplers, dropped it on the bed and held my hand out to her. "Let's go, RC." Together, we went to our meeting arm-in-arm, with Betty following us silently.

- - - - -

We went over to the Encounter Arena and were pleasantly surprised to see it done up to look like an auditorium instead of the bare space we saw before - folding chairs were arranged in front of a hastily-assembled stage, with a podium on top of it. But the chairs were only on the left side of the arena - the right side was still empty.

The arena's lights were on, and I could see the entire cavernous hangar-like place. We were ushered to some seats at the edge of the group of chairs, near the empty space. This gave Betty space to park beside us.

Several military people, and some in civilian clothes, came in and took the seats around us. Ronnie, I mean RC, stood and saluted some of the new arrivals in uniform while some saluted her.

The reaction of the men to RC was typical, and we found ourselves in the middle of a bunch of them, all trying to get close to RC, and chat her up. Though they tried to hide it, the relatively few women that were there were clearly irritated by this. I was both irritated and amused myself. But if this is going to be typical, I told myself I better get used to it. It's not RC's fault that most men were like idiots around beautiful girls.

A bunch of flashy cars and trucks came in, Ultra Magnus in his semi truck form in the lead. They all made for the empty side of the arena and started to transform into their robotic forms. The odd whirring and whining that accompanied the Autobots' transformation was so distinctive, I would have recognized it anywhere.

As soon as the aliens were done transforming, all of them sat cross-legged on the bare concrete floor except for Ultra Magnus - Ultra Magnus walked to the side of the stage and stood waiting.

As we were getting settled, we saw a convoy of official-looking cars drive in. The convoy slowly made their way to the stage area, and they all parked at the back, except the lead car, which stopped beside Ultra Magnus. A man in uniform stepped out of the car's passenger seat, opened the back door and ushered out the Secretary of Defense, John Keller.

Ultra Magnus stooped down so he could shake hands with Secretary Keller - his enormous hand swallowing the secretary's, and stepped aside to allow him to climb up the stage.

All the military types stood as Keller took the stage. "Take your seat," he said and everyone sat.

"I apologize to everyone for having to make this announcement in this way," he said, "but there's an emergency now, one that we have to take care of. Anyway, let's get the preliminaries out of the way. Ultra Magnus - if you please, sir?"

Ultra Magnus nodded and put a robotic hand to the side of his helmet. A realistic, three-D floating image sprang up above, and behind, Keller. The images served as a background and counterpoint to what Keller spoke.

"I apologize to those who already know this," Keller began. "If you do, bear with me.

“More than eight years ago, Planet Earth was discovered by a race of aliens called the Cybertronians. To us humans, the Cybertronians looked like nothing more than robots. Huge, high-tech robots, to be sure, but just robots nevertheless. But in time, we learned that there's more to them than meets the eye. They are sentient beings, possessed of minds and consciousness like us. And we would learn that it was also the first wave of what would later become a continuous alien migration to our world."

Overhead, Keller's words were accompanied by images of Ultra Magnus and his friends, and images of Cybertron - their home world.

"Ultra Magnus and his companions call themselves Autobots, and they are the sworn enemies of the Decepticons. They have been engaged in a millennia-long civil war - a war that was waged over who would possess the AllSpark - an immense cube of ancient design, and whose origins remain unknown even to this day.

"It was the AllSpark that gave the Cybertronians independence, intellect and purpose - it is what gave them life. How it did so, no one knows."

The images showed an immense, dark cube shot through with lambent orange light, with various Cybertronians tending it as it spun lazily around in space.

"The Decepticons decided to possess it, and to use it to make more of their brethren and conquer the rest of Cybertron and, eventually, the rest of known space. And Autobots decided to oppose them." Images of war spun overhead, and we saw the robots fighting each other. Though there was no blood, the savagery of the battles were not lost to us.

"During this ages-long war, their world, Cybertron, was destroyed, and the AllSpark lost to the depths of space. But unknown to them and us, it had crash-landed on the Earth, this fact remaining unknown until eight years ago."

Images of a young man and a girl were flashed.

"Through a series of unforeseeable circumstances precipitated by these two young people, Mr. Sam Witwicky and Miss Mikaela Banes, the location of the AllSpark became known to the Autobots and Decepticons. And their long-dormant war to possess the AllSpark was resumed, with the Earth as background and humanity as unwitting bystanders."

Images continued to flash, this time of an Autobot-Decepticon war waged in the streets of New York.

"Rather than let the war continue, and perhaps allow the Decepticons to eventually possess the cube and enslave Humanity, Optimus Prime, the old leader of the Autobots, decided to destroy it. Though this doomed the Cybertronians to eventual extinction, Optimus believed it was the only way to ensure the end of their war.

"But despite this, the remaining Decepticons did not get the message that the war was over. Incursions into Earth space by rogue Decepticon forces continued, and the Autobots continued to defend the Earth us and, until the events of Chicago. Because of that, the alliance was terminated and Autobots and Decepticons became equally hunted. They were decimated, their numbers reduced to single digits. And then things changed yet again during the attack of the KSI-created robots in Hong Kong. And as a reaction to this, NEST was reactivated. General Lennox?"

A tall Marine officer walked onstage, saluted Keller and took the podium.

"I am William Lennox, US Marines." He nodded pleasantly to us.

"NEST stands for 'Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty,'" Lennox continued. "It is a special tactical military strike force of the U.N. specifically formed to work with and assist the Autobots in combatting the Decepticons, Galvatron, the KSI robots, and other extraterrestrial enemies.

"NEST operated alongside the Autobots for a few years until Chicago, and the political sentiments within the US changed. Because of these changed priorities and rising operational costs, it was decided for NEST to be disbanded. However, because of several other incidents that followed in the next few years, such as the incidents in the US, and those in Hong Kong with the KSI robots, America and the UN Security Council had another change of heart."

Lennox straightened. "I have been authorized to announce that NEST has again been formally reinstated, and I have been appointed as its new commander."

Several in the audience stood and applauded this. I looked to RC and she had stood as well.

Keller took the podium again.

"Thank you, General," Keller said as Lennox stepped back and stood behind Keller at parade rest. "And for those who didn't know," Keller added with a small smile, "yes, Bill was just recently promoted to General by the president."

"Based on instructions from the President," Keller continued, "and with the agreement of General Hawk and the Autobots, NEST's base of operations shall remain here in Fort Lewis.

"Roughly one fourth of Fort Lewis will be given over to NEST control, allowing NEST to be fully autonomous, to be made distinct and separate from the rest of the base, and to allow the Fort to continue on in its role as a training and logistics hub for the US Army and Marines without interference from NEST. More resources will be sent in the coming weeks, with the objective of making this unit the headquarters for the best defense this world will have against extra-terrestrial threats.

"NEST will be a dual command: General Lennox shall command the Human UN contingent as well as its base of operations, and the Autobot contingent shall, of course, be under Ultra Magnus. The General will announce the new organizational structure as soon as it is ready.

"Now!" he said, and took a deep breath. "I am afraid there is no time to get you all settled in. There is a new threat that we have identified, that necessitated moving NEST's reactivation forward. We are passing this problem on to NEST and we expect you to investigate and eliminate this threat as soon as possible."

New images replaced the current ones, and I recognized them - the demolished restaurant where Ron was zapped. We saw a contingent of marines firing their guns at something on the ground but were knocked down by whatever it was they were firing at.

The soldiers were flung backward and the Venus de Milo statue that we encountered stood up. There were several areas of her marble face and body that were cracked and oozing viscous, reddish fluid that looked just like motor oil. As she stood, new soldiers came up firing. But even as bullets continued to hit her and chip off parts of her marble-like skin, she ignored them and walked towards the direction of the camera. The video was cut when she threw a piece of concrete in the camera's direction.

"We don't know what it was, but we believe it was responsible for several incidents in eastern Virginia as well that resulted in more than a hundred deaths. And more recently, in the past month, it has been connected to five incidents in the DC area. We have labored to keep these incidents under wraps and minimize their impact in the media, intercepting news agencies and other news outlets before they could get anything over the airwaves and the internet."

"No wonder we didn't get wind of these 'incidents,'" I said to myself. I thought of the time when RC, then still Ronnie, giving my station that interview, and wondered if he was part of some sort of clampdown effort. I looked to her but she was just listening, and wasn't reacting in any guilty way to Keller's words. So I guess she wasn't part of it...

Keller nodded to Lennox, and he took over the briefing again.

"Originally," Lennox continued, "we had assumed that this was just another Decepticon faction causing mischief as usual, or perhaps it was Galvatron and his KSI robots, but it seemed that the Decepticons were actually the ones being targeted: the areas where the incidents occurred were known Decepticon hotspots or Decepticon home turf.

"We didn't understand why they were being targeted until a Decepticon Pretender visited Ms Susan Blu at her DC office." A video clip from a security camera was displayed and we saw my UPS delivery girl in the act of handing me a manila envelope.

"We have been able to track this particular Pretender off and on for a few weeks now but we kept losing it. When Miss Blu and Captain McKenzie contacted us, this brought it to my attention and we started keeping an eye on them in case it makes contact with them again. Captain? Miss Blu? Can you please stand?"

We stood up and noted everyone's curious but largely friendly looks. In the case of RC, they were more than just friendly. It was a bit of a relief when we got to sit down again.

Lennox continued. "There was indeed another contact the following day, but not by the Decepticons. It was by this." This time, the video showed the Venus de Milo thing as it stalked me through the rubble of the restaurant, and then being fired upon by the SWAT team that rescued me. "In that encounter, a large structure was leveled, and Miss Blu and the Captain nearly lost their lives. Local police lost two of their SWAT officers.

"The images you are seeing, by the way, are courtesy of Betty, Miss Blu's Cybertronian Volkswagen."

After the images faded, they were replaced by an electronic map of the forests around the West Virginia area (there was a legend in the corner of the picture).

"Now. The red dot that you see is that thing that attacked the Captain and Miss Blu. As to the other dots that are moving with it..."

The picture was replaced by very clear overhead video. I didn't know that was possible, but I suppose the military was using Autobot-enhanced surveillance satellite imaging.

"Could you please zoom in, sir?" Lennox asked Ultra Magnus, and we saw what appeared to be animated statues just like the Venus de Milo thing as well as what looked like small Autobots. "Small" is relative, of course -they looked to be the same proximate size as Venus de Milo, in other words, near human sized.

"The... lead entity is accompanied by thirty-one of these things. We don't know what they are, or where they're going, except that they are moving westward, and that they don't care what's in their way. They have already run through several communities, and many people have been hurt or killed already."

RC raised her hand. "Yes, Captain?" Lennox said.

RC stood up. "Sir, do we know their affiliation at all? Like insignias or uniforms, I mean - it might help identify their intent."

"I'm afraid not. We have done a thorough review of the images since we started tracking them, and we cannot find any Decepticon or Autobot holograms. In fact no insignia at all, or anything similar. And they do not conform to any Cybertron recognition patterns the Autobots have. All we do know is that they have gone through at least three forest communities already, and we have eighty-three confirmed fatalities and about a thousand injured.

"Regardless of their ultimate objectives, it is my intent to stop these... entities and prevent them from hurting any more civilians. And, whether or not these are Cybertronians, Ultra Magnus has committed the Autobots to assist us.

"We are putting together a covert strike team to intercept these things and try to find out what they are and what they want, but, regardless, the team's priority is to stop them. All right - ten hut!"

Everyone stood.

"All members of the Yellow Team are to stay and everyone else is dismissed."

As everyone started to file out, Lennox saluted the secretary and escorted him back to his limo.

A sergeant went to us and saluted RC.

"Captain," he said, "the general asked you and Miss Blu to stay behind as well." I wondered why. I looked at RC.

RC acknowledged the sergeant's salute, and shrugged at my unasked question.

As we watched the Secretary's motorcade leave, everyone, except for maybe thirty humans and fifteen Autobots, stayed.

Lennox walked down from the stage and, with Ultra Magnus following, went to our area. Those that remained also congregated around us. Introductions were made all around, and when Lennox and Ultra Magnus joined us, everyone stood to attention.

"At ease, people," Lennox said. "Settle down."

Following our lead, the humans remained standing around RC and I while the Autobots remained standing as well. Not that they could have fit in the chairs.

"So, Ron," Lennox went to RC to shake her hand. "You're looking good." Lennox had to look up - RC was at least half a head taller than him.

"Depends on your point of view, sir," RC smiled ruefully, "but thank you."

"I'm sorry that you had to go through that, but I can't say I'm not glad you're here."

"Thank you, sir. I'll do my best."

"Let's catch up later, okay?"

Lennox gave me a final friendly nod, and went forward and shook the others' hands or acknowledged salutes. Lennox's tone became serious. Even more so than during the briefing. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention." He made patting-down gestures and we all sat, us in the chairs and the Autobots on the bare cement.

"The situation is dire," he began, "and it is getting more dire by the hour. Casualties have been rising as the enemy continues to plow through more and more communities.

"As you know, it is important to keep as much of this under the people's radar and keep panic from spreading. But, pretty soon, that won't be possible. These things are going to hit their first city in about sixteen hours."

"It was quite difficult to ascertain their motivation for doing this," Ultra Magnus continued. "It seems so premeditated, even allowing for the possibility they're Decepticons. But General Lennox and I agree that part of the reason they are doing this is to draw you two out." He gestured to the both of us. "They are after your AllSpark fragment, Miss Blu - your 'treasure,' as the statue called it. Do you remember? The piece of black volcanic rock that pretender left you?"

"But I lost it," I said.

"The thing doesn't know that," Lennox said. "Anyway, you all heard my briefing so you know that you're up against what are probably Decepticons. Because of that, all of you will be issued large-caliber weapons loaded with high-temp magnesium sabot rounds." He held up one of the rounds. "These puppies generate temperatures in excess of six thousand degrees. So far these are the best things we have that can hurt the enemy, including what the Autobots have.

"Also, given the logistics of this operation," Lennox said, "Magnus will take command of this mission." Lennox then turned to me. "Ms Blu," he said, "you are a civilian, and I cannot give you orders, but we need you. We hope you will volunteer." He turned to Ultra Magnus. "I'm done. Magnus, the floor is yours."

Ultra Magnus nodded. "In about an hour, we shall be boarding Sky Lynx, who shall fly us to a field near the location of the enemy. By which time we expect them to be here." A large holographic map was displayed, with Ultra Magnus pointing at a relatively flat area surrounded by trees. "The timing is critical. We must engage the enemy in this area since this is the best location where we can be secluded, away from any human habitation, yet have the advantage. Our human team will reconnoiter the area as they can be more inconspicuous and are more experienced in this. Captain McKenzie has the appropriate training and, by far, the most experience in this kind of operation, so she shall lead this team. Once they have a better lay of the land, the human team will then create a perimeter and prevent the enemy from leaving the area. So far, they have the best and only distance weapon that can kill Cybertronian forms.

"Once that perimeter has been established, the Autobots will divide into three teams - one coming from the west, another from the northeast and another from the southeast, to engage and destroy the enemy. I, along with Ms Blu will be with the northeast team and engage the... Venus de Milo cyborg, and try and confirm our theory. We will then try and retrieve their AllSpark fragment. Whether or not we are successful, the rest of the team will engage the enemy not more than fifteen minutes after we do, with the objective of neutralizing the threat.

"All right, then. Everyone get your equipment, get organized and meet me at the landing pad in an hour."

As everyone started to leave, I went to RC.

"Don't tell me you've really signed up for this," I told her.

RC sighed. "I'm sorry, Suzy-baby. I'm a soldier. My country needs me."

It was my turn to sigh. Of course RC would sign up. Patriotic, quixotic RC.

I smiled wearily. "Then, I guess I'm signing up as well."

When I saw RC's expression, I shook my head no. "Nope. If you're going, I'm going."

RC looked at me with fondness.

"I'm not gonna argue," she said after a while. "so long as you're sure."

"I'm as sure as you are, Captain," I said, and pulled her head down so I could kiss her. I took my time.
 
 
Seven: RC and The Statue

They gave us an hour to get ready. I wondered why so long, but I found out it was because we were waiting for Sky Lynx. It turned out he was on another mission and was just recalled. I didn't know it before but he was apparently an Autobot as well.

Anyway, that gave Susan and I time to get ready, and get familiar with our equipment.

We were given what Susan said looked like catsuits. If it were I, I would have said they were more like black wetsuits made out of Lycra. One of the sergeants with us explained that they were flexible armor suits based out of an Autobot-produced material.

I was told the Autobots have been trying to help us upgrade our technology. Foremost, of course, was military material. Ultra Magnus had put Perceptor in charge of the project, and one of the first things that Perceptor produced were these armor suits. Cybertronians, both the Decepticons and the Autobots, felt that humans were too frail to be effective against them to be of any use in a fight. The suits were designed to help with that. They were made of a fabric tightly woven out of almost unbreakable carbon and polymer nanotubes that had a kind of molecular memory. The tubes, once fixated to their final form, would remain in that form unless it's bent or moved by a force from inside the suit, at rates of motion within the human range, i.e. the speeds and range of motion at which a human moves. The upshot of it was that the suit was fully flexible but if hit with an object from the outside moving at, say, 100 miles an hour, or if a pressure of, say, one cubic ton was applied to it, the material won't budge. It would be like trying to hit a person wearing a medieval suit of armor with a two-by-four. The tight weave and the chemical treatment it underwent prevented it from being torn or ripped or penetrated. Their nanotube material and the selectively porous weave, however, were designed to slough off the body's natural heat or keep it in as needed so as to keep the human wearing it at a constant 72 degrees, regardless whether they were in sub-zero conditions, or were air-dropped into the middle of the Sahara.

The skin-tight cut of the suit was also made to be form fitting and self-supporting. Human skin would chafe if a person wore regular clothes long enough - a pinched belt, a tight bra strap or an ill-fitting blouse or shirt would start being uncomfortable eventually. Except for the front zip, the suit had no buttons, zippers, pockets or flaps to break the smooth underside of the fabric, so it rode the person like a second skin, moving with the person's skin instead of sliding against it. A human wearing the ultra-comfortable suit could remain in it for weeks at a time, and not experience any kind of discomfort, except, of course from some minor irritation coming from sweat, naturally-sloughed off skin or other debris. If a human didn't need to go to the bathroom, she could, theoretically, stay in the suit indefinitely. But if a human did need to go to the bathroom... I checked and the one zipper it had in front apparently extended all the way underneath, over and then to the lower part of her back. So, although she might occasionally need to pull the zip open all the way to the back to relieve herself, the person need not take off the suit.

It was because of this skintight design that the instructions on the package said to take off all jewelry and clothes before putting it on. I told Susan this.

"Even underwear?" Susan asked.

"I guess."

"Well, okay. But... you first!" she giggled.

I made a humorous face at her, but started shedding all my clothes.

With my back turned towards her, I took my time and made sure my dress blues were properly hung and then I put on the suit.

It felt like I was putting on a body stocking, and, although it was pretty tight, it was also pretty comfortable. And it indeed stuck like a second skin that fit from the very top of the neck down. The part for the feet was like vibram shoes, with room for each toe. I could actually discern my toenails a little bit - that was how close fitting it was. The integrated gloves were the same thing, which was cool. But I saw in the mirror that it was like that all over. My ass cheeks (and ass-crack) were clearly outlined because of the zipper, but I didn't feel it. The skin-tight design was also the same way with my boobs. At least my nipples and areola weren't discernible. I touched them and felt a kind of shield.

I looked at Susan, and she looked incredible! It was like she wasn't wearing a suit. Instead, it was like, from the neck down, she had covered herself in black paint instead. Thank God the material was matte-black. I could just imagine what the effect would have been like if the suit was in a different color or had a wet or shiny look. She saw me looking and gave me a sexy wink.

I put on my vest. It was stretchable and, when zipped up, it ware really tight-fitting. But with the suit, it didn't feel uncomfortable at all. From there, all of my equipment was attached or kept since our suits had no pockets or other places we could put stuff in. My rank and name was on a patch Velcro'd onto the vest. Good.

I slipped on the black boots, with uppers that were shiny and stiff like plastic, and extended almost up to my knees. They sort of had the effect of ski boots, with an articulated ankle joint. Later, I was told the stiff construction would prevent any twisted ankles or things like that.

I turned and helped Susan with her vest and boots. With it on, at least Susan didn't look like she wasn't wearing clothes anymore, and I could look at her now without blushing. Reaching up, I got our helmets from the top of a shelf.

They looked like sleek, high-tech motorcycle helmets more than anything else. The slips of paper inside them explained how they worked.

They were as impact-resistant as the suit. Their edge attached to the neck of the suit and the clear visor would allow all light to pass through, except for those wavelengths that were inimical to the wearer's eyes. They also had photomultiplier filters that would allow the wearer to see virtually in the dark. And with it down, it formed an airtight seal. They had little electric air pumps that would suck air through unobtrusive vents on the sides of the helmet, filtering the air so that only uncontaminated, breathable air was pulled through, and it expelled waste gases at the same time. They even had battery-assisted "oxygen accumulators" that would speed up air intake and accumulate oxygen before releasing it into the helmet. This allowed the wearers to breathe normally even in thin, rarefied air. The instructions said they could even work underwater, extracting oxygen from virtually any fluid, provided, of course, the fluid had any to begin with, and protect the wearer from any poisonous or dangerous substances.

There was also an audio and video system in the helmet, allowing the user to remain in audio and video contact with the outside world via a radio in the collar, as well as a little speaker near the chin and directional microphones on the outside, approximately where the ears should be, which allowed the user to hear and to speak to others normally, even if the visor was down. These were controlled by eight hidden buttons where the person's temples would be - four buttons on each side.

The slip of paper also explained that the thermal heat radiated by the user essentially powered the helmet. A substantial amount of the heat generated by the human body was radiated out through the breath, or from the scalp on the top of the head. The helmet was designed to capitalize on this, absorbing the heat and using it to power the helmet's filters and other electronic equipment. This also had the added side effect of keeping the helmet from becoming hot inside or fogging up.

Susan and I tried the helmets on, and they seemed to work fine. We took them off and hung them from hooks on the back of the vests. Susan also picked up some of her camera equipment, put them in her vest, held my hand and led us out of the room. She read the helmet instructions, which she had in her hand while we walked. She was clearly trying to memorize the key combinations to operate the helmet. I didn't have to - although it was complicated, I seemed to have already memorized it.

Susan sighed. "I guess we're all set then," she said. She gestured to her little car. "Come on, Bee," she said, and we left our room, with Betty dutifully following us.

Arriving at the pad, we saw the rest of the team outfitted just like us. A couple of them ran over to us, and gave us our weapons and equipment, which we dutifully put away in our vests, or on the belts they provided. I cinched my belt around my now-narrower waist, and put on the smaller thigh and arm belts. I was now fully equipped, weapons-wise, but they only gave Susan a knife and a small sidearm. I couldn't identify the make and model of our weapons, so I supposed they were also part of Perceptor's "upgrade project." But pains were obviously taken to make their operation and appearance similar to their regular human-made equivalents. What was unusual was a big knife that looked like a cleaver or maybe a long machete. I didn't know what it was for, but I was told it was made from a special laminated steel that could cut most metals - good for use against robotic types.

The air felt a little cool on my face so I instinctively turned up my vest's collar. Then I belatedly noticed that I wasn't feeling cold in my suit at all. Hmmm. I did some experimental jumping jacks and was delighted to find my suit to be fully flexible, comfortable and cool. I grinned at Susan. She copied my moves and giggled. I knew how she felt. These suits were great! We had to stop, though, because of the vests and belts.

I walked over to introduce ourselves to the rest of the team, which we found was called “X Flight,” and we went over what I intended to do. Someone brought out a geodetic-type map, and we went over the details. There were nods all around. Ultra Magnus and some of the other Autobots came over and I explained our strategy. Ultra Magnus agreed.

We heard what sounded like a scream from high up in the sky. Looking up, we saw what looked like a very large mechanical pterodactyl circling overhead. It was at least the size of an A300 plane.

"Sky Lynx," Ultra Magnus said. Ahhh!

Sky Lynx swooped down, and, with several beats of its mighty, mechanical wings, it touched down on its claws almost right beside us. To say that he was gigantic was an understatement. Even compared to Ultra Magnus. But then again, he had to be in order to be able to function as the Autobots' transport. He had been away helping to establish NEST’s first base on the moon, and was recalled specifically for this mission.

Up close, he didn't entirely look like a pterodactyl. He was more like a cross between a space shuttle and a flying dinosaur.

"What up," the giant robot said mildly.

"Sky Lynx," Ultra Magnus said, "I'd like to introduce you to Captain RC McKenzie. She will be leading the human contingent of our team."

The big robot's beak turned towards me, and nodded.

"Pleased ta meetcha, Captain," he said via some hidden speakers as his beak didn't move. Now, where did he get that accent?

"Likewise, Sky Lynx," I responded. "Were you briefed about the mission?"

"I have most of it, but not all the details."

"We can brief each other while en route, then."

"In which case, y’all better climb on board." With that, he lowered a ramp, and we all climbed in.

As we were climbing up, some of the others rolling up on ATVs gestured.

"Would you two need ATVs as well, Captain?" one of them asked.

"No need, Private, we have our own transportation." I pointed to Betty and he nodded, not making any further comment.

From inside, he looked like a military cargo plane. It was quite a large cargo hold, however, with lots of extra room despite the thirty humans, our equipment, the Autobots and Betty.

"All right, Lynx," Magnus said. "Let's roll out."

"Hang on, guys," Sky Lynx said, and took off.

- - - - -

Though Sky Lynx transformed into something that looked a lot like a space shuttle, he took off like a conventional plane. However, once in the sky, the rocket engines on his backside fired, and we rocketed to our destination. Apparently, those were live rockets and not just for show.

I could feel a dull thrumming throughout the plane, and it somehow didn't feel right.

"Ultra Magnus?"

Magnus nodded, knowing what I was about to ask. "Yes, Captain, I know. The form Lynx has chosen is not exactly suited for supersonic flight, let alone ultrasonic But don't worry. "

At Mach five-plus speeds, we went up, and past the Karman Line, going ballistic and crossed the length of the country pretty quickly. Sky Lynx had to go ballistic, otherwise the sonic boom might be so bad it would affect people on the ground.

We re-entered the in less than a half hour, and eventually re-entered atmosphere and landed at a large field a few miles from our destination. Lynx lowered his ramp and we climbed down. As soon as we cleared his ramp, he'd take off and start a survey of the immediate area. Being as large as he was, he wasn't going to be helpful in the coming encounter.

I said to Magnus that the enemy has surely seen us land, but he assured me they didn't - Sky Lynx knew some tricks, he said.

The Autobots waited as the soldiers brought our their ATVs. Susan and I waited for Betty, wondering what could be keeping her.

In a few minutes, after everyone was out and ready, Betty rolled down the ramp.

We could see that Betty had changed a bit. It was like her tires were lower now, or rather, it was like she was riding on extended shock absorbers, and her tires were wider, like they were balloons that were puffed out with extra air.

"Wow, Bee," Susan said. "What did you do?"

"I am sorry, Ms Susan, but my form was not suited to off-road travel. So I made changes. I hope the changes do not displease you too greatly."

"I think you look cool, Bee. Kick-ass cool!" Susan grinned.

"But, Bee," I said, "How? I mean..."

"I do not know myself, Captain," she said. "I knew my dilemma, and thought of ways around it, and I found myself changing..."

I looked at Ultra Magnus, and saw a look of recognition on his face.

"Well," I said, deciding to put this aside for now, "we'll try and figure it out later. Right now, we have something else that's more important."

I was big and tall enough that I could easily manage to climb into the substantially-raised passenger door, but Susan wasn't. Betty helped by tilting to her left, and Susan was able to climb into the driver's side door without too much difficulty.

"Thanks, Bee," Susan huffed, and buckled up.

I buckled up as well and belatedly noticed that Betty's regular seatbelts had been changed as well to four-point racing harnesses.

I took out the map, conveniently rolled up and tucked into a pocket of the vest. I signaled through the window that we were ready, and everyone else made similar thumbs-up gestures.

"All right!" Magnus called. "Autobots! Transform and roll out!"

With that cool high-tech sound I will never get used to, the Autobots converted into their vehicular forms and we went to our rendezvous with Venus de Milo and her friends.

- - - - -

My human team had already deployed into their appointed hiding spots while most of the Autobots stayed hidden below a little rise in the "kill zone." Susan and I sat tight inside Betty, waiting for the opportune time to catch the Venus statue alone.

"Enemy approaching, Captain," one of my guys said over the radio. "I count... thirty-two. That's all of them. They're pretty much bunched up in a group. They're clearly not expecting any opposition. Either that or they're totally clueless."

"I vote for clueless," someone interjected.

"Keep the chatter down," I growled (though I suspect it wasn't as effective as I would have liked). "Report if they are in the Zone."

I called to the tall robot on my radio. "Magnus, are your guys ready?"

"We are ready, Captain."

"Okay. Spotters, report!"

"The targets have cleared our northwest perimeter. They've passed us and they're now ten feet into the zone. Fifteen... twenty-five... fifty... one hundred feet... Captain, they're now a hundred and fifty feet in!"

"Deploy your picket line and wait for my order. Magnus, your turn. Go!"

Ultra Magnus raised his arm. "Autobots, engage!"

From their scattered positions, the giant robots came out from behind the hill, with their weapons blazing. Despite their size, they moved remarkably fast.

For their part, the statues brought out weapons as well that looked more like human weapons. But though they looked like conventional guns, they clearly were not, as we saw one of the Autobots hit on the shoulder by what looked like something that came from a rocket launcher. He spun and hit the dirt hard.

Venus de Milo and her companions rushed the Autobots, negating the effectiveness of most of the Autobots' weapons as they were not designed for close-in fighting. Smaller and more nimble, the Venus statue and her friends were able to get under the defenses of the Autobots, and Magnus and his soldiers were only able to hold their own through their sheer power and size.

The fight was largely reduced to fisticuffs, and though they seemed as durable and as strong as the Autobots, they were still smaller and therefore less massive. The Autobots were therefore able to throw them around with relative ease.

Magnus, using his more massive size, easily took hold of one of Venus' robotic arms and, with a well-timed throw, threw the animated statue in our direction. It landed about twenty feet in front of Betty.

I jumped out of Betty and ran towards my robotic nemesis.

"Bee," I called back, "keep Susan inside! Keep her safe!" Later on, I heard from Susan that Betty's doors locked and didn't open despite direct orders from her.

Running over, I saw Venus lying on its face. It wasn't moving. Amazingly, Magnus was able to render her unconscious. Still, I unlimbered my rifle with the sabot launcher.

A kind of anger I didn't know before filled me as I stood over the thing. This was what took away my manhood, what took away what I was. I was literally shaking. But I was a soldier above and beyond everything else, my sense of duty riding herd on whatever I was feeling. I had a mission: get the cube.

I took a deep breath, and looked it over. It... she was wearing the same bikini she was wearing before, but she was wearing high boots this time, sort of like riding boots, as well as a couple of other new things.

She had a knife belt strapped on her thigh and a weapons belt around her waist. She was also wearing a couple of bandoleers of what looked like shotgun shells like Rambo, and a thin rocket launcher slung around her shoulder. She looked real badass, actually. What ruined it was this cheap, nylon blue-and-yellow belt pouch or fanny pack. As I looked at her, I felt something similar to what I felt when I was first hit with the AllSpark lightning bolts. The familiar feeling of warmth.

I kneeled and looked her over. Yes, it's coming from her. But where, exactly?

I ran my gloved hands over her. I couldn't touch anything through the gloves, but the feeling persisted. I realized it was strongest around the fanny pouch so I slung my launcher over my shoulder and unsheathed my big knife.

I sawed through the nylon belt of the fanny pack and had the belt cut in short order. I slipped it from her waist, unzipped the bag and saw her black cube. I called to Betty and Susan, to say that I got the cube. Betty opened her passenger door and tilted herself so Susan could step out. The feeling was coming from the cube. What does that mean?

I was throwing Susan the pouch when a robotic hand reached out to grasp my arm. My throw was knocked off target and the pouch went into the high weeds. "Get it Suze!"

"Hello," the statue said in that familiar metallic voice. "Who are you, and what did you do to my cube?" She had turned over and was holding my arm in an iron grip. If not for the suit, I think my arm would already be broken in two.

I put my foot on the statue's chest and pushed off, somehow wrenching my arm out of her grip. I guess I didn't know my own strength.

I swung my rifle back up but the statue smashed it with her fist, and pieces of the rifle flew apart. I swung the now-useless rifle like a baseball bat and hit the statue on the side of her head. I moved back a dozen feet.

Like a boxer that was hit on the side of his head, the statue staggered, but she shook her head, shaking off my shot, and slowly stood up. I guess I didn't know my own strength… I was repeating myself.

The statue was tall, but I wasn't exactly a midget. I stood straight, bringing my full six-feet-nine to full display. We regarded each other across the grassy field.

Several hundred feet away, my people and the Autobots were in deadly battle with Venus's robotic statues, but the statue and I were beyond that. Our world had shrunk to just myself and her, my simmering anger only increasing, and the statue looking at me, perhaps wondering if I was a midget Autobot, or a large human. I didn't care. All I want was a chance at revenge.

I found myself sweating - it was so warm. Something must be wrong with my suit. When I couldn't stand it anymore, I took off the helmet and threw it aside.

I swung my head left and right, freeing my long platinum hair, and the statue was taken aback.

"Well, what a beauty you are. What are they doing now, throwing fashion models at me? I, the goddess of love and beauty having to do battle with such pulchritude. What irony."

"You are not Venus!" I screamed. "You're just an imitation, and not even an accurate one! You're a Cybertronian fake!"

"Oh, deary me. Why so hot under the collar, honey? What have I ever done to you?"

"Don't you know?" I screamed. I felt like I was burning. Something really was wrong with my suit.

Venus looked at me breathing hard. Clearly, she was surprised. But she ignored that, and brought up her launcher. A rocket hit me on my left shoulder and I flew back.

"RC!" Susan screamed.

Thank god for the suit. I would not have survived that if not for the suit, although the suit's shoulder was shredded.

I don't know why I did, but I brought up my right arm, and my suit's right glove exploded and then I saw Venus' side hit. She staggered back, giving me an opening. What did I do!

I brought up my cleaver-like knife, lifted it and brought it down with all my strength. Venus brought up her left arm and I was only able to cut through it partway, maybe a third of the way. The statue-robot roared in both pain and rage, and kicked my legs out from under me. I fell and felt my suit tear some more. The statue backpedaled and stayed out of range of my knife, cradling her injured arm.

Before she could do anything further, I rolled on the ground, got some more distance between us and fetched up against a large boulder. I scrambled behind it, fully knowing it won't provide much protection against the statue's launcher. My movements were starting to become slower, and I was overheating. I groped around my suit's collar and switched it on.

"Susan, come in! Do you have the cube?"

"RC! I got the cube, it's in Bee's glove compartment."

"Get the cube to Magnus! Now!"

"Not without you!"

"Shut up and do what I say, Suzy! Now!"

Susan switched off and I couldn't get her to answer again. I therefore switched my attention to the more immediate danger.

I was still feeling hot and had half a mind to tear off the rest of the suit. But I was naked underneath, so I just kept it on.

I thought of what I did. Somehow, I shot the statue without a gun. "What did I do?" I asked myself, and looked at my right hand. Experimentally, I put my index and middle fingers together but nothing happened. I folded my ring and baby fingers, and extended my thumb like the hammer of a pistol, like a kid playing cops and robbers. But nothing happened. I shook my hand, bent my wrist. But nothing happened. What did I do before!

I needed some sort of weapon so I went for my belt and got out my sidearm instead. Sure, I knew it was one of Perceptor's new-and-improved weapons, but I doubted that it would be completely effective against the statue, so I brought out the high-tech machete as well.

I peeked over the rock and saw the statue creeping up. She was crouched and moving slowly, but going by her expression, she was actually in pain. She had her damaged arm against the "wound" in her side, and they were leaking a clear reddish fluid like motor oil. In her working hand, she had her launcher. She saw me and let loose one of her rockets. Her aim was off and it hit the turf in front of my boulder.

It was my turn, so, even as soil rained around me, I aimed and fired at the statue. Despite my growing lethargy, I was on target and hit her on her torso, walking my bullets from her lower hip to the middle of her chest.

Like in the restaurant, little bits of rock were pinged off the statue, but it wasn't really making any kind of impact other than that.

Frustrated at the ineffectiveness of the gun, I reloaded, clicked it to automatic and fired at full auto.

I didn't count on the gun firing like a machine gun, so I inadvertently used up the thirty-round clip in one burst three seconds long. Looking over to the statue, I saw that I was effective. The statue's right leg was "bleeding." I clipped on a new cartridge, and made sure the gun was now on semi-automatic.

The statue looked at me and screamed. She raised her launcher, but before she could fire, an Autobot rammed into her side.

- - - - -

It was the first time I saw this particular Autobot. By it's lines, it was a female Autobot, the only one I've seen so far, and a very shapely one, too.

It... she had tackled the statue. She did it easily as she was more massive than the seven-foot-tall statue since she was about the height of Perceptor, but she was less bulky than any of the others, her lines and dimensions more akin to a slim human female rather than a blocky human male. She wore a banana-yellow helmet with what appeared to be little horns that she used to ram the Venus statue. She wore it over what looked like short-cut straight brunette hair. She also had a very human-like face that looked similar enough to Susan's that you would have assumed it was just Susan wearing makeup, a wig and a robot costume. But the robot was at least as tall as Perceptor, and her face, neck, upper arms and thighs, though quite human-like, were colored dull chrome.

Her lower arms were encased in something like squarish, banana-yellow forearm guards over black elbow-length or opera gloves, and her torso was encased in a banana-yellow one-piece breast and back plate (something I would later find is called a "cuirass") that looked like a Volkswagen’s passenger cabin, leaving her waist and hips free of any robotic attachments. The bulge of the cabin's roof gave her chest the impression of breasts.

She wore what appeared to be banana-yellow bikini bottoms and oversized knee-high boots shaped like yellow car fenders over black thigh-high stockings. Hanging off the outside part of the boots and attached to the back shoulders near the yellow pauldrons (armor pieces for the shoulders) were car tires. And on her back was what appeared to be a yellow car hood divided in two, and looked like a beetle's opened elytra or wing cases. She looked like a sexy June bug, but because of the black and yellow motif, I guess she looked more like a honeybee.

It's got to be...

Susan ran over and grabbed me around the neck.

"You okay?" she asked, helmet faceplate up, and kissed me.

"I think so..."

"Bee!" Susan exclaimed to the yellow Autobot. "She's not hurt. Let's go!"

The yellow Autobot looked towards us and, in a moment, with that sound that I was already familiar with, she changed into Susan's yellow beetle. She backed off the prone, unmoving Venus de Milo statue and zoomed to us. With me helping not at all, Susan pushed me inside the passenger side - not a small thing given my size, and she climbed in through the other door.

As soon as we were in, Betty zoomed away, her over-inflated tires making the ride extraordinarily comfortable given we were running over rocks and broken turf.

I touched my collar again and switched on my suit’s throat mike. "McKenzie to Ultra Magnus." I had to labor to keep myself moving. I was so tired!

"I am a little busy at the moment, Captain," I couldn't miss the ironic tone.

"We have the cube, Magnus," I said, "and we incapacitated the thing."

"The Venus de Milo simulacrum?"

"Who else?"

"Excellent work, Captain. Where are you now? We will come and get you."

"We're at a hillock northeast of your position, and we are mobile."

"In that case, make your way to the extraction point. Sky Lynx will bring you back to base. Get the cube away from here and bring it to Perceptor. Immediately."

"You guys will be okay?"

"Oh, I think your people and mine can manage, Captain."

I nodded at that, which Ultra Magnus would not have seen, of course, but it was so much trouble to just even say "yes."

I switched frequencies. "McKenzie to Yellow team," I struggled to say.

"Yes, Captain."

"We have the cube, Sergeant, and have incapacitated the Venus statue. We are evacuating the cube now. I'm leaving you in charge of X Flight."

"Acknowledged, Cap'n."

I collapsed back into my chair. "Bee," I whispered, "get us to the extraction point, as fast as you can."

Susan and I felt the car bump up and our speed increased. The car seemed higher off the ground than before.

The extraction point was over several small hillocks a few miles away, and Betty obviously made adjustments to herself again to get us there more quickly. Which was good, because I wasn't feeling right. I hope we get back really fast.
 
 
Eight: Susan and The Two New Transformers

"Did you see Betty?" I asked RC. "She can change into an Autobot! And she was cute!" I giggled. "She looked like a big bumblebee, with the wings and the horns... RC? What's wrong?"

I noticed that RC was having some kind of problem. She wasn't moving. She wasn't moving, and she had her eyes closed. She was breathing shallowly and was awfully pale.

I looked down at my hands - I wanted to check her temperature but my hands were covered. I took my helmet off instead and laid my cheek against her.

"You're burning up!"

"I feel weird, Suzy," RC said, almost mumbling. Later on, she explained that she was feeling weak but restless, and little aches would shoot up through her arms and legs. Nothing real bad, she said, but there were a lot of them. And over all of it, she felt like she wanted to burst out of her skin, like she wanted to do something really, really badly, but didn't know exactly what.

"Suzy!" she called out weakly.

"Are you in pain, RC?" I asked, and she moaned.

"Ms. Susan," Betty said, "the captain's temperature is now one hundred ten degrees Fahrenheit."

"Oh, my God!" I reached for her zipper and pulled it all the way down. A solid wave of heat wafted up, making me turn my face away. "My god!" Her special scent was so strong - strawberries, and her own special unique scent filled Betty's passenger cabin. I could have swooned from the heat of it.

"Her temperature is one hundred twenty now, and still climbing."

"She's burning up, Bee! What can we do?"

"I suggest you put your helmet back on, Ms. Susan. I will switch my air conditioning to high."

I put my helmet back on and Betty activated her air conditioning. Her a/c was not the normal kind cars had anymore - it was more like a blast chiller or freezer. A white vapor or mist came out of her vents, and the entire cabin became almost ice cold. I was wearing my suit and helmet so I was fine.

"Help! Someone, help!" I called into my suit's radio

"This is Perceptor, Ms Blu," a voice came on. "Tell us what's happening."

"RC is burning up! I don't know what's happening to her!"

"Burning up? There's a fire there?"

"No, No! It's like RC has a fever. Bee says she has a temperature of one hundred and twenty Fahrenheit."

"I'm sorry, I don't know. Is that bad?"

"Very bad!"

"Get the Captain here as quick as you can. I will have your doctors standing by." Perceptor paused. "I have been told that you must find a way to bring down her temperature drastically."

I already knew that. "I'm on it, Perceptor," I said.

To cool her down further, I started to remove her suit completely. When I had her arms out of her sleeves and her suit down around her waist, I saw what was happening to her. I doubted if doctors would be helpful.

- - - - -

Once in the air, Sky Lynx quickly went ballistic, and got us back to Fort Lewis in less than ten minutes. And as soon as he landed and had his ramp down, Betty roared down his ramp and made straight for the main entrance. Once she had cleared his ramp, Sky Lynx blasted back up into the air, to return to our people.

Seeing what was happening to her, Betty and I came to the same conclusion that Perceptor would be more helpful than the doctors. Because, for whatever reason, RC had turned into a robot...

She still looked much the same - same beautiful face, same hair, but she clearly wasn't the same.

Her skin had turned into some kind of dull-chrome metal and had split into plates. For example, two metal plates instead of skin - one plate on the upper side and one on the other side now covered her forearms. One could see a dark structure underneath, just glimpsed between the two plates, but I didn't bother to examine it closer. The same was true for the rest of her body. Her hands, for example, were jointed like the plates on a metal glove of a medieval knight's armor, and her lower arms were just like her forearms, although there were more plates. But she still looked mostly like before. Her face was still whole - I mean, the skin on her face hadn't split into plates, so she still looked like her, but it was now made of the same dull-chrome metal.

Betty screeched to a halt inside Perceptor's main lab, and I jumped out. I ripped off my helmet, raced to the other side, opened RC's door and started pulling her out. She was incredibly heavy, and I grunted under RC's weight. Wheelie crouched beside me.

"Let Wheelie do it," he said, so I moved aside.

Wheelie easily lifted her out. He turned to me and gave me a reassuring smile.

"Wheelie got her," he said. "RC be okay."

He brought RC to what looked like a large examination table and stretched her out. Perceptor strapped her down, brought down a transparent clamshell-like cover and locked it down over her. A whole wall of screens, dials and readouts came alive and Perceptor stared at them trying to decipher what was happening to RC. Human doctors had come in, but stayed clear of Perceptor – they didn’t want to get underfoot.

Instead, they turned to me, and asked me what happened. I explained everything that had happened since we first disembarked from Sky Lynx.

- - - - -

It was the first time I saw her stretched out, and her body was exactly like I said - robotic yet human. Her face was turned towards us, with eyes closed like she was sleeping. Someone else would probably have been horrified, but I wasn't. In less than a week, I saw more than the average girl. I wasn't too easily shocked anymore. But, more than anything, despite this, she was still her. I could tell. Though robot-like, she was still gorgeous. And I could tell it was still she inside.

Wheelie and I stared down at her.

"RC pretty," he commented. Belatedly, I just realized RC was completely naked, and I was holding her ripped suit under my arm. I blushed.

"Hands off, Wheelie," I said, smiling. "She's mine."

Wheelie chuckled, hip-bumped me playfully and gave me a wink, but since he was so tall, he hip-bumped me on my shoulder instead. I playfully shoved him back, giggling. We stayed there for hours, worried and just looking at her. Thank God for Wheelie. If not for him and his efforts to distract me and cheer me up, I would have long since collapsed from fear, exhaustion and worry.

Perceptor came over.

"Miss Blu..."

"Call me Susan, Perceptor," I said. “I told you that before.”

"All right, Susan. I think I've figured out what is going on with RC."

"is it bad?"

"It may be. She's experiencing harmonic disturbances from various components in her life systems. It happens when organs are not performing as they should. She is also experiencing low internal pressure and some of her organs may begin to shut down soon due to a lack of energy, unless we do something. Her circuitry may also be shutting down due to the high internal thermal levels."

"What? Circuitry? Is it a virus or something?"

"No, Susan, it is not a virus. It is the birth of a Cybertronian."

After a while, I nodded. "I thought as much," I said. "She's turning into an Autobot."

"How did you figure it out?"

"After what happened to my beetle, it was sort of predictable. The same thing zapped them both after all, and then my car started to talk, and my best friend got turned into a six-foot-nine girl. And then, a little while ago, she started to turn into that." I gestured to the robotic-looking RC.

"Seven-two."

"What?"

"RC isn't six-feet-nine. She is now seven feet-two inches tall, Susan."

"Oh. So, even that's changed, too. Will she be okay?"

"I don't know yet."

"You don't? You said she was turning into an Autobot."

"What I actually said was that it was the birth of a Cybertronian. But it seems to have been a premature birth. She started transforming before her body was ready. If something is not done, she will not survive the transition."

"Well, do whatever's needed. I will take responsibility."

"That's the problem. I don't know what to do. RC is like no Autobot I have ever seen. Her transformation is unusual to say the least. I don't understand how a human can become a Cybertronian. All that I can do is let her body finish the transformation."

"You said she might die."

Perceptor shrugged. "I can keep her temperature down and therefore prevent her systems from degrading further. Maybe we can also infuse her atmosphere with the trace elements that she may need during this transformation. In essence, I am going to turn her isolation chamber into what I guess could be called an Autobot incubation chamber."

Perceptor put his enormous hand on my shoulder and turned me around.

"She's still on the edge, Susan," he said gravely, "but maybe with this assist, she will get over the crisis and survive."

He shrugged. "I'm sorry. Only time will tell. Excuse me."

With that, he turned back to his control panel. At the push of a button, super-cold neutral nitrogen at forty degrees Fahrenheit was piped in to RC's glass-enclosed chamber, and the billowing mist hid her from our view. Next, a reddish-gold gas that Perceptor said was oxygen full of water vapor and different suspended trace minerals was piped in. We couldn't see RC anymore.

From that point on, there wasn't anything to do. Wheelie ushered Betty and myself out of the lab. It would be twenty-four hours before I'd see RC again.

- - - - -

Betty did her level best to distract me from worrying about RC. She wasn't successful, of course, but I loved her for trying, so I behaved as if she succeeded. It's amazing that I felt such love for what I still consciously thought of as an inanimate object, but if I were honest with myself, I'd probably realize that, deep inside me, I thought of Betty was a person. Actually, she was more than a person to me - to me, she was actually my child.

We stayed in the encounter arena and followed the battle on several monitors that the general had put there for his people to monitor the action, telemetry courtesy of Sky Lynx.

The action on the screens was very violent - robots being thrown about, and explosions all over.

Being outgunned by the human soldiers, the enemy backtracked, and was therefore forced to engage the Autobots in close-in fighting instead, with fists flying and arms swinging. But the Autobots were simply physically too large and powerful.

As for the Autobots, their strategy seemed to be to beat the enemy up, throw them in the path of RC’s soldiers, who would shower them with high explosives, and they would retreat back into the arms of the Autobots where they got beat up some more. It felt like watching the latest up-and-comer boxing star getting beat up by Pacquiao. And in half an hour, the enemy was done.

In the end, out of the thirty-two statues, we got twenty-three, and captured five of them alive. No one could find four, however, which included the Venus de Milo statue, but that probably only means a more thorough search was needed. It was very hilly and overgrown country over there, after all, and it would be easy to miss things.

No one still knew where these mutant robots came from, or what they wanted. To the General, the fact they were killing people was more than enough reason to stop them. I felt the same way, too, but now that they have been stopped, it's time to find out.

The Autobots came back with our people, with the prisoners in tow as well as all the grisly pieces of the dead enemies they could comb from the grass and trees, but I didn't bother to watch them as they came in. We weren't necessary at the moment. Rodimus, whom I was told was one of the leaders of the Autobots, took it upon himself to take charge. He’d direct the examination of the remains, and when they’re through with that, he’ll start interrogating the prisoners. Perceptor’s help was solicited to help with the autopsy of the remains, leaving everyone else free.

At that point, I was so emotionally and physically drained, I asked Betty to bring me to our quarters, where I slept for close to twelve hours.

When I woke, I found Betty in her Autobot form watching over me. I asked her if she could hustle up some food, and while she was out, I went over to the other building for a quick shower and change of clothes.

When I got back, Betty had sandwiches and a thermos of coffee for me. I gulped a couple of cups and brought a sandwich to munch on while Betty and I walked to Perceptor’s.

Betty told me that Sky Lynx had already left and gone back to his original project on the moon. That means we didn’t have our own freight transport available anymore, but everyone else was back, and those that were injured were all on the mend, thanks to Ratchet.

Betty held my hand as we walked. Because of her large size and my comparatively tiny one, I could imagine that it was like I was Betty’s child, and she was walking me to Perceptor’s lab. But we bumped into Arlene, the girl who helped RC with her uniform. She was with some other soldiers.

“Hey, Arlene. We’re on our way to check on RC.”

“Hi, Susan. I was just there.” She looked at Betty a little curiously. She probably hasn’t seen her as an Autobot.

“Remember my beetle?”

“Oooh! I should have guessed. You’re the famous Bumblebee!”

“Bumblebee?”

“That’s what the Autobots are calling her. And they were right. She does look like you - it’s like you’re related. And she is gorgeous.” She giggled. “But even if she didn’t look like you, I would have known.”

I smiled politely. “What do you mean?”

“She acts like your little girl.” She giggled. “And you act like you’re her mom.” Huh? But she’s so big. Maybe Arlene meant it the other way around.

Still, I blushed at that, and Betty looked down, smiling shyly.

“Oooh, just look at you two!”

I cleared my throat embarrassedly, and tried to change the subject. “Did you get to see RC?”

Arlene sobered a bit at that.

“Ummm, no. Rachet and Perceptor were so busy doing things, I couldn’t get close enough to see. In any case, she was still in that glass clamshell thing, but Perceptor told us she was doing fine before we were shooed away.”

“Do you think they’d they let us in?”

“I think so. They’re waiting for you, in fact.”

She reached over and gave me a friendly goodbye hug. “Go on, Susan. I’ll see you later.”

Arlene smiled up at Betty. “And it was great to meet you, Bumblebee.”

Betty smiled. “Thank you, Sergeant. It was pleasant to see you today as well.”

She and her companions waved goodbye, and we continued on.

- - -

It would have helped Perceptor if Ratchet assisted with the autopsies, but he was with us in one of Perceptor’s spare labs with about a dozen other Autobots. Guess our visit with RC would be delayed a bit.

The pictures from Sky Lynx' video showing Betty transforming into her new robot form had spread through the Autobots in the camp, and at everyone's urging, Ratchet was checking her out. So I sat in a corner while I watched Betty go through her transformation several times while adoring Autobots watched her do so, and Ratchet did his testing.

According to Ratchet, based on his sensor data, Betty seemed to be fairly average as Cybertronians go, but to the Autobots, Betty was a miracle - the first totally new Autobot in a thousand millennia, and Ratchet confirmed that her internals were indeed those of a Cybertronian.

In the long history of their race, there were Cybertronians that were born on worlds other than Cybertron - many of them becoming legendary citizens of their species. Which made Betty doubly unique and intriguing - Earth's first Autobot as well as the newest, youngest Autobot - facts that made Betty extremely intriguing to them.

With all of the information now in the Autobots' hands, it was clear how Betty came about. Perceptor's tests on the Venus de Milo statue's cube did indeed show that it was made from the fragmented pieces of the AllSpark's matrix. Not a single piece but an amalgam of several pieces that shaped itself into a cube. And given my, and RC's, accounts of our first encounter with the Venus statue, Ratchet confirmed Betty was animated by the statue’s "mini cube" in almost the same way all other Cybertronians were animated by the original intact AllSpark.

However, the only other devices that were animated by AllSpark fragments that the Autobots knew about had all shown defects - their physical structures were incomplete and therefore not viable. The biggest defect, however, was that they were all destructive and homicidal. The only thing that stopped them from becoming a complete danger to people was that not a single one of them lived longer than an hour.

Because Betty was another one of these "defectives," or rather MIGHT be one of these defectives, Autobots like Perceptor and Ratchet were rather nervous. But Ratchet's analysis of Betty's internals showed she was completely viable, and throughout the time since her creation, Betty had not acted homicidal in any way. She seemed like a normal newly activated Autobot. And, if she survived for a few more hours thereby taking her over the five-day mark, Ratchet said that she would be safely out of the woods. (One hundred twenty hours was the normal power regeneration cycle for Autobots.)

There were a few things about her however that still bothered Perceptor and Ratchet - one was that Betty's primary humanoid form closely resembled me. They believed that this was also somehow connected to her seemingly fanatical devotion to a human master - me. But other than those, she seemed to be a completely charming young Autobot.

I've been told that there have always been very few female Autobots, and their favors have been fiercely competed for, and given Betty was an especially attractive one, in the coming weeks and months, Ultra Magnus and Rodimus would worry about how this would affect discipline amongst their people.

Many have wondered what kind of purpose female Cybertronian forms had, given the Autobots' non-sexual manner of reproduction. Many human scientists have conjectured that, since Cybertronians' primary forms were largely analogues of humanoid forms, it was reasonable to conclude that those who created the AllSpark were humanoid as well, and meant for their robotic alternates to resemble them, including differentiated male and female humanoid forms.

The fact that their secondary and third "vehicle forms" were also analogues of humanoid vehicles, tools and implements, and that their behavior was very, very close to human behavior, scientists took these to be proof of this theory.

When asked about this, though, the Autobots didn't know and didn't care. All they wanted was to be left alone to live their lives the way they wanted to live them.

- - - - -

A more detailed examination of Betty's internals showed that she didn't have any kind of projectile weapon, but she did have an impressive set of bladed weapons and cudgels. This therefore made their tactical officers, Side Swipe and Sunstreaker, conclude Betty might not be suited to be a frontline soldier. Perceptor could correct for that deficiency and provide her with such weaponry but, for the moment, General Lennox and Ultra Magnus agreed that she should be assigned to protect RC and me. So it didn't really matter.

Another point of difference was Betty's manner of taking in energy. Betty could indeed process what they called "energon," their main energy source, which, to my layman's ear, sounded like radioactivity. Apparently, the Autobots have been living off energon converted from radioactive waste trucked from various nuclear power plants to the base. After the "conversion" the inert material that that was left was still useful - good for making armor, carbon nanotubes and other carbon-based materials.

The upshot of it was that the Autobots seemed to be the country's best method of processing radioactive waste. In fact, no new nuclear waste was being processed for disposal anywhere in the country anymore. They were being trucked to the base instead, where the Autobots would do their thing and extract the radioactivity and create “energon,” whatever that was. A new unit was, in fact, being put together by the AEC to facilitate this, and to start unearthing the material currently in nuclear waste disposal areas and see if the Autobots can siphon off whatever they can and convert them to inert material as well.

But Ratchet discovered Betty could also process gasoline when in her Volkswagen form. None of the Autobots could do that.

"Cool," I said sarcastically - a car, which can run on gas... "Yeah, cool," Wheelie said, echoing me, and we laughed.

Looking at Wheelie, I was reminded that I really didn't know much about these new robotic friends of ours.

"Ratchet?" I asked the big robot doctor beside me. "I was wondering if I could get a list of all the Autobots in the camp? I’m having a hard time remembering the names of those that I've met."

He nodded. "Do you have a computer tablet?"

I went to Betty, and she handed me my little Android tablet. It's like she and I were thinking the same thing.

I handed it to Ratchet and he plugged in a little USB cable that came out of his thumb. When he handed it back, there was a file open on the screen. It was a list of Autobots.

When I clicked the top of the list, I saw a picture of a robot I hadn't seen before. It was a robot called "Optimus Prime." He reminded me of Ultra Magnus somehow. His secondary form was a semi, too, and the little bio beside the picture said he was the former commanding officer of the Autobots and that he was currently missing in action.

I recognized several, like Magnus, Ratchet, Sky Lynx and Perceptor, but I saw others with pictures that were very intriguing, like the "Dinobots" Grimlock, Snarl and Swoop, and the two Lamborghini robots, Side Swipe and Sunstreaker. I also saw pictures of Autobots like Prowl, Hound, Jazz and Ironhide.

I found their names unique. Names like Ultra Magnus or Optimus Prime evoked images that implied strength and leadership. The name Perceptor seemed, well, perceptive, as it was the name of their chief scientist. And there were funny but expressive names like Kup, who, I learned had three forms instead of the normal two. Some even had more than one name, like Rodimus - he was known as Rodimus, Rodimus Prime, Major and Hotrod. There was a note that he wasn't a prime anymore, but was now just a major. I didn't know what a "prime" was, however. All the bio said after that was that he was second-in-command after Magnus.

The last picture I saw was that of a little black-and-yellow robot, also with three names: Bumblebee, Bee and, of course, Betty. I giggled. They already had Betty in their list.

"You have a new name now, you know," I told Betty. She was in her robot form.

"I do, Miss Susan?" she said in her cultured, German-sounding voice.

"Yep. The Autobots are calling you Bumblebee now." I giggled again.

She was silent for a moment. "Do you like the name?" she asked.

"Yes, I do. Very much."

"If you like it, then I like it, too."

I reached up and gave her a hug around her neck, and I saw her human-like face that looked so much like mine smiling, and I smiled myself.

As Ratchet was finishing examining Betty, Perceptor called me on my phone.

"Miss Blu," Perceptor said.

"I said you should call me Susan."

Perceptor nodded at that. "I will remember."

"You have news about RC?"

"Yes. She's awake now."

"How is she?"

"I think you should come over. It's better for you to just see."

Fear for RC shot through my body. I reached up for Betty's hand. "Okay." And Perceptor told us to meet him in his lab.

- - - - -

When we got to Perceptor's lab, we saw RC sitting up on Perceptor's examination table. She was naked, but she held a blanket around her. She looked just like before - human. My gorgeous Amazon girl. Perceptor was able to bring her back.

I ran to her and jumped as high as I could to hug her, and it was she. But what happened? Why wasn't she a robot anymore?

But, really, I didn't care so long as she was okay. I hugged her and didn't want to let go.

- - - - -

Perceptor explained that RC was clearly affected when she was struck by the statue's cube, but whatever happened only fully manifested now. He will explain it all in detail later, he said, after we'd all gotten some rest. Suffice it to say, he said RC was okay, and there was no reason that things should change for us.

I believed it though, because RC looked and felt one hundred percent human.

In our room, after we had come back from taking a shower and we were relaxing over coffee, I asked her what was the last thing she could remember, and she told me everything that happened, up to the part where we got inside Betty and we made for Sky Lynx. It was fascinating to hear, but I was mostly relieved that she was okay.

"I'm hungry," RC said.

I looked at her, at a loss for something to say.

"Hey," she said. "Perceptor said it's okay."

Before I could reply, she dragged me out of the room. Betty trailed us as we walked to the mess.

It was dinnertime and the mess was a bit full. There were a few Autobots there, too, obviously not to have dinner, but many had human friends on the base, and would usually accompany them into the mess hall to chat.

It was a bit cramped for them but they made do. And I suppose everyone's used to this by now since the Autobots were more-or-less ignored.

They couldn't fit in the human-sized furniture so just sat down on the floor, but RC did... barely, so we took seats at a corner table. I had one plastic tray with a salad, soup and a corned beef sandwich, which was already a lot for me. As for RC, she had three heaping trays. Betty, excuse me, "Bumblebee," sat on the floor beside me. I leaned over and gave her a little hug around the neck, and she gave me a light hug as well.

"Sorry there's no food here for you, honey," I said.

"It's alright. I brought my own." She produced a large sports bottle and put it on the dining table.

"Oh! What's that? Cranberry juice?"

"Hi-test gasoline from the motor pool."

"Oh."

"It's great that you found out how to transform, Betty," RC said. "How does it feel?"

"It's good to be able to manipulate my environment much more easily, Captain. In my vehicle form, it is not so easy. Hands are so much better than wheels."

"That's great," RC grinned and started eating.

We talked some more as many of the people around us watched and listened surreptitiously. As before, RC and I were getting a lot of attention, but apparently, Bumblebee was getting the same kind of thing from the Autobots. I mean, who could blame them? Bumblebee was an Autobot hottie. She looked like me, after all! Heehee.

Having gone back to our room, RC and I changed into some comfortable clothes and settled down for the night. Betty, I mean Bumblebee, insisted on staying out in the corridor.

RC put our two folding beds together and we snuggled under the sheets. I didn't want to push it, even though I badly wanted to, so I made no other demands other than cuddling. I didn't know how RC would take the girl-girl thing. I'm happy enough for now. I could wait.

She was so big, she used up most of the space from both beds, which forced me to practically sleep on top of her. She didn't seem to mind, given she was asleep and had a small smile on her face.

For me, I loved it. She was so soft and warm, and her scent surrounded me. I had my head pillowed on her boobies, her arms wrapped around me and I was surrounded in a nest of her soft and fragrant gold-and-silver tresses. Sure, the odd hipbone and elbow got in the way, but I didn't care much. I would unconsciously run my hand over her soft, smooth skin, causing her to shiver unconsciously from time to time. I tried not to do that anymore as I might end up tickling her.

But I’ve seen her as a robot girl. Clearly, she wasn’t human anymore. But I didn’t care. She was still RC.

It was the most wonderful night ever. My darling Amazon girl.

- - - - -

I woke up the following morning cranky. I mean, wouldn't you? This business of falling asleep in someone's arms was clearly something dreamed up by some stupid romance novelist. My shoulder blades hurt! And my hip!

But when I opened my eyes, I found RC's beautiful face looking down onto mine, her hair like a waterfall cascading over me, her blue sparkling eyes looking into mine.

And my crankiness disappeared.

"I love you," she whispered. And I burst into tears.

- - - - -

Before I let RC go to her appointment with Perceptor, I insisted on measuring her again. Perceptor said she had grown to seven feet two - five inches taller than her six feet nine two days ago. So, after all the trouble I had gone through to get her a new set of clothes that fit, all of that was thrown out the window. Ah well.

But RC was in a good mood so she didn't mind me doing the measuring thing again while we shared morning coffee. I didn't mind the little chore as well since between each measurement, I was able to sneak in a little smooch.

As soon as she had left our room, I went through all my measurements, making sure I didn't miss anything.

She was now seven feet two inches tall, like Perceptor said, five inches taller than before. According to the Guinness Book, the tallest living woman was eight feet, two inches. RC wasn't that tall, but she was now as tall as the sixth tallest woman.

Her vital statistics were now 50-32-50, an incredible 40I size bra, and a ladies size twenty-one in shoes. She essentially had the same ratio of sizes as before, except slightly larger in scale now.

I made a call to my friend Darryl again, and he said they would start going through the Base's Supply Office and look for any and all items that would fit RC. At least Darryl was able to get her off-the-shelf shoes right away, and Arlene would be coming in later in the day with new uniforms. I was disappointed that none of the shoes Darryl got were anything like Jimmy Choos or anything that I hoped for - mostly Target stuff, but with size twenty-one tootsies, there weren't too many choices to pick from. One thing Arlene helped him with was to select shoes that looked like the high-end ones, and her people did some magic with scissors and knives to remove any offending K-Mart type labels. (I know the deal about removing labels, so, shhh! don't tell anyone!)

I called Pat again, and did a little song and dance and told her that my measurements were extremely off and she needed to replace what she sent before. I, of course, got an earful about this, but she still decided to help us out. Too bad I had to pay again.

Thing was, there were strictly no off-the-shelf clothes for RC this time, and we had to make do with what we had for at least two weeks until Pat got RC's stuff ready. I didn't mind that RC would have to make do, but she had enough to get by. And besides, I was looking forward to RC wearing tight stuff too small for her.
 
 
Nine: RC and a Full Physical

I was early for my appointment so Perceptor wasn't in his lab yet. There were no chairs so I just jumped up onto an examination table and waited.

As Perceptor entered the Autobot-designed imaging chamber, I sat up straighter and perched on the edge of the table.

"What's the word, Perceptor?"

"The word, as you put it," Perceptor said in his precise and somewhat officious-sounding voice, "is both good and bad, RC."

"Give me the good news first, then."

"I am afraid it is not good news per se. Though in the present colloquial, to say 'bad news' implies..."

"Perceptor!" I exclaimed exasperatedly. "Just tell me!"

Perceptor smiled. "I am sorry, RC," he said. "Here it is, then."

He started turning on screens. "Per my examination," he said, "you are fine. For a Cybertronian."

"What?"

"Somehow, RC, the Venus statue has transformed you from a human to something like an Autobot."

"But, Perceptor..."

"I know, I know... you still appear to be a human.,."

"I feel the same!"

Perceptor flashed pictures from yesterday - from my arrival with Susan to my being put in Perceptor's "incubator," and I saw myself as a humanoid robot.

After a moment, I found my voice. "But... how?"

He pressed a few buttons, and a schematic of the new me appeared on the large screen in front of us. But as I looked closer, it looked more like a full-body x-ray or CT scan of a person, not a robot... or was it?

"What you see before you, RC, is a Doppler scan of you, in your, ahem, full glory. And though it looks like a scan of a biological, it is not."

My initial thrill at the thought that I was still human died.

"You," Perceptor said, "as far as I can tell, are a mechanical, like us. Not a partial biological, nor even a cyborg as far as I've been given to understand what cyborgs are, but a full mechanical in the manner of us Autobots."

My shoulders dropped in disappointment.

"Your transformation caused by the De Milo 'mini cube' seems to have been greatly influenced by your consciousness. The more obvious aspect of it was your change to a human female. If you can recall your last thoughts after you were hit, we can better isolate the roots of your female form.

"In any case, your present form is a little different from us. The difference," he continued, "is that, whereas the rest of us are machines that can mimic other machines, you seem to have been designed as a machine to mimic a human."

He gestured to the image.

"All the functions of the human body, reproduced in the most minute detail. It is quite amazing, actually. No Autobot or Decepticon mechanical has perfected such mimicry."

"Is that why," I asked, "that when I was examined before by the doctors, they thought I was just a regular human?"

"Partially," Perceptor answered, "but it was more because you were still in the beginnings of your, ummm, transformation into what I guess you could say is a humaniform pretender, so you were still more human than Cybertronian at that time."

"I remember Bill telling me about pretenders."

"Pretenders are a subtype deliberately created by the Decepticons. Pretenders are actually Decepticons whose chameleon circuits were deliberately set to make them pass as humans, for the express purpose of espionage, and although their efforts in duplication are quite excellent, as you saw with that woman that delivered the AllSpark sliver to Susan, they are less than perfect. They can only fool humans from a distance, and only for a while up close at best. As for you, aside from a blood test or an x-ray machine... that is what you call it, right?"

"Yes, x-ray..."

"Thank you... a blood test or an x-ray, no one will be able to tell you aren't human."

"How about metal detectors?"

"I don't know how but it seems you emit a type of low-grade electromagnetic field that can fool those types of devices. Come to think of it, I think you can fool x-ray machines as well, if you deliberately thought it through and gave it a try."

"Oh..."

"Anyway, you are as perfect an imitation of a human that I have ever seen or heard of for a Cybertronian. For example, look at this." A microscope-like view of the skin on my forearm replaced the image. "Your skin, although made from a tungsten-titanium-aluminum-copper-silicon amalgam - is designed to mimic the texture and flexibility of human skin. No joints for you, young one. And here," he pointed. "A tiny osmotic pump that imitates the function of a human sweat gland. I do not know if this is part of your heat regulating mechanism, just as sweat glands are for biological humans, but the fact of the matter is - you can sweat."

"I actually sweat?"

"Not real sweat, I suspect. Perhaps a mineral oil-based simulacrum. I don't know that for sure, of course, until I can get a sample. "

"Well, of course mineral oil... What else would it be?" I said sarcastically, trying to be funny.

Perceptor chuckled. "Indeed," he said, and continued. "Here," he said, gesturing at the screen again, "are your equivalent to lungs. Your body does not need oxygen or any other gas to aid in your energy production, but it does allow you to purge whatever waste products or trace impurities you might have in your mechanism at any given moment. Impurities are... metabolized or atomized, I suppose... into an inert gas or as minute particles or inert trace elements in your exhalation. And, linked with this mimic of an esophagus and vocal cords, they are also part of the mechanism that allows you to generate sound and thereby vocal speech."

"Don't you guys have..."

"We generate our vocalizations in a manner similar to your audio devices. As for expelling waste, we usually expel our waste matter as a solid instead of as a gas or liquid." He handed me a small, ball-bearing-like pebble thing. I took the little metal pebble and examined it.

"I suppose you could say that is our analogue to human feces," he said.

"You mean this is...? Ewww!" I threw the... ball bearing away from me.

Perceptor laughed. "I apologize, RC. I couldn't resist, knowing humans' distaste of their waste products." He held another of those ball bearing things up. "Actually, these are almost pure carbon and would be good material for use in your iron refineries and other industrial plants."

I snorted at that. "What else can you tell me?"

"Well, your entire digestive system seems to have been replicated, and it now seems you get your energy from a thermal-chemical breakdown of the material you take in through your mouth, to supplement direct absorption of solar energy or the absorption of energon. And it seems you still have chemical sensors in your tongue and mouth that I suspect allows you to enjoy the tastes and textures of human food as you used to. Currently, only you and Bumblebee can transform material into usable energy. The rest of us need to absorb energon.

"We are? Would I still, you know, poop?"

"Poop? What is... Oh!" He laughed. "As far as I can tell, the matter-to-energon conversion is quite complete and there is no residue you need to, umm, excrete. The mechanism by which your body is able to do the conversion seems to be quite complicated but very thorough - what was once your GI tract has been given over to processes other than digestion to allow this conversion. I do not quite understand the principle behind the process or effect, but it works, and it's quite efficient. In fact, in a week or two, once you have reached maximum energy saturation, you will have to reduce your intake or syphon off your excess energy somehow."

"How do I do that?"

"I don't know, but I did see what looked like energy taps. You can probably release the energy through there. They’re at the bottom of your heels, and on your palms and fingertips, except on your right index finger.”

“What are energy taps?”

“They like, ummm, power outlets or plugs, I guess, where energy can be tapped or released by the Autobot.”

“What for?”

“For many purposes. But your’s aren’t online yet. Anyway, don’t worry about your energy levels - we will cross that bridge when we get there." He patted my hand.

"Okay," I said. “You mentioned my right index finger doesn’t have a tap?”

“That’s right. That’s because of this.” He showed a sort-of X-ray on his monitor.

“Hey! That looks like my old handgun!”

“Your handgun?”

“Yes. I had a Ruger-GE 45-caliber Polymer-Frame Electric handgun. I thought I had lost it.”

Perceptor went back to his console. “Yes, indeed, it does match a Ruger-GE 45.”

I looked at my hand. “But, Perceptor, I don’t understand – how did it get inside my hand?”

“Were you, by chance, holding it while you were being hit by the Venus de Milo’s cube?”

“I think so…”

“I suppose the weapon was absorbed into your matrix when you started re-forming into your new body.”

“Does it work?”

“Indeed. Look at this.” He punched some more buttons and we saw a video of our battle in the forest as seen from above. He zoomed in on me, specifically, and we could see my image raise my right arm and pointed my index and middle fingers at the enemy, like one would a gun. Then the armored glove covering my hand literally exploded and the Venus de Milo statue was hit.

“Wow…” I said, and looked at my hand. “But… how do I trigger it again?”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out in time. Anyway, let’s get back on topic.”

I nodded and looked at my “x ray” again. So many things have changed now.

"You're saying I don't poop anymore..." I said, getting back to our discussion.

"Oh, you want to talk about that now. Well, all right. Actually, you can 'poop' if you want to, but it's a voluntary thing. You can also 'pee' as well. Is that the right word? Pee?"

I giggled and nodded.

"Ah, good. Yes, you can do both, but it will be completely cosmetic and voluntary, but unnecessary to your functioning. As to what you would excrete if you DO decide to, I don't know." He suddenly drifted off. "Hmmm. I wonder..."

After he noticed me staring at him, waiting for him to continue, he shook himself from whatever he was thinking, went back to the console and changed the image on the screen back to a full-body scan.

I looked at my "x-ray" and, from my layman's eye, it seemed like a normal CT or x-ray scan. But from what Perceptor was saying, clearly I wasn't normal.

"Perceptor? Do you think I can, you know, change? Sorry - transform, I mean? Like you guys?"

"RC," he said, after he thought my question over, "You are unique in my experience. An aberration, if you can forgive the term - the result of an accident that, I think, is unique in the annals of Cybertronian or human history. Imagine, a biological transformed into a mechanical. As far as I can tell, you cannot switch parts nor transform, so are you a Cybertronian transformer? Are you even a Cybertronian at all? Or maybe, like a young Autobot, that ability will manifest itself later. I have a suspicion, but let's talk about that later. One thing you have to keep in mind, though - is that you are still changing. What your final form would be - I can only guess, and maybe you will be able to transform then."

"I'm still changing?"

"Yes. My internal scans indicate that there are changes continuously happening inside of you still."

"There are?" I looked down at my now-boob-covered chest.

"No, you cannot see the changes from the outside." For a genius, Perceptor does tend to take things too literally.

"My scans show that many of your internal components are still in the process of transformation," he continued, "from direct analogues of human organs that are no longer necessary to mechanisms that I am more familiar with. For example, when you first came to us, I know for a fact that you were consuming oxygen then, and expelling carbon dioxide. Now you don't. Your lungs are still there, but they're changing and doing something else now instead of helping you breathe - your breathing action is actually only reflex." He zoomed in on an image of what was, I thought, my spleen, "Here's another example. I do not know what the former function of this component was, but now this seems to have transformed, just recently, into an energy distribution node that all Cybertronians possess, which regulates the use of energy by the Cybertronian, especially when he transforms, but as far as we can tell, you cannot transform." The pseudo-spleen radiated what appeared to be vermicelli-thick strands of wire that went up and down the inside of my torso.

He changed the image again. "Here's another - most of your former skeleton has been changing, mostly in their internal structure, to a honeycomb-type lattice which provides maximum load-bearing capacity and strength without the need for too much mass. And their main constituents now are mostly iron, nickel and titanium - not calcium. As for the rest of your internals - many I recognize, but there is one mechanism I totally do not understand: this one."

He changed the image yet again. Originally, I thought he was zooming in on my new breasts, which had me blushing (later on, I had to wonder how I could even blush), but he was actually focusing in on something underneath the skin, just under the ribs, in between two ribs and on top of my modified right lung. Almost right beside my "heart," in fact. It looked roughly triangular, about the size and shape of the cap of a disposable pen, with small threads radiating out of it, similar to those from my "spleen," which branched out continuously until the branches were so thin they sort of faded out.

"I have never seen anything like this," Perceptor said. "From its general cross-section, it looks like another distribution node, but this node is far too small and irregularly-shaped, and the energon strands are far too thin, and the strands go everywhere, almost like..." His voice trailed away as he continued to stare at the image.

He touched the side of his helmet. "Magnus! Ratchet! You better come up to the imaging lab. It's urgent. Cliff-jumper! Bring Ms Blu and Bumblebee. Quickly!"

"What! What did you see?"

Perceptor made a patting-down gesture. "It's nothing, RC. But I think I may have figured what this new node really is." He focused in on it further and studied it silently while we waited for the others.

The big doors to the Autobot lab slid open and Ratchet, followed closely by Ultra Magnus, rushed in. A moment later, Bumblebee in her Volkswagen form screeched in, with Susan inside her.

"What is it, Perceptor?" Magnus said. "Is RC all right?"

Perceptor chose to ignore the question. "Do you remember Ms Blu's AllSpark sliver that was lost?"

Magnus looked at him in barely-suppressed impatience, waiting for him to continue.

"Well, I think I found it." He pointed to that little node in my "x-ray."

They all looked at the image on the screen. No one spoke for a while.

"What's it doing inside RC?" Susan asked.
 
 
Ten: RC and The Future of The Autobots

"It's really not difficult to determine that, " Perceptor said to me, answering Susan's question. "Do you remember Susan telling us that the shard was in her breast pocket when she leaned you against her as she checked your back for injuries? Your body was in flux then as it started its transformation. You were suffused with waves of that AllSpark energy, and Susan's shard resonated with that energy. Your body in short, absorbed it, or maybe it was the one that bored into you, or maybe both. It doesn't really matter. All that matters is that it ended up inside you, integrating itself into your changing body."

I looked at him aghast. "What will it do to me?" I asked.

"I don't know, RC."

- - - - -

After that discovery, Perceptor couldn't concentrate and continue with his briefing. Instead, he and Ratchet did every kind of test they could think of, but they didn't reveal anything more except that, aside from its irregular shape, it seemed to function as just another energy node, and it was inescapably intimately linked to my insides via the energon strands. It was thought that the best course was to take it out but Ratchet nixed that. Given how it was linked to me now, taking it out would probably kill me.

Two days later, Susan and I had come to some life decisions. We had decided to live together. There were some practical considerations, though, like work. But Susan was happy to relocate to Washington State and to find a new job in Tacoma or even Lakewood, though the best would be something in Seattle. I asked her about her plans of going national but she said she could still do that from Seattle.

As for me, I was settling in as a member of NEST’s new command staff. By this time, my being recalled to active service by the Secretary of Defense was now official, and was again a Captain, permanently assigned to the NEST command staff in their HQ in Fort Lewis. They also set me up in my own house (actually a converted warehouse) about a twenty-minute drive from the fort, plus they modified my convertible Ford F150 pickup and brought it over. Guess they were anxious for me to settle in.

My regular day would usually be made up of training sessions with my team, called "X Flight," and the Autobots, and planning and strategy sessions with the rest of NEST. The motor pool, with help from the quartermaster's, had modified the driver and passenger's seats of my F150 so it could be adjusted so that they would fit my now-larger frame.

From then on, my life would start to develop a routine, and I found that I was adapting to it very easily. What was difficult was trying to live life as a female. But to be of credit to Susan, I did my best to comport myself as a lady.

As for Susan, she had quickly decorated our new place in one twenty-four-hour marathon decorating session, aided and abetted by Sergeant Daryl Boone and his colleague Arlene. Betty helped, too. And at the end of the day, we now had a new, fully decorated place.

We were also told that Susan wasn’t needed full time anymore, and could return home and continue on with her life. She did take up her interrupted routine again, except that she was able to negotiate a slightly less than a five-day workweek with her station. She now commuted between work and to Washington State: She'd leave our house Monday morning, and would be back at her job by around one PM. (Her actual travel time would be less than an hour because she would hitch a ride on the military ballistic courier jet NEST would regularly send to and from DC and Fort Lewis. But because of the three-hour time difference, it would be past noon when she arrived.)

On Friday, she'd leave at about 7:30, after her nightly news program, and because of the time difference, she would actually be back at around six PM, technically an hour and a half earlier than before she left.

Anyway, it worked for us. Even so, Susan had been checking around for vacancies among the Seattle network TV and cable affiliates. When they found out, all the stations made a bid for her. But her own home network made their own bid and sweetened the package by offering her a "special correspondent" network position, covering science and technology, working out of the Seattle affiliate office. Of course, Susan took the position, and she would begin the following month.

But, for now, she still had her old job, and would regularly shuttle to and from the base.

Betty was therefore unable to go with Susan, so she stayed with me. Perceptor explained to me that my place was actually Wheelie’s old place which he gave up when he moved back onto the base. As such, it was deliberately made to be Autobot-friendly - that is to say, our place was very large and was quite roomy with over-sized doors - an Autobot wouldn't have trouble moving around in it. So Betty fit just fine. Only the bigger Autobots like Ultra Magnus wouldn't be able to get in.

Betty had her own room, and she outfitted it in a very feminine way. Not surprisingly, her tastes were very similar to Susan’s in terms of the furniture and fittings, curtains and colors. She also had a closet in there, and I’ve been itching to see what she kept in there since she doesn’t really need clothes.

She had a comm system and a large entertainment center in her room, as well as a large Autobot-friendly sofa set, or what looked like a sofa set except they were actually uncushioned, over-large heavy-duty wood benches made to resemble a five-piece sofa set – each sofa able to fit three Autobots the size of Perceptor. They were artfully arranged around a large coffee table, although, for a human, the table was more the size of a dining table. In the middle was a decorative bowl filled with colored-crystal decorative apples and other fruit. I found that very cute – I guess they were the Autobot equivalent of wax fruit. Betty also kept about half a dozen human-sized stackable plastic chairs in a corner, as well as a plastic cooler full of juice boxes and snacks underneath her workbench, just for us.

Off in the corner of her room was a device that looked like an over-large soda machine which, I was told, was actually an energon station that produced Lucite cubes of energon. I saw Autobots sipping from these Lucite cubes like people drinking from juice boxes. Beside it was what looked like a water dispenser with a five-gallon water bottle full of cranberry-colored liquid, and beside it a small rollaway table with big tumbler-sized glasses. Betty told me that the liquid was actually hi-test gasoline. Well…

Naturally, there was no bed, but there was a large, cleared area where Betty can park if she wanted to rest. Right nearby was her hobby area. It seemed Betty was like Susan in her hobbies, too, and she dabbled in watercolor painting and clay sculpting. Unfortunately, her skill levels with these hobbies were the same as Susan’s. And Susan doesn’t paint or sculpt well…

- - - - -

As for the rest of the place, Susan and I (mostly Susan, actually) have outfitted the rest of the warehouse… I mean, house, with every convenience we could think of. Our place has everything. And Susan and I had almost all of our stuff moved over, although we left most of our furniture behind. We opted to get new furniture. Our kitchen also had all the conveniences, and it allowed us to indulge our need to cook. And Susan had brought over her fabulous entertainment center, which we put in our living area. My own TV stuff wasn’t as grand, but it was good enough for our bedroom.

Susan had monopolized a big chunk of our bedroom’s closet-space, naturally, but I got one of my own (about half the size of hers) to hold all of my new duds, which had come trickling in for the past few days. I didn’t know what half of them were, much less how to wear them properly, but I’m sure Suzy will show me when she comes home this Friday.

As for casual stuff, Arlene and Sergeant Boone was able to get me almost everything I needed, including my military stuff.

As for the bath, I found that Perceptor was correct – I never needed to go to the toilet anymore, but I still pretended to when Suzy was around. I didn’t want to unduly worry her. As for my seemingly bottomless appetite, it had started to peter out, as Perceptor said it would. But in its place, I felt a little restless and agitated. Perceptor said that my energy stores had started to become saturated and I would need to find out how to siphon out excess energy soon. He promised he’d help me fix that problem later.

In the meantime, I had my duties. At the moment, I was helping Rodimus with the interrogation of our five new prisoners.

- - - - -

In terms of rank, in NEST’s combined command roster, my list showed that Rodimus had an equivalent rank of major, so I took my lead from him in our “interrogation.”

“Hello, Captain,” Rodimus said as I entered the interview room.

“Good morning, sir,” I said. “How go the, ummm, interrogations?” I came in and sat beside him. Betty, or rather, Bumblebee as the Autobots preferred to call her, followed.

I glanced at the notes he had in front of him, but I couldn’t understand the writing. Rodimus noted my difficulty and pressed a couple of buttons on his tablet.

“Here you go, Captain,” he said, and handed it to me. The writing had been translated to English, and I could understand it now.

“Thanks,” I said.

“It’s no problem. As soon as the rest of your system analytics kick in, you’ll be able to translate Cybertronian and other Quintesson-based glyphs into any other language you prefer yourself.”

“Analytics?”

“Perceptor and Ratchet told us about your… condition.”

“What do you mean?”

“That you’re a Cybertronian, or will soon be. In the meantime, we’ll help while you transition.”

I sighed. It seemed all the Autobots knew about me already. “Thanks, Rodimus. Now, what’s next?”

“Well, as you read, I haven’t been too lucky with my first interview. Let’s see how we go with this next one.”

Another of the “statues” was ushered in. This one looked like an animated version of a statue of a very pretty girl. She seemed to be made from shiny, white marble, and had a very slight figure. Her dimensions were very close to a human’s although slightly tall for a girl – she must be around six feet tall. She was wearing a white, long-sleeved button-down shirt and jeans. If she wasn’t marble, I would have assumed she was just any pretty girl.

I clicked a flashing link on Rodimus’ tablet and it showed me a profile of the girl in front of us. She used to be Katherine Jackson, a personal assistant working in DC, and disappeared while on her way to meet some friends in Gaithersburg a few weeks ago. Her form was traced to an un-named statue by an early-twentieth century Italian sculptor named Emilio Fiaschi. The statue was just called “Veiled Female Nude.” Ms Jackson ended up looking very pretty.

Per Rodimus’ readings, she had the highest energy levels, too, and was the most reactive of the five. She stood and looked at us nervously. Around her wrists were things that looked like manacles. I was told they were handcuffs designed for Autobots.

“Sit down, miss,” I said. “No need to be nervous. We won’t hurt you.” Rodimus reached out to her wrists and took off the cuffs.

I never even knew a statue could have facial expressions. She looked at us, rubbing her wrists. “You could have fooled me,” she responded in a high, melodious voice. Her voice didn’t match the image I had in my mind. After all, she was a sculpture, or at least looked like one. I had assumed she’d have rough voice. Her voice sounded like a young girl’s, nervous and scared. “You guys were trying to kill me.”

“Listen, you,” Rodimus grated. “You and your friends had been going berserk and killing people. What did you want us to do?”

“My friends?”

“The other statues!”

“Statues?”

Rodimus sighed in frustration. “Have you tried looking in the mirror?”

She looked at us confusedly. “What?”

- - - - -

Rodimus and I reported to General Lennox and Ultra Magnus.

“Sir,” I said, as I saluted the general and Magnus.

“At ease, Ron, I mean RC. Sit down. So, have you had better luck?”

“Afraid not, sir. Although we’ve uncovered the fact that the prisoners have no recollection of what happened. Or rather, their recollection of past events are a little confused. And incomplete.”

“In what way?”

“They recall being captured by us, but they don’t recall anything about how they were transformed and what they’ve been doing since then. It’s like they just recovered their memory.”

“So they remember who they were?”

“Yes, now they do. They just seem to be average people that were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. And they seem to have forgotten everything since they were zapped. They’re very, very confused at how they were turned into their current forms.”

“How were they able to operate the way they did, then, if they had amnesia?”

I shrugged. “Rodimus and I have a theory, and Perceptor concurs that our theory’s plausible.”

“What theory is that?”

“That the Venus de Milo entity had been exercising control over them since she transformed them. But with her absence, it seems that they have reverted back to their old human personas.”

Rodimus nodded. “We’ve also been having Perceptor and Ratchet do some periodic scans of the prisoners,” he said. “As far as Perceptor can tell, they are in the same state as RC was a few days ago, in a transitional state between a biological and a cybernetic entity. But, instead of a continuing transformation until completion, their transformation seemed to have stopped midway.”

“They haven’t completed their transformation?”

“No, sir - that’s the problem. They haven’t.”

“What are the implications if the transition is incomplete?”

“Perceptor says their present forms are not viable. Their forms should degrade in a few days.”

“But, as far as we can tell, they’ve been in these forms for at least two weeks…”

Rodimus nodded at that. “I know, sir. Ratchet thinks that the Venus de Milo entity was channeling the energy from her mini-cube to constantly re-energize their forms and prevent mechanical disarticulation. But when she left them…”

“What is ‘mechanical disarticulation,’” Lennox asked.

I answered that. “I was told, General, that mechanical disarticulation is the Autobot equivalent of starvation for humans. For humans, the severe deficiency in caloric intake will eventually result in the cessation of life. For Cybertronians, without energon, it’s the same. However, for Autobots, they literally fall apart. What allows them to transform is that they can control the interlocking of the various components of their bodies. But, without energy, they wouldn’t be able to anymore, and literally fall apart prior to ceasing to live. I am told it’s a very painful and horrible kind of death for an Autobot.

“For these, ummm, ‘in-between’ forms, they have no means of absorbing energon or any other forms of energy. Their bodies are incomplete. It’s like they were born without stomachs or intestinal tracts, and need regular blood transfusions.”

Lennox looked at me with an inscrutable expression.

“Are you saying these people will die soon without the Venus creature?”

“Yes, sir, unless…”

“Unless we can somehow use the mini-cube and re-energize them ourselves,” Rodimus continued.

“Have Perceptor and Ratchet found out how the mini-cube works?” Ultra Magnus asked.

Rodimus shook his head no.

“What could go wrong if we try this out?”

“Overload. The subject can detonate like a bomb. Or she could just burn up.”

“But we have to try, sir,” I said, “otherwise, these people will still die. Better to try.”

“How much time do they have?”

“Ratchet says five days at best,” Rodimus said, “but it’s closer to four. Except for Ms Jackson. She has about two weeks’ worth of energy. We suspect she was transformed more recently, and therefore has more energy remaining.”

Ultra Magnus looked at Lennox. Lennox nodded.

“All right,” Magnus said, “you are cleared to try. Explain the situation to these people, and ask for one volunteer. If it works, then you try with the others.”

“Yes, sir.”

Rodimus and I left and went to Perceptor’s lab. We explained what we intended to do and they agreed. While they got the mini-cube from isolation storage and prepared a testing chamber, we went to the holding area for the prisoners.

We found them in their individual cells, confused and very scared.

We went to the one I first talked to – Ms. Jackson.

When we went into her cell, she nervously stood up. I gestured for her to relax.

“Relax, Ms. Jackson. Sit down,” I said. “Sorry to bother you. We just wanted give you some more information.”

She sat down by the table. The chair squeaked ominously with her weight, but it held.

The girl sighed. “Thanks… Well… so you have more information, I hope, that can explain how I ended up this way?” She gestured down at her body.

“We think we do. We’re still gathering more information to come out with a more complete picture. Anyway, how are you feeling, Ms Jackson?”

“Well, I feel weird. I’m a fucking statue, you know!”

“Other than that.”

“Well, I feel very hungry. But I don’t know if I can eat given how I am now.”

“Let me see what I can get you. Anything you’re in the mood for?”

“Hell, anything will do. Burger and fries? And maybe a Pepsi?”

“Coming up.” I brought out my phone, called Betty and asked her to bring in a large cheeseburger, fries and a soda, as well as a one-unit energon cube. These were one of the things we wanted to try as an alternative to the cube, after all. Might as well.

I clicked off. “It’ll be here in a few minutes.”

“Thanks, miss. I’m starving. So what’s a pretty girl like you doing, hanging around with the Autobots?” She smiled at me in that way that I have come to recognize now. I guess I’ll never really get used to being a girl.

I shrugged. “Just trying to lend a hand.”

Betty came in and left several burgers and fries on the table, as well as a can of diet Pepsi and one shimmering cube full of a glowing, golden-amber liquid.

“Great,” the girl said, and reached for the burgers and fries. “Thanks.”

She unwrapped a burger and ate it in seconds flat. She reminded me of myself after I woke up from my own transformation. She finished everything in less than five minutes, opened the Pepsi and drained the can quickly. She belched.

“Excuse me,” she giggled.

“No problem. Are you feeling any better?”

“Not really,” she said. “It’s like I didn’t eat anything.”

Rodimus and I looked at each other. He nodded to me and gestured to the energon cube.

“Well, how about you try this,” I said, and handed her the cube.

She took the cube and looked at it.

“What do I do with this?” she asked.

“Put one of the corners to your lips and drink from it like a glass of juice.”

“What is it? Why is it glowing?”

“It’s something called ‘energon.’ It’s like, ummm, an energy drink for Autobots.”

She lifted it to her lips and drank. I saw her throat working, so she was clearly swallowing. In moments the little Lucite cube was drained and she put it down.

“That tasted pretty good,” she said. “Better than the burgers, actually.”

“Feel any better?”

“Actually, yes. It’s like it took the edge off my hunger. But it’s still there.”

I brought up Rodimus’ tablet and looked at the screen.

“You’re right – your energy level has gone up by two thirds of a percent.”

“But she drank one whole cube,” Rodimus said. That’s usually enough energy for about a week.”

I nodded. “You’re right. What could that mean?”

“I don’t know. But I’m sure Ratchet and Perceptor will know.”

The girl reached out and pulled on my sleeve. “So, you said you guys have information?”

I nodded, and looked to Rodimus, and he explained what we knew. As he explained, the girl in marble started to look more and more scared. I reached out and held her hand. It felt very heavy and smooth, but didn’t feel quite like marble. Somehow I could feel, through the touch of her hand, that she was a person, not a statue. A very scared person.

“I’m sorry, Ms Jackson,” I said. “This shouldn’t have happened. We’re doing our best to fix this.”

She started sobbing. I leaned over and gave her a hug.

“Can anything even be done?” she sobbed.

“We took the mini-cube from that thing that made you this way. We can try, ummm, recharging you, and that would give us time to change you back.”

“How will you do that?”

“Like I said, we have that cube from that statue that transformed you. We will shoot electricity into the cube and cause it to discharge. We can let that discharge course through you, and hopefully what will charge you back up.”

“Will that even work?”

“We don’t know. But, frankly, Ms Jackson, this is our only choice at the moment.”

She let out a sigh.

“All right. Let’s do it.” She wearily stood up.

“Wait,” I said, and pulled her back down.

“We’re going to try it on someone else first,” I said. “The reason we picked someone else was because you still had a few more days’ worth of energy. We picked the one that had the least amount of energy left. It’s a risk, after all, so we picked the one with the least to lose.”

“But…”

“If it doesn’t work, we could actually cause an explosion.”

She paled. Even through the marble, I could see her fear.

“Explosion?” she said.

“Yes.”

“Okay…”

- - - - -

We explained the same thing to the other four, and explained to the one that looked like that statue of Rodin called “The Thinker,” and said that we selected him as our guinea pig.

We explained to him the reasons why, and the possible things that could happen. He listened patiently, and agreed.

His name was Alex Smith. He was a retired high school principal, and was used to making decisions. All he asked was that we contact his wife, in case what we’re going to do wasn’t successful.

We walked out with him and went to a big pickup truck parked outside. The two of us got onboard and Rodimus transformed into a black and purple hotrod right beside our truck while Betty transformed into her car form. We then drove to a big warehouse-sized building, and we escorted him inside.

In there was a big empty space, almost as big as the Encounter Arena. In the middle was a small metal stand surrounded by small chrome spheres that looked exactly like the spherical terminals of a tesla coil spark gap transformer.

Perceptor and Ratchet were inside.

Solemnly, they shook hands with Mr. Smith and escorted him to a chair facing the stand.

The man that looked like a statue sat down and patiently waited for the Autobots to finish strapping his arms, and legs to the chair.

“Good luck, Mr. Smith,” I called.

He smiled his thanks and sat calmly as he watched the Autobots work.

Ratchet brought out the mini-cube and mounted it on the stand. Next, he turned off the safeties for the chrome emitters. The safeties looked like old-style power breakers, and Ratchet had to use both his hands to close the large switches.

He then walked back with us to an observation room, where we stood behind a glass window at least two feet thick, and looked into the testing chamber. Behind us were several humans and Autobots, including Lennox and Magnus.

Perceptor leaned over a microphone on the console.

“We’re about to start the test. Are you ready in there, Mr. Smith?”

“Yes,” he said. “I sincerely hope this works.”

“Good luck, sir. Here we go.”

Perceptor nodded to Ratchet, and Ratchet pushed a button.

Blue-white spiderwebs of electricity started coming out of the electrodes and hit the cube. A deafening sound filled the chamber and all of us covered our ears. As more and more electricity hit the cube, tiny golden spiderweb-like writing and symbols start to glow on the cube.

As soon as this happened, Ratchet and Perceptor shake hands. I am told later that, when these appeared, it meant that the cube has been “primed.” The intact AllSpark would do the same so, to Ratchet and Perceptor, like the intact AllSpark, this meant the mini-cube was ready to be triggered, too.

Ratchet turned off the electrical generators and signaled Perceptor.

Perceptor pulled down a lever and an energy blaster mounted on the wall in the chamber fired into the cube.

That final kick of energy triggered what felt like a bomb going off inside the chamber. We all reflexively ducked but, after a moment, we peeked into the chamber. We saw Mr. Smith still sitting in the metal chair, but he was slumped to the side.

I rushed forward and put a hand against the glass. The glass was very warm but was still intact – no cracks or anything like that. I looked in and couldn’t see much – all I could see was the guy sitting in the chair, and he wasn’t moving.

I rushed to the airlock door, spun the pressure lock and opened it.

I rushed through and ran to Mr. Smith.

When I saw him, I was sure he was dead. Parts of him were glowing red, like pieces of coal in a barbecue pit. His face was frozen in a grimace of pain, and his hands were curled into fists. I couldn’t believe he was gone.

The others rushed after me, and they saw me standing in front of the poor Mr. Smith.

Perceptor came and knelt by the chair. He waved a device over him and the machine made a warbling kind of sound. Perceptor looked down at me and shook his head.

“I’m sorry, RC. He’s gone.”

I nodded sadly, and watched as they worked on Mr. Smith while Ratchet went to check the cube.

They gently lifted Mr. Smith’s body, perhaps to do an autopsy or something, and I stayed in the chamber, looking down.

“What will we do now, Perceptor?”

“I don’t know, RC.” He looked down at me sadly, turned and followed the others as they brought poor Mr. Smith out.

Betty stood by me.

“We should go, RC,” Betty gently said to me. “It’s time to pick up Ms Susan.”

I knew that Betty was reminding me more to break me out of my mood rather than anything else.

“Okay, Bee,” I said.

I turned to Lennox. “Sir,” I saluted, and made to leave.

“Where are you going, Captain?”

“I think I’ll knock off for the day, sir. Bumblebee and I will be going over to the landing strip. We’re picking up Ms Blu.”

“Okay, Captain. Carry on.”

- - - - -

I stood by the side of the runway, leaning against Betty in her car form and watched the high-speed ballistic shuttle land.

A few minutes later, Susan came out of the rear loading ramp, pushing yet another pallet full of stuff in front of her. She waved back to the crew of the plane and, when she saw me, she hurried.

“RC!” she said happily and jumped into my arms.

I easily lifted her off her feet and hugged her, making sure not to hug her too strongly.

“I missed you,” she whispered into my ear, and peppered my face with butterfly kisses.

I kissed her back, and pretty soon, I had her breathless. I let her up in a while, grinning.

“Whew! I needed that,” she said. “Hello, my love.”

“Hi, Suzy. Welcome home.” I gestured to the pallet. “So what’s this?”

“This? Well, this is the last of my stuff. With this, I have officially moved out of my old place. That means that I will be staying in a hotel for the next two weeks until my new job starts.”

“Okay.”

I put her down and started loading stuff inside Betty’s trunk and backseat. While I was doing so, she went over to Betty and hugged her on her hood. They’ve been away from each other for five days now. Guess she missed Betty.

After I was done and had pushed the empty cart to the side, Susan was still on Betty’s hood, and it appeared like they were chatting.

“Hey, you two. Enough of that. Let’s get outa here and you girls can chat some more at home.”

Susan gave Betty a kiss on the hood and went over to the driver’s door. I got in the other side and we left for our new place.

- - - - -

Over dinner, I told Suzy what had happened. She could see how I felt, and gave me a hug. Betty gave me a sympathetic look, and told me no one could have done anything.

I knew that, but it didn’t really help.

We silently ate our Chinese take-out dinner while Betty finished off her hi-test. But Suzy wanted to change the mood and started talking about her week, filling it with a lot of anecdotes and funny stories about the goings-on in a TV station.

The way she talked about her work made it seem like it would be fun working in a TV station. I guess it could be – I’ve seen her with her staff.

I had to smile and wonder how lucky I was to have her in my life.

- - - - -

I couldn’t sleep that night, and looked at Susan as she slept. I loved her so much it hurt, but in a good kind of way. I gave her a kiss and slipped out of bed. I still couldn’t take my mind off what had happened.

The nightie that Suzy insisted that we both wear to bed was a little flimsy for me, so I decided to put on the little gossamer robe that Suzy says is called a bed jacket, and walked downstairs to the living room. I got a bottle of bourbon from our little bar, filled a bowl with ice, got a drinking glass and parked myself on the living room couch. I sat in the dark, nursed my drink and thought of what happened today.

As a soldier or a cop, one has to get used to the inevitability of having to kill someone. I guess I’ve made my peace with that, but what I haven’t gotten a handle on yet is when you have to helplessly stand by and watch someone die. I didn’t know Alex Smith, and only knew what I read in his bio. Still, I found myself tearing up.

“Such a stupid waste,” I thought to myself as I sipped my bourbon. I suppose if he was a complete stranger, I probably wouldn’t feel as bad, but I talked to him just before he died. I held his hand.

I wondered what his family was doing right now – probably sleeping, like I should be, too. I wondered if his wife already knew. Probably not. They’ll probably be telling her tomorrow, or maybe on Monday.

There was a tissue dispenser on the coffee table and I took a couple of tissues to wipe my eyes. If only there was something we could have done.

“Good evening, Captain McKenzie,” someone behind me spoke. I knew who it was so I didn’t need to turn.

“Hi, Bee,” I said. “What are you doing up?” I hastily wiped my eyes and blew my nose.

“I don’t exactly sleep, Captain. Autobots don’t need it.”

“Ahhh.”

She walked to the front of the couch I was on. I gestured for her to sit down, and she sat on the floor in front and to the right of me. I noticed she was carrying her own drink – her favorite sports bottle full of what undoubtedly was gasoline.

“I was actually wondering about that,” she said. “Do you even need sleep, Captain?”

“Oh, Bee. I told you before - I’d prefer if you don’t call me Captain.”

“But I find it… awkward to call you RC. You are, after all, Ms Susan’s spouse and my commanding officer.”

I smiled at that. “I’m fine you calling me Captain when there are Autobots or military folks around. I meant that, when we’re not at work, you can call me RC.”

“Thank you, RC. I will do so from now on.”

You’re welcome. Did you and Suzy have a good visit?”

“Very much so. I missed Ms Susan. It is very pleasant to talk with her again.”

I nodded and sipped of my drink. Betty copied me and took a sip of her hi-test, too. That made me smile. She was acting like a little sister or something.

“You didn’t answer my question, though, RC. Do you need sleep?”

“Well, yes, although not as much as before. I guess my changes are still happening. So, yes, I still do need sleep.”

“So why are you awake now?”

I kept silent.

“Were you thinking of Herr Smith?”

I looked out the picture window on my right, which looked out to the little copse of trees beside our place.

“You could not have done anything, RC,” she continued. “And, if Perceptor and Ratchet did not try, he would surely have died tonight. At least they were able to preserve his dignity instead of allowing him to pass away via mechanical disarticulation.”

“I know that, but, still…”

She went to me, and gave me a hug. And that broke my control. My tears flowed freely and cried on Betty’s shoulder.

“I shouldn’t do this on you,” I said, and giggled. “You might rust.”

Betty chuckled at that – the first time I heard her laugh. It was a tinkling kind of giggle – very close to Suzy’s bell-like laughter.

We stayed like that for a while, and Betty was patient to let me work out my grief myself. When I felt better, I gave her a squeeze around her neck one last time, and let go.

“Thank you, Bee,” I whispered.

“You are always welcome, RC.”

We stayed in the living room the rest of the night, sipping on our drinks and just chatting pleasantly. Betty had a lot of questions, and I couldn’t help but think of a curious little girl asking things. I did my best and tried to answer her questions as completely and objectively as I could.

And as we talked, my mind was still thinking of the problem. And an idea came to me.

“Bee, let me confirm something.”

“Yes, RC?”

“Do you remember when that girl in marble – Katherine Jackson – drank the energon?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Wasn’t it that her energy levels increased?”

“Yes, but only by a miniscule amount. Two thirds of a percent.”

“Well, that’s nothing to sneeze at, especially if we have no other alternative. Do you think it would be all right to give Perceptor a call?”

“Why would it not be all right?”

“Well, it’s the middle of… oh, right. Okay, give me a minute to change and leave a note for Suzy.”

I rushed upstairs and changed into shorts, sneakers, a tanktop and a bomber jacket. I left a little note on the bedside table explaining that Betty and I were on our way to meet Perceptor, but will be right back. I rushed down, but stopped myself, remembering to put on a bra. I went back up, hurriedly put on a t-shirt bra, grabbed my forgotten purse, gave Suzy a kiss and rushed back down.

The MPs at the gate passed us through without any questions as they recognized Betty. We then walked to the NEST main building and continued on to Perceptor’s lab. The few MPs patrolling recognized both Betty and me and just saluted and allowed us to pass. One of them wolf-whistled at me, which got him thumped on the head by his buddy.

“What’re you doing, man!” he said. “That’s a captain!”

“But she’s a hottie, dude! Smokin’ hot!”

“She can get your ass court-martialed for insubordination and disrespecting an officer.”

“But, man!”

“She’s also the personal friend of the general.”

“That doesn’t change the facts, man!”

“Oh, I give up!”

Betty and I didn’t hear the rest of their discussion when we turned the next corridor.

I looked at Betty and, after a second, we simultaneously burst out laughing.

In a few minutes, we were in Perceptor’s lab.

“Perceptor?” I called. “Are you here?”

“Captain McKenzie?” Perceptor answered. “What are you doing here at this time of night?” He came out from behind a bank of computers. Apparently, he was working.

“Sorry to bother you, but Bumblebee and I were chatting, and we came up with an idea.” (I remembered to use Betty’s Autobot-preferred name.) “We wanted to tell you and see what you thought about it.”

Betty shook her head.

“Don’t believe her, sir,” Betty said. “The captain thought of this idea herself.”

Perceptor smiled at that and turned to me.

“So what’s your idea, Captain?”

“Well, remember when that girl, Ms Jackson, took the energon?”

“Yes?”

“After she did, her energy level went up, right?”

“But only by an infinitesimal amount. Hardly enough to matter.”

“Two-thirds of a percent, right?”

“Yes.”

“In terms of actual time, how much extra time did that give Ms Jackson?”

“Well, it’s impossible to calculate that. It depends on the individual.”

“Can’t you take an educated guess?”

Perceptor nodded, pressed a few buttons on the console beside him and some numbers came up on the big screen. The figures were in Cybertronian glyphs. I shook my head. It felt like I should be able to read it – it was like when you’re trying to recall the name of a person you haven’t seen in a long time. Colloquially, the meaning of the words was “on the tip of my tongue.” It was a weird feeling, to say the least.

“On the top are Ms Jackson’s stats from yesterday - her height, specific mass, that kind of thing. The next set of figures is the typical number of distribution nodes of an Autobot of her size and mass, and the amount of energy that an Autobot of that configuration consumes. The next set is the projected number of joules Ms Jackson has been expending given her incarceration and the minimum amount of activities she’s been doing.”

“Ahhh. Sort of like her height and weight, her BMI, and then the calories that she’s been using.”

“Huh?”

Betty leaned forward and they had a high-speed conversation that sounded like twittering birds. I had another “on the tip of my tongue” moment – a feeling that I should understand them.

“Ahhh.” Perceptor said to Betty, nodding, and then turned back to me. “You’re absolutely correct, Captain. Anyway, using these figures…” he gestured at the screen. “These give us the following.” He pressed a button and a new set of glyphs came up.

“The computer estimates that the zero point six-six-six percent energy top-up has given her an extra two hours.”

“So it did help.”

“But, Captain, that’s practically a useless amount of energy.”

“Not if you’re trying to stave of death. Even that’s worth something. Anyway, does that mean, if we give her one energon cube every two hours, she’d be fine?”

“Well, probably not. Clearly, she isn’t able to absorb the bulk of the energon. And any un-absorbed energon would be detrimental to her internals in time. Something analogous to a human drinking something that is too hot. But…”

From his expression, we could see that he was on to something.

“Yes?” I said.

“But, what if we’re able to dilute the energon somehow so it’s less… ‘dense,’ and allow her to more readily absorb it?”

“’Dense?’” Betty asked.

“A figure of speech, Bumblebee.”

“What kind of liquid can you even use to dilute the energon?” I asked.

“Well, energon is a kind of plasma, Captain. It’s not an actual liquid. The little plastic cubes that we use to contain them are actually impregnated with a special ferromagnetic material that reflects the plasma’s energy upon itself, almost like an electromagnetic bottle. Otherwise, the plastic would have been consumed in less than a nanosecond, and the energon would have melted everything around it. But, wait…”

He went back to his keyboard and started to furiously type on it. Betty and I remained quiet in order not to break his chain of thought.

In a few minutes, on the screen, we could see a picture of an elongated energon cube with a black cap on it that had a spout with a removable stopper. Beside it was a picture of a regular energon cube, and we could compare Perceptor’s modified cube with a regular cube. Beside the cap, it’s like it had been stretched so it wasn’t a cube anymore. In terms of height, it was stretched to about three times as tall. The best way I could describe it was that it looked like an energon equivalent of Betty’s sports bottle.

“There’s a regulator in the cap,” Perceptor explained, “powered by the energon, too, of course. And would allow the energon to flow in a certain way – a ‘density’ that Ms Jackson can readily absorb.”

“That’s great, Perceptor. When do you think you can have a prototype ready?”

“Maybe in a few hours.” He turned to me.

“Let’s change the subject. How are you doing, RC?” he asked.

“Pretty good. Though I’ve been feeling some things lately.”

“Oh?”

“I’ve been very restless lately, and have been having trouble sleeping.”

“Are you feeling tired?”

“No. I just can’t seem to fall asleep.”

“Anything else?”

“Well, lately, I’ve been having moments of déjà vu. Mostly when I’m around Autobots.”

“Anything specific that triggers this?”

“Anything Autobot-related, I think.”

“Would it be when you’re trying to read Autobot, or listening to Autobot conversations?”

“Yes.”

He nodded. “I think I understand. Care to get your daily checkup out of the way while you’re here?”

“Sure.”

He gestured to the examination table. I doffed my jacket but didn’t bother to take off anything else since I knew Perceptor’s equipment didn’t require me to, and jumped on top of the table.

The routine was familiar so I just relaxed while Perceptor’s equipment did their thing. After a while, Perceptor turned off the scanners.

“All done, RC.”

I jumped off and gave Perceptor a friendly guy-hug. It was a little awkward since he was a little too tall.

“Thanks, Perceptor. I’ll see you later, then. Let me know about that new energon bottle.”

“Will do.”

Betty and I walked out of the building. I could have ridden in Betty in her car form but I preferred to walk to give me time to think.

I got the usual looks from the people around me again, and Betty, I mean Bumblebee, was getting her share of looks from the Autobots as well. We just shrugged them off and continued out.

We decided to go and get some takeout bagels and fixings, like, cream cheese (of course), crumbed smoked salmon, bacon and prosciutto. I also got a couple of sliced fruit snow ices.

We were soon back home. The first thing I did was to put the ices and fixings in the fridge, and parked the bagels near the toaster. Giving Betty a hug, I then went back upstairs and had a quick shower.

Suzy didn’t stir the whole time, and I was able to put on a fresh negligee. I slipped back into bed and was able to sleep.

I woke up with Suzy kissing me, and it was the best kind of alarm.

Sunlight was just coming through our bedroom window, so I knew it was about six or seven in the morning.

“Good morning, my love,” Suzy said, and I just had to kiss her back.

“Good morning,” I said. “Slept well, darling?”

“Like a log. I woke up earlier and you weren’t in bed. I saw your note, though. Everything okay?”

“Oh, I’m fine. I just had a thought about Ms Jackson and the other four statue people.”

I then explained, and that there was some hope now but it required Perceptor to finish his energon sports bottle quickly and test it.

We had a leisurely breakfast of bagels, coffee and juice while we made plans for the weekend. But in a while, we had a call from Wheelie and said that Ultra Magnus needed Bumblebee back at the camp. For what, he wasn’t too specific. Suzy and I looked at each other and smiled. Wheelie was into Betty big time, and Betty was trying to avoid him.

Suzy looked at Betty and shrugged helplessly.

“Sorry, honey,” she said. “Looks like we can’t spend the day together.”

Betty sighed. “All right. I better go, then.” She got up and turned to go.

We walked her out and watched her zoom away.

“Well…” I said.

“Well…” Suzy responded.

“Looks like we’re alone.”

She giggled. “Yes.”

“The kid will probably be busy the whole day, and you and I don’t need to be at work or anything...”

“Yes…”

“I’m sure you’re still tired from your flight? Maybe you need to rest up some more?”

“Maybe…”

“So, should I, ummm, bring you back to bed? And make sure you, ummm, relax?”

Susan giggled, and reached out her arms to me.

“Carry me to bed then,” she said.

I grinned, stood up, effortlessly lifted her in my arms, walked back upstairs, and had a leisurely sensuous and beautiful morning in bed.
 
 
Eleven: Susan and Their New Home

It was a wonderful morning, the best in my life. RC was so beautiful, and she knew me so well. And she knew just how to make me feel good. I really would have preferred to stay in bed the whole weekend, but she had literally drained all erotic feeling out of me - I was so tired, but in a wonderful way. I wondered if I’d be able to move again.

I tried to give as good as I got, but I just couldn’t keep up with her. But the times when I was able to, I was able to get her to come as strongly as any girl I knew ever did. And that made me feel good. Fulfilled.

She’d gone to the bathroom and was taking a shower. It’s my turn next, and believe me, we both could use a shower. Heehee. I could have joined her but I doubted I’d have the strength to be able to follow through on what would inevitably follow. So I’m gonna shower after her.

I thought of RC, and how she had transformed from Ron to RC. I had to remember that my RC was actually my old friend Ron. She never wanted to be RC, but in time, I knew she’d accept it, especially if there was no way back. I think she was halfway there, now. I had to keep telling myself that I wasn’t being selfish for wanting to keep her from changing back to Ron, to keep RC from leaving me. But the fact that there was no way of her changing back meant that my feeling of being selfish was an academic one.

This week away from RC gave me some perspective on that. Being away gave me time to think, and I’ve been pondering the question - was my love based only on her being so beautiful, of her being a girl?

But it wasn’t. True, she was so beautiful, I couldn’t help myself. But my love was based more out of my love for Ron. He had been my best friend from the beginning, and he knew me like no one else did, and I him. I would give up my life for him, if it meant keeping him safe. He was the love of my life, only I didn’t believe it.

Her becoming RC had opened my heart to the possibility of fully giving in to my love for Ron. It was the gateway to a kind of love I have never known before, and knew that I would never know with anyone else.

But if there was a way back for her, I knew that I wouldn’t stop her for pursuing it. I loved her too much to stop her. But I knew that, if that ever happened, then RC and I were through. I mean, I would still love her as Ron, but only as my best friend. I would never let her know that, of course, since she might not want to go through with the change. If ever it was available.

It’s a dilemma. A big one that I couldn’t think of a way to solve. But at least, in that one, I’m the only one that loses. However, since her changing back wasn’t possible, then I didn’t need to worry about it.

The other one was that, she wasn’t human anymore. Perceptor and Ratchet have told me that she was one of them now. Different, sure, but still an Autobot. Or more correctly, a Cybertronian.

Did that make a difference?

I saw her when she had changed into a robot-girl. That had brought home to me the fact that she wasn’t just a girl. But I have never thought of her being a robot. I just had to shrug and say she was just RC.

I felt her hand when she was a robot and, yes, her hand felt like metal, but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t a “thing” – she was RC. And I was so happy she didn’t die that time.

I looked up when she came out of the bath, an extra-large towel wrapped around her, and briskly toweling her long, platinum blonde tresses with a smaller one. I had to give it to her – she really was trying her best to act like a girl. I haven’t needed to remind her to wrapping herself with a towel like a girl anymore. But then again, with incredible size 40I boobies, I didn’t think she’d have any problems remembering.

“Hey, gorgeous,” I said. “All done in the bathroom?”

“Yep,” she grinned. I almost melted from how pretty she looked when she smiled at me that way. “Your turn.”

She leaned down and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“’Kay.” I stood up and finished my bathroom routine.

When I came out, I found my clothes gone, and the bedclothes replaced by fresh ones. I also heard the faint sound of the washing machine running. I giggled. Clearly, that’s one thing about being a girl that RC wasn’t used to, yet.

I heard RC knocking around downstairs in the kitchen, and I hurried through my routine.

“RC, honey,” I called down. “Are we planning anything for today?”

“I don’t know. Unless you have any ideas…”

“Let’s think about that later,” I said. In that case, I just made do with a sweater, a short little pair of culottes, booty-socks and sneakers.

I went downstairs and saw RC making soup. She was wearing a loose cotton blouse over a tanktop, leggings and sneakers. Very casual and down-to-Earth – just the ticket for hanging around the house, but very sexy. Then again, anything would look sexy on RC.

I was glad that RC had some clothes already. I have to remember to call up Daryl and Arlene, and to thank them. But I’ll be glad when Pat is done with RC’s new clothes. I’d have liked to see RC in dressier kinds of outfits, and then we can go out more.

“Hey, hon,” I said, and reached up to give her a little hung and kiss.

“Hey, Suzy. How about a little bowl of soup?”

I sat by the counter and she dished up a little bowl of homemade mushroom soup. On the side, she put up a little plate with a toasted bagel and a big glass of orange juice.

She sat beside me and sipped on a glass of ice-cold water.

“You’re not having any?” I said. The soup was really great. I followed it up with a little piece of bagel with cream cheese.

“I’m not too hungry,” she said.

I laid my head on her shoulder as I enjoyed my late lunch. “Feeling okay?”

“I’m feeling great. Just not hungry.”

“Okay.”

“I was thinking, let’s just take it easy for today, maybe walk around town or something, or stay in and finish redecorating the place. The grass sod I ordered a few days ago was just delivered.”

“Sounds good. Staying in sounds better.”

“Okay.” I finished off my bagel and soup, and we started with fixing up the place.

I started with the stuff I’d brought over. It’s mostly clothes, so I segregated them from the rest, dividing them into two piles – stuff for dry cleaning and regular laundry.

I dumped the stuff for laundry in the laundry basket near the washing machine in the back room, and put the rest in laundry bags near the front door.

In our house, the front and back doors were more like hangar doors made for use by Autobots. So a bunch of soldiers from Fort Lewis’ engineering division came and made little human-sized doors inside the bigger main doors, sort of like a pet door, actually. I put my bags to the side of the larger Autobot-sized doors.

I then put away the rest of my stuff, and then went back downstairs to help RC with whatever I could.

By the end of the day, we had finished off our redecoration: all of the drapes were up; all of our appliances, electronics and whatever gadgets we liked to use were all in their places; both the front and back yards were all raked out, and RC had laid out the grass sod (hopefully there would be no rain for the next few days); and all my pictures had been put up. Well, I only had a half dozen prints – just enough for our bedroom, the two guest rooms and the hallways. The wall above the living room’s couch was conspicuously blank, which RC commented on. I said I’d take care of it. If worse comes to worst and I can’t find any nice paintings or pictures, I’ll take some photos myself and we can mount those.

By the time we were done, it was almost seven, and we were thinking of going out for dinner. I decided to call Betty first before we started getting ready, to let her know we were going out.

I called the NEST phone relay number and then keyed in Betty’s Bumblebee relay number. The phone relay number was a service that allowed people using cellphones to call Autobots that had their own built-in comms, and vice versa.

“Hi, Bee? It’s Susan. I just…”

“Hello, Ms Susan. Is RC with you?”

“Uhhh, yes, she is. What’s…”

“Can you put her on, please?”

“Hold on.” I handed my cellphone to RC.

“What?” she asked.

“Bee needs to talk with you. Something’s happening, I think.”

RC put my phone against her ear.

“Yes, Bee. What’s happening? Oh. Oh, no. Why did it happen? Oh. What can I do? Oh, okay. Ms Jackson? All right. I’ll be there right away.”

RC handed my phone back to me.

I checked and Betty had already hung up. “So?” I asked RC. “What’s happening?”

RC sighed. “One of the statue people died.”

“What! How? Why?”

“Seems that the estimates on their energy levels weren’t right. Ratchet did some new scans and they’re now down to ten to twelve hours. Ms Jackson, the one who’s supposed to have the most remaining energy is down to three.”

“Oh, no! What can be done?”

“Remember that device of Perceptor’s that I was telling you about this morning? They’re gonna try it out and see if that can help.”

“Why do they need you?”

She sighed again. “Well, it seems that statue-girl, Katherine Jackson, is near hysterical and won’t let any Autobot near her. She even threw Rodimus against a wall. Some of my guys from X Flight tried to calm her down but she said she only wanted to talk to me.”

“Why did she hurt the others?”

“She’s in a panic. She doesn’t trust anyone at this point.”

“Except you. Why you?”

She shrugged. “I guess I made a connection when I talked with her before.”

“Well, we better go.”

“Suzy, they only need me. You don’t…”

“Don’t worry about me, honey. I won’t go near her. I just wanna, you know, go with you.”

“Well, okay. Go get your stuff.”

She ran upstairs and got her purse and a jacket.

That reminded me. I wasn’t really cold but I decided to get a jacket myself. In a few minutes, we were in my F150 convertible and drove back to the base.
 
 
Twelve: RC and Her New Shoes

“Hey, Bee,” I called when we were near the prisoners’ holding cells. Betty broke away from a crowd of soldiers and Autobots neat one of the cells.

“Good evening, Captain,” she said to me, and leaned down and gave Susan a quick hug.

“What’s happening, Bee?”

“We’re trying to get near Ms Jackson but we have not been successful. It’s critical now. She is only about half an hour from mechanical failure.”

“How about the others?”

Perceptor came over.

“Not good, RC. They aren’t as bad as Ms Jackson, but their energy levels are getting critical as well.”

I pointed to the device in his hand.

“Is that the energon bottle?”

“Yes.” He handed it over. It was half full of the glowing liquid, but the energon was more yellow than amber, though.

I took a deep breath. “Okay, wish me luck.”

I knocked on Katherine’s door, and slowly opened it.

“Ms Jackson, it’s me, RC.”

I peeked into the room and found her crouching in the corner.

“Hey,” I said.

When she saw me, she leaped into my arms.

“RC! It’s you!”

“Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m so scared - I have these aches and pains all over, and I feel so cold! I think I’m dying.”

I brought her to her bed.

“Get in bed and get some rest, honey.” I gave her Perceptor’s bottle. “Here, have a drink.”

“Thanks,” she said and casually took a swig.

“Listen, the guys outside are trying to figure out what’s wrong, and see if they can find a way to help you.”

“I don’t want to see them!”

“But, honey, they just want to help.”

“Will they be able to help me back to being normal?” she asked and took another swig.

“We don’t know yet.”

Slowly, I was able to calm her down, and in about half an hour, she’d finished the contents of the energon bottle. Incredibly, she fell asleep, no doubt tired out by her panic and low energy levels.

I sighed and called the others in.

“So, Perceptor,” I said, “did it work?”

“Absolutely, RC. Her energy level is now at fifteen percent. Six more and she’ll be okay.”

I raised my hand for a high-five, and, thankfully, Perceptor knew the gesture. He didn’t leave me hanging, and we slapped palms. I didn’t count on his metal hand, though, and had to bite down on saying “ouch.”

“How about the other statues?”

“Three more of the bottles will be ready in a few minutes, and we can try again. But I think we’ve solved it, RC.”

- - - - -

In the next few days, the other statues were on the mend. Ratchet said that they were at full saturation already, as best as their instruments could tell. Also, the reason for the faulty estimates of their energy depletion was because their forms used up energon faster than an Autobot. It was another indication of their less-than-perfect transformation. But with frequent, regular infusions of energon using Perceptor’s new energon “bottle,” they should be all right.

But other than that, there was no change in their physical status.

By that time, they’d been thoroughly checked out. They were Cybertronians, in the same way I was, but they showed no special transformation abilities nor other capabilities – they had no chameleon circuit like Betty or I did, nor any other specialized abilities. In essence, they were just sentient robots formed to look like statues. The only difference was that they were generally stronger and more resilient than the other Autobots, and their skin was a replicated version of stone or marble, but the parts where they needed to bend and stretch were slightly different, and it allowed them to move freely and easily without showing hinges or seams. Other than that, they were pretty run-of-the-mill.

These four that had survived – there was Katherine, plus two other “female” robots, and one “male.” The lone male was made to look like Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, “David,” while one of the females looked like a sculpture from the Archeological Museum of Rhodes. The sculpture was called “Aphrodite Bathing.” The last one looked like a sculpture by the French artist, Aristide Maillol.

Perceptor tried to find any ties amongst these sculptures and the names of the four ex-prisoners, and found that there was a three-month exhibit that featured copies of contemporary and classical examples of sculptures in the University of Maryland Art Gallery. All of the statues were featured in that exhibit. And the four changees had been to that exhibit one time or another.

I dispatched some people to check it out and hopefully they’ll come back with some useful information.

In the meantime, the base psychiatrist had been seeing our four ex-prisoners. It was too soon to tell, he said, but he was hopeful that he could help them. What was good, though was they had an easier time to acclimatize than me, because, though their colorization wasn’t exactly normal, their dimensions and features were very close to the normal human, and that helped people to accept them. That helped reduce their problems.

As for me, my changes had started to slow down. In a few days, Ratchet said I should stabilize already. Still, Ratchet was worried about some things. Three things, specifically: one – my energy stores were approaching maximum and my current level of activities would not reduce these levels appreciably, and I was in serious danger of exceeding my storage capacity, which could result in serious internal damage. And my “habit” of indulging in three meals a day wasn’t helping any. I need to find a way to siphon off the excess energy; Two – the AllSpark shard embedded in my chest didn’t seem to be doing anything constructive yet it was tapped into all of my major “systems.” Ratchet was thinking of removing it, but didn’t know how; Three – my chameleon circuit has remained dormant. Ratchet said I should learn to use it, otherwise it might atrophy.

I asked him what I should do, but he didn’t know. He said that Perceptor was working on something that should help and I should visit him.

I nodded and decided to visit him during lunch.

- - - - -

“Hey, Perceptor,” I called.

“RC!” Perceptor turned around. “This is a pleasant surprise. What brings you to my little lair?” He smiled.

“I come bearing gifts.” I brought out a bag, and took out two energon cubes from inside.

“Excellent timing! I was feeling a little run down. Thank you so much.” He reached for one of them and sipped from it.

“Ahhh! That hit the spot,” he said, and lifted the cube towards me, like he was making a toast.

“Actually,” I hemmed and hawed, “I also came to ask your help.”

Perceptor chuckled. “I thought so. So, what is it I can help you with?”

I told him what Ratchet told me, and confirmed that he was indeed working on something. He went and reached into an overhead bin and brought out what looked like a pair of shoes, and handed them to me.

“So, this is what you’ve been working on? Shoes?”

“Not just shoes, RC.”

After everything Susan’s taught me about women’s clothes, I now knew enough to know that these shoes are what are called wedge shoes. These ones were light-gray, high-heeled wedge shoes.

The middle part of the wedges was made of some translucent ruby-colored material. I looked at the bottom of the heels and the welt, and there were a couple of round holes there. I looked inside the shoes and the insole – the soft part that went against the bottoms of the feet had little round plugs that looked to me like the electrical contacts or terminals of disposable dry-cell batteries.

“Yeah? How do shoes help me with my problem?”

“Well, I’ll show you. Meet me at the hangar near the main landing strip later, after work. Bring the shoes.”

“But…”

I wasn’t able to get anything else out of him, and left with the shoes in-hand.

They had pretty high heels, something like five inches. Was that high? Since the shoes were supposed to be mine, I did some number conversions in my head. If the shoes were in Susan’s size instead, the heels would be the equivalent of four inches. Hmmm. That still seems high.

I texted Susan, and asked about high heels, and she responded with, “yes, four inches are pretty high. Is that a hint, and you’d like me to buy you a pair?”

Oh, well.

- - - - -

Come Five PM, I told my assistant that I was done for the day, and that she could go home already.

I finished off the last of my paperwork, left to find Betty, and we went to the airfield together.

At the hangar, we saw several Autobots and some of my guys waiting. Ultra Magnus and Rodimus were there, as well as Ratchet, Perceptor and Wheelie, and the Autobot tactical officers, Side Swipe and Sunstreaker. This seemed to be a big deal for something involving high heels.

I then noticed General Lennox himself was there.

I saluted. “Good evening, General. What are you doing here?”

“Good evening, RC. Actually, I don’t really know. But Perceptor called me and said I needed to be here.”

I started to feel nervous. I looked to Perceptor.

“Hey, Perceptor. So, what’s this all about?”

“Good evening, RC. We’re going to help you complete your transition.”

“With a pair of shoes?”

“They’re not just shoes, RC. They’re actually jet boots.”

“Huh? Jet boots?”

“Just put them on, please, and you’ll understand.”

I looked towards Lennox. “General?”

“Just do it, RC, and let’s get this over with.”

I shrugged and bent down to take off my shoes.

“Your socks, too, please,” Perceptor said.

I was passed being puzzled and passively took off my socks as well, and then put on the high-tech wedges.

I then stood and walked around in them. With the shoes on, I was now seven-feet eight inches tall. Wheelie and I were now almost eye-to-eye.

Surprisingly, the wedges felt really comfortable, except for the fact that they were too high. But my feet seemed to be accommodating them, and I stood easily.

I looked to Perceptor.

“Now what,” I said.

He brought out something that looked like a car fob. “I’m going to manually turn the jet boots on. They’ll have to be manually activated and deactivated manually until you learn to turn them on by yourself. Here we go.”

I nodded. But after a minute, nothing happened.

“Did you turn it on?”

“I did.”

“Nothing’s happening.”

“Do you feel anything different?”

“Well, now that you ask… I do feel something.”

“Yes?”

“I feel a kind of heat coming from here.” I pointed to my chest. “And here.” I then pointed to the part below the ribs on my left side. I knew enough that my spleen was located there.

“Your chameleon circuits have been triggered.”

“Triggered by shoes?”

Perceptor chuckled. “No. They’ve been triggered because the energy taps in your heels are now being tapped for energy.”

“Explain.”

“In order to accommodate the tapping of your energy, your body needs to shift to a form that will allow that. Your current human-form doesn’t allow it.”

I felt a little dizzy. “Whoa!”

Betty came over and held me steady.

“Are you all right, Captain?”

“Just a little dizzy, Bee. Thanks.” I held on to her as the waves of dizziness went through me. And then I could feel something happening.

A few seconds later, we all heard the recognizable sound that accompanied the change when Autobots transformed to their vehicular forms.

The dizziness went away and I was able to let go of Betty. I then noticed the silence.

Looking up, I saw everyone staring at me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Why are you all looking at me?”

Lennox cleared his throat. “Does someone have a mirror?” he said. “Can someone give RC a mirror?”

Betty reached down and handed me one. I noticed that it was actually Betty’s rearview mirror.

I nodded my thanks and looked at myself. In the mirror, what I saw was myself, except that I was now dull-chrome. My platinum-blonde hair had become more pale, and now looked like it was silver now. I raised my hand to touch my face and when I did, I noticed that it now looked like the glove of a medieval suit of armor, with pieces of metal in place of my normal skin. I marveled at my hand and, though the skin was now inflexible pieces of metal, I could still feel through them. I turned back to my face.

My face, now covered in a dull-chrome like metal, still looked like my face. I moved my lips and I didn’t have trouble. I used my hand to touch it, and found the metal of my face to be flexible. Thank goodness for that. I didn’t know if I could have taken having a seamed face covered in metal plates.

I noticed that my lips still had a bit of color – a very pale blush of pink covered them. I opened my mouth and noticed that my teeth were now of a very bright pearl-white color, and my tongue had the same pale-pink of my lips. As for my eyes- the iris now a glowing kind of pink while the pupil had a deeper ruby glow. My sclera, or the white part, was now a translucent kind of pearl color and was surrounded by a luscious fringe of silver eyelashes.

“Well, that’s different,” I said, and noticed that my voice had now acquired a kind of electronic reverberation similar to the voices of Betty and the other Autobots.

“Perceptor? Ratchet?” I called. “What’s happened to me?”

“Stay calm, RC,” Ratchet said. “This is all perfectly normal.”

“Normal!”

“Yes, RC,” Perceptor said. “Normal. It seems you’ve finally found how to transform into your second form. But, instead of a vehicular form, like the Autobots, your second form seems to be an augmented humanoid form. It remains to be seen what your capabilities are in your augmented form.”

“This is my Autobot form?”

Perceptor shrugged. “I guess so.”

I looked at myself, examining the changes that had happened to me. “Well, I guess I can live with it,” I smiled wanly. Despite my robotic form, I was still wearing my uniform. I steadied myself against Betty and lifted my leg to take a look at my “jet boots.” The ruby part of the wedge-heel was starting to glow.

“So…” Perceptor said. “Want to try them out?”

“You mean…”

“The Autobots are in short supply of flight-capable personnel. We could sure use another one.”

“But I don’t know how…”

“Look inside yourself, RC,” Ratchet said. “I’m sure you’ll find out how.”

I looked at him, and tried to do that. By concentrating, I was able to picture my new footwear and how to control it. I also saw, in my mind’s eye, how to control my flight. It was like I knew these things instinctively.

“Your analytics systems have kicked in by now,” Ratchet explained, “and you can now read the data embedded into the jet boots. You’ll also be able to do the same things with the other components in your internals. Try it.”

I tried to shift the focus of my concentration, and, like the boots, it seemed like I instinctively knew my body’s functions. Former systems that weren’t activated, I was able to activate. New senses that I never knew I had were suddenly activated.

“Wow!”

“So, RC…”

“Step back, Bee. I’m gonna fire my jets!”

Betty moved back several feet and I triggered my boots. The ruby-colored wedges started to pulsate with an eternal glow, and then I was flying.

Like an F22 Raptor in full afterburner, powerful jets came out of my boots and I was kicked into the air. Instinctively, I knew how to balance on the column of fire from my jets, and to keep my arms close to my sides and kept my body rigidly straight. I made slight movements with my hands and executing a barrel roll to my right.

“Woohoo!” I yelled and flew through the air. I could see everything rushing below me, and felt the air buffeting me and threatening to make me unstable. And my long hair wasn’t helping, any. I decided to climb higher, and as the air became thinner, my flight became more stable and I was able to fly faster.

“RC?” I heard Ratchet inside my head.

“What?” I said. “Is that you, Ratchet? How are you doing this?” I didn’t use my mouth to reply but used my internal voice instead.

“Perceptor gave me your frequency. Anyway, how are you doing?”

“I am doing great!” I thought back. “This is wonderful!”

Ratchet laughed. “Rodimus wanted me to tell you that you are now travelling at Mach five-plus at around eighty thousand feet.”

“I am?”

“How are you feeling?”

“I feel fine, though come to think about it, I can feel my face and shoulders are a little hot.”

“That’s probably due to air friction. Telemetric shots of you show that you’re actually glowing red-hot from the friction.”

“Cool.”

“Anyway, Rodimus says that the test flight has gone well. He’s asking you to return home.”

“Acknowledged, Ratchet. Please tell Rodimus I’m on my way back.” I raised my left hand at the wrist and I started to turn. Pretty soon, I was on my way back.

“When you’re near the base already, Rodimus is suggesting that you reduce your speed to subsonic, so as to cool yourself down.”

“Good idea. Will do.”

“And, ummm, RC, I suggest you land northeast of your original takeoff point. Look for Bumblebee – she’ll be waiting for you.”

“Why?”

“Well, if you didn’t notice, your clothes tore off early in your flight, and, ummm, though we Autobots don’t mind, your human friends might find it uncomfortable to see you, ummm, naked.”

What! Omigod!”

“Bumblebee has gone back to your office and got you some spare clothes. Do you understand what I’m saying, RC?”

“Yes, Ratchet, I understand. Will comply.”

“Good. See you soon, then.” And with that, he clicked off.

When I saw I was nearing Fort Lewis, I slowed down until I was, like, down to four hundred miles an hour, and kept on slowing down. I felt my skin cool down rapidly, and, when I looked downwards, I spotted Betty standing maybe fifty feet away from the rest of the people standing on the tarmac. I made for that spot and landed beside her.

“Hey, Bee.”

“You look like you had fun,” She chuckled. “But, before anything else, put this on.” She held out a cotton tanktop and a pair of cutoff jeans. “Sorry,” she continued to chuckle. “These were the only things I could find in your office.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers. Oh, no. Here they come. Quick, gimme those.” I took the clothes and quickly put them on.

Everyone had started walking towards us, but when they got near, I had finished putting on the tanktop and had buttoned up the shorts.

“That was quite a show, Captain,” Lennox said.

“Yes, sir,” I said and saluted. I felt like I was blushing.

He was grinning. “You’re out of uniform, Captain.”

“Ummm, sorry, sir. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“Make sure you do. Anyway, that was an impressive show you put on.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Better go home and rest, then. I’ll expect your report in the morning.”

“Yes, sir.” I saluted again, and watched him and most of the humans walk away.

But the Autobots stayed and crowded around me. They were all congratulating me, and I shyly told them thanks. I belatedly noticed I was still in augmented mode.

“Can I see the jet boots, RC?” Perceptor said.

I steadied myself against Betty, took off the wedges and handed them to Perceptor.

He took them and looked them over. “Seems they worked as designed.” He smiled at me. “Congratulations, RC.”

“Can you try transforming back to human mode, RC?” Ultra Magnus asked.

I thought a little bit, concentrated, and we heard the transformation sound.

I looked down and I saw I was back to my normal human form, and I sighed in relief.

“Can you try shifting back?”

I concentrated again, and I was able to shift back to my augmented mode.

“Great. It seems you have full control of your transformation now.”

I grinned, feeling proud of myself.

Perceptor handed the jet boots back. I smiled my thanks and, rather than go barefoot, I put the wedges back on.

Everyone asked me how I felt when I flew, and I had to tell them how great it felt. I could tell a lot of them were looking at me a little enviously, and I guess they weren’t flight-capable.

I had to ask Perceptor why hasn’t he made jet boots or something similar for everyone. He explained that the energy needed to get them off the ground was a little too much, and would exhaust their energy reserves very quickly. The difference between the typical Autobot and myself was that I was so much lower in mass than everyone, but yet have a lot of energy stored.

I had to ask why this was important, and he explained that the “purpose-built” flight-capable Cybertronian had larger energy reserves than the average Autobot because they needed it to be able to fly.

“My examination of you showed you had about twice the reserves of a typical Autobot,” he explained, “and it had made me think you were flight-capable, but I couldn’t find any kind of system or mechanism that would allow you to take flight. It was a design mismatch. I suppose that’s part of your unusual birth. I thought, by providing you the jet boots, it was a convenient way to drain your energy and, at the same time, give you the ability to take flight.”

“Well, it worked,” I said. “Thank you, Perceptor.”

“All in a day’s work, my dear,” he smiled.

After a while, the crowd broke up, and Betty and I went home. That night, after my regular call to Susan, I fell into an exhausted, but pleasant, sleep.

I started my day with writing up my report and submitting it to General Lennox’s office, CC’ing Ultra Magnus, Perceptor and Ratchet. After that, I checked the latest reports and noted the increased number of Decepticon sightings in Europe. I sent several of my people over to confirm the sightings. After that, if they’re confirmed, I’ll contact the necessary authorities and then turn it over to Rodimus and Ultra Magnus.

At lunchtime, Betty I went over to Perceptor’s and talked over my “test flight” the night before.

Perceptor had me on his examination table again, and he reported that all of the systems he could detect were all activated. Even my comms systems were working as well. The only thing that he wasn’t sure of was the AllSpark fragment in my chest. It seemed to still be dormant. But it was useless to worry about it. As Perceptor says, we’ll “cross that bridge when we get there.”

I then brought up another topic, this one was something that I couldn’t speak about without blushing.

Perceptor was smiling. “So, let me get this straight, RC,” he said. “You want me to design some clothes for you so that you can wear that won’t burn up or rip apart when you’re flying, so you don’t end up without clothes again.” He was all but laughing.

“That’s right.” I knew I was blushing now.

“Well… It’s easily done, actually, except for the material.”

“How about the armor suits?”

“Those are designed for short-impact resistance. Though they might survive the high thermal levels, they wouldn’t be able to survive sustained pressures and vibration you’ll experience. They would probably shred five minutes into supersonic flight.

“But I have this fabric I’ve designed. It has extremely high tensile strength so it won’t tear or shred, resistance to temperatures of up to three thousand degrees centigrade and a high enough coefficient of elasticity that it won’t stretch beyond a certain point, so it will remain in place even in high-velocity winds.”

“That sounds great. Can I see?”

Perceptor held out a small piece of pink cloth. It was hardly bigger than a two square foot of cloth.

“Ummm, that’s it?”

“Yes, it is. This piece is a product of a year and a half of synthesizing, nano-construction, molecular bonding and chemical processing.”

“A year and a half! And all you got was that?”

“Well, it’s a complicated process, and the materials are not easy to synthesize.”

“And why pink?”

“I wasn’t really intending for it to come out as pink. It just came out that way. Besides, does the color matter?”

“Well… okay. But is that enough?”

“I’ll see what I can do with this little material. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have something.”

“Well… okay. Let’s go, Bee.”

We left and started walking back to my office. As we walked down the hall, Betty said, under her breath, “pink.”

“Oh, shut up,” I said, and she giggled.

- - - - -

The following day, I went over to Perceptor’s.

“Here you go,” he said, and handed me a small pink bundle, but before I could take it and see what he made, I got paged through the PA.

As instructed, I rushed to the Encounter Arena and found General Lennox and Ultra Magnus there, with Betty helping them. Betty explained that, apparently, they got a report about a disturbance in a small suburban town in Maryland involving the Venus de Milo statue.

I immediately had one of our reconnaissance satellites take some video of the area and we saw it was indeed our missing nemesis. She was in the town plaza or something, with a streetlight pole in her hands, swinging it around and hitting people and cars indiscriminately. There were already several people lying prone on the ground, but most of the others had moved away out of her range.

The other three robot statues at large weren’t in evidence, however.

“There she is,” one of my guys said. “What’s she doing?”

“She seems to be tearing up the downtown area,” someone responded.

“I can see that…”

On the big screen, we could see that she had dropped the big pole and pick up a small car. In a few moments, she threw it at a bus station, but the people there had scrambled away just in time.

“She’s saying something,” I said. “Is there a way to hear what she’s saying?”

“No, sir, I’m sorry.”

“I can read her lips, Captain,” Betty said. “She is saying, ‘go away, little insects, and get me my treasure. I need it. If you don’t, I’ll kill you all. Where’s that bitch that stole it? Where’s my cube?’”

Lennox slammed his fist on the conference table.

“Dammit.”

Someone tapped into the closed circuit security cameras in the area and we got better footage of the berserker robot picking up more vehicles and throwing them into storefronts and buildings.

“Clearly, that thing is in the middle of a psychotic break,” I said. “What could have caused it?”

“I can assume,” Ratchet said, “that she is in the final stages of energy depletion. Her cognitive functions are being impaired and she is not in full control of herself. If she follows the norm, she’ll continue on her rampage until her energy levels can’t sustain her anymore. After that, it will be mechanical disarticulation.”

“She isn’t exactly an Autobot, Ratchet,” Ultra Magnus said.

“Mechanical failure, then.”

“What can we do?” I asked.

“We can ask the local authorities to evacuate the area, and then we need to get there, hold her at bay and wait until her energy levels are low enough until she becomes manageable.”

Ratchet looked at a console on the conference table. “Given the energy readings we’re getting,” he said, “the way her energy levels are going down, that should be in an hour or so.”

“One hour is a long time,” I said. “She can do a lot of damage in an hour.”

“Okay,” Lennox said. “Ultra Magnus, you need to get your people there right now.”

Magnus sadly shook his head.

“I’m afraid that’s impossible, General,” he said. “We won’t be able to get there in time. Sky Lynx and his team is busy on the moon, and it will take him at least a twelve hours to get back here to shuttle us there in time to do anything about it. As for the other flight-capable Autobots remaining in the base, they are all subsonic. They’ll take half a day at best to get there. And that includes Kup, Powerglide, Skyhammer, Topspin, Whirl, Springer, Sandstorm and even Swoop of the Dinobots.”

“I thought there were a lot of Autobots that can go supersonic.”

“Unfortunately, Sky Lynx has co-opted most of them to be part of his lunar project team.”

“We can use a couple of the ballistic jets and ferry your guys over.”

“I’m afraid, General, even your ballistic planes won’t be able to get there any faster than three hours. By then, it will be all over.”

“Dammit!”

“There is one other Autobot that can get there in time,” Ratchet said.

“There is?” Ultra Magnus said. “I don’t have any other hypersonic fliers on my list…”

“Who is it, Ratchet,” Lennox asked.

Ratchet turned and pointed to me. “Her,” he said.

“That’s right! RC!”

“Whoa, wait a second,” I said. “Let’s think about this first…”

“Captain, we have no choice. Look at that.” On the screen we saw the statue. Apparently she was able to get to a motorcycle dealership or something because she was now throwing motorcycles and scooters at anything that moved.

I sighed. “Okay…”

- - - - -

So there I was, standing on the tarmac again, wearing the jet boots and Perceptor’s latest sartorial creation.

“Of all the things to make, Perceptor…”

“I’m sorry, RC,” Perceptor said. “There wasn’t enough material to make anything else. I went through some fashion magazines, looking for some article of clothing that would fit the amount of material I had and would stay in place at hypersonic speeds.”

“I understand, Perceptor. But a swimsuit?”

“It’s a one-piece, RC. You can get in and out of it without the need of any buttons, clips or zippers. And it will stay in place no matter how fast you fly.”

I sighed.

“Looking great, RC,” Lennox laughed.

“Shut up… sir.”

He made a calming gesture.

“Sorry, RC. Okay. Time to go. Remember – we want to capture the statue entity alive if possible, yet prevent it from hurting or killing any civilians.”

I nodded.

“Bee,” I called. Betty came over and handed me an Autobot handgun, utility knife and belt.

Normally, I would have used a regular knife and rifle but at the speeds I’d be flying, they wouldn’t have stood up against the wind and the high thermal levels. So I had no choice but to use Autobot equipment.

To me, what was a handgun for the Autobots was as large as a fifty-caliber Hecate rifle. As for the knife, it was as large as a machete in my hand, and the knife belt - the kind that an Autobot would use to secure the knife to his thigh or forearm - to me, it was large enough to go around my waist.

I snapped the belt around my waist and secured the knife and gun to it.

“The belt will disrupt your airflow, RC,” Betty warned, “So be prepared for that, especially at supersonic speeds.”

“Thanks, Bee,” I said. I reached up and gave her a hug.

I gestured for everyone to back to give me room. I transformed to my augmented mode and swept the bright-chrome hair back.

“So how do I look?” I vamped, and all my guys wolf-whistled.

“Okay, here I go!”

Switching on my jets, I flew upwards in a cloud of fire and smoke and I was rapidly climbing up into the sky. Betty was right – I noticed the drag coming from the belt, but I added more thrust despite this and flew higher and higher.

“This is Fort Lewis Air Traffic Control, Captain McKenzie. You have flight clearance all the way to angels forty and up. We will inform local air traffic when you’re over Maryland airspace, so keep on your current flight trajectory. Copy?”

“Copy, Fort Lewis,” I responded on my new Autobot comms. “Wish me luck.”

“Good hunting, Captain. Fort Lewis, out.”

I continued upwards and could start feeling the vibrations coming from the belt. I lifted my arms about thirty degrees away from my sides and used my flattened palms like flaps at the end of wings and was able to make the changes necessary to keep my flight stable.

I must have been flying at Mach three by then, and could start feeling the heat on my shoulders, face and outer arms, but as I got higher and higher, and the air got thinner and thinner, that lessened and lessened, and the vibrations all but disappeared.

When I flew past the Karman Line, I relied on instructions from Perceptor to adjust my trajectory. I half-wished that I would see the international space station or something but, unfortunately, I didn’t. In a matter of minutes, I found myself re-entering atmosphere again. When Perceptor warned that I was nearing my landing target, I started to slow down. Since there was not enough friction, the air started to cool me down.

Seconds before I touched down, I flipped over and crashed on the ground on my jet boot. My impact was strong enough that it broke the pavement.

“Coolness,” I grinned.

I looked up and saw that I landed in the middle of the plaza where the Venus de Milo statue was raising havoc.

I then noticed that everyone had stopped and were staring at me. I sighed. I don’t think I’d get used to this.

Lifting my “rifle,” I gestured to the bystanders.

“Move away, everyone!” I called. “Take cover! Clear the area!”

“Well, well, well…” I heard that voice again, and I turned to face the statue.

She was about fifty feet away, and she was looking at me.

“So you’re back, little girl. And you’ve had a make-over, I see.”

“Thanks,” I said. “You’re still as ugly as before.”

“How dare you!” She picked up a small scooter and threw it at me.

Lifting my rifle, I fired at the scooter and it exploded in the air thirty feet from me. I then ran forward and took cover behind an abandoned van. Motorcycles and scooters started raining around me, and I stayed put until it stopped.

I peeked around the van and saw the statue walking towards me. It had what looked like a street sign post in each hand and allowed me to get a bead on her.

I fired and it hit her point blank, throwing her backwards and knocking her down.

I rushed forward and I saw her staggering up. When she was standing, I saw that my shot had damaged her. Her torso was full of cracks and missing sections, and a lot of viscous, reddish fluid leaking from them.

“You better have my cube, you bitch!”

I was about to fire into her again but, looking at her, I knew that another hit would finish her so I holstered my rifle.

“Sorry, sister, I didn’t bring it with me.”

With a roar, she rushed me and swung one of the signposts around and hit me on the shoulder. It was strong enough that I was knocked to the ground. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt as much.

She reached down, held me by the throat and lifted me off my feet. She was strong, I have to give her that.

I would have expected to be choking by this time, but apparently, in my robotic form, I wasn’t something to sneeze at, and I didn’t need to breathe as well.

I steadied myself against her arm and slugged her across the face.

That staggered her and she let me go. When I dropped to the ground, I kicked her by the shins and she fell on top of me. She shook her head, trying to shake it off. I took advantage of that. I hit her on her side and pushed her off, giving me a chance to get up.

She stood up as well and reached for my arm. Using brute force, she was able to lift me and throw into a storefront window. When I started picking my way through the debris, I noticed that I had lost my gun.

When I got out of the store and onto the street, something exploded to my right. I ducked and looked to where the statue was. She was standing there holding my gun and pointing it towards me.

I switched on my internal comms.

“McKenzie to General Lennox. Come in.”

“This is Lennox,” the General responded. “What is it RC?”

“The statue got her hands on my weapon, sir.”

“Yes, Captain, we can see it from here.”

“Request permission to…”

“Permission granted, Captain. Take the bitch out.”

“Yes, sir.”

I stayed down and tried to think of a way to get to her. There were plenty of rocks and other debris around me, so I took a page out of her own strategy book and hefted a couple of the larger pieces. I then took aim and threw them at the statue.

The rocks hit her dead-on and she had to raise her arm to stop the rocks from hitting her head. I kept it up and she had to move behind a car for protection.

But I didn’t care. I kept it up and the rocks I threw exploded against the car.

She screamed in frustration and stood up, firing the gun in my general direction but wasn’t too particular about her aim. The charges exploded all around me and I had to duck down.

The rocks were not good enough. I had to think of another way. And then I remembered my pocket rocket. I looked at my right hand, wondering if I could trigger it this time.

I extended my index and middle fingers like they were the barrel of a gun, and felt something click. Great.

I stood as her bullets exploded all around me, ignoring the noise and the flying debris, and concentrated on my aim.

The statue saw me and stopped firing.

“I got your gun, little girl,” she laughed.

“That’s okay,” I called. “I got a spare.”

She laughed again. “What? That? What are we doing – playing cops and robbers now?”

“You hurt a lot of people. If you don’t stop, I’m going to put you down.”

“No you won’t.”

“Why don’t you stop already. You’re dying. Don’t you feel it? Why don’t you stop and allow me to help you?”

“Help me? It’s your fault that I’m dying! It’s your fault that I lost my cube! If you left everything alone…”

“Listen - all that doesn’t matter. You’re dying. Stop this and I can help you.”

She screamed and brought up the gun.

Before she could fire, I fired a couple of shots into her torso. The bullets I fired flew at Mach one. The sonic booms were amazing to hear, and their kinetic energy threw the statue twenty feet back.

“That should make her consider her options,” I thought.

But it looked like I spoke too soon.

The statue stood up again. Beside the damage I caused earlier, I saw a fist-sized hole right through her right shoulder, with the viscous red fluid pouring out of it. She wasn’t able to move her right arm so she transferred the gun to her left hand. She screamed again and took aim.

I couldn’t let this go any further. I took aim again, bit this time, I aimed differently.

Before she fired again, I fired off rounds in quick succession. This time I walked it down. I knew they were killing shots, but I had no choice.

I would find out later that first bullet went though her right eye, and the next one right below her neck and through her chest, while the other two went into her abdomen. Like before, the sonic booms were deafening and the impact so strong that she flew back in the air.

This time, I knew it was fatal. I put down my hand and saw her hit the ground. She didn’t move after that.

After a minute, I started walking towards her. If only she stopped, I wouldn’t have had to do it.

I saw my rifle, picked it up and clipped it to my belt. I continued walking towards the statue and finally saw her.

I couldn’t believe I killed her. I knew I had no choice, and terminated her on orders. Still.

I’ve killed before, and always for a good reason. I don’t understand why this one was affecting me this way.

I kneeled and looked at the sad statue.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “You didn’t ask for this. So it’s not really your fault.”
 
 
Thirteen: Susan On Location

I stepped out of the OB van and saw all the destruction. The reports were right. It’s that fucking statue again. My cameraman had already shot his B roll and had it loaded up and ready to go.

“Okay, guys,” I said to my people, “do you think it’s good to set up over here?”

My producer and cameraman agreed and set up. I picked up the hand mirror and touched up my make-up. The deal with the network was that, during my short time remaining with my station, I was to do as many science-oriented pieces I could, so that the transition into the network’s science correspondent would be logical and seamless. And this one was one of those.

Our contacts in the military said this was connected to that Venus de Milo statue that we encountered before that started all of this. We thought that it had been killed, but apparently it wasn’t. Now it was tearing up this town.

“We’re ready, Susan,” my cameraman said.

I nodded and composed myself. I waited for him to finish his countdown and I started speaking.

“Thank you, Scott,” I said crisply, acknowledging the handoff from the network news anchorman. “This is Susan Blu, and I am at the scene of the destruction that had been visited upon this small Maryland town.

“As you can see, the damage is quite widespread, and we are told that it’s due to another of those robotic entities that we have come to know as the Decepticons. In recent years, the Autobots have been able to reduce these attacks to a minimum but there are still a few of them on occasion. It is too bad that this small community has to be the one to bear the brunt of this newest attack.”

The producer signaled, which meant that the B roll footage was running now. I continued with my spiel.

“You see the destruction in the town’s main square caused by one single Decepticon. As soon as the Autobots detected the attack they dispatched one of their own and, after a pitched battle, the Decepticon is put down and the attack is over.”

After the short, fifteen-second clip, the camera then switched back to me.

“We’ll look for some bystanders that were witness to the battle.”

My producer pointed to a bunch of kids near the decimated bus station, and I went there.

“Excuse me, guys,” I said, and some of them recognized me.

“Hey, it’s Susan Blu from the news!”

I smiled and nodded.

“I just wanted to ask if you witnessed what happened here.”

And they gave me a blow-by-blow of what happened. One of the kids was an Autobot fanatic and knew most of the Autobots and Decepticons by name, and he said that these were new ones.

“They are?” I said. “Can you describe these new Autobots and Decepticons?”

“Well, the Decepticon was a small one. About eight or nine feet high. About the size of Wheelie. But it didn’t look like any Decepticon. It actually looked like a statue - one of those Greek statues that you see in museums.”

“Other than that, what else can you say about it?”

“Well nothing much. It just went crazy and started trashing everything. Sort of like Megatron on steroids. It was just crazy-bad.”

I nodded. “Was there anyone hurt?”

“Oh, yeah. One of the things that the Decepticon trashed was this bus full of passengers. The police have rescued them by now, but I’m sure a lot of them got hurt.”

“Yeah, yeah,” his friend said. “And there were people who were out on the street that got hit by the stuff that bitch was throwing.”

“Throwing?”

“Oh, yeah. Like cars and motorcycles. It even tore down a street light and was waving it around like a baseball bat.”

“Were you guys hurt?”

“Oh, no. We were able to hide behind that building over there.” He pointed to a red brick building, which turned out to be the town’s fire station.

“So, how about the Autobot,” I asked. “Can you describe it? Was it any Autobot you knew?”

“Oh, this was a new one, too,” the first one, the Autobot fanatic, said. “This one was a girl Autobot.”

“Yeah!” his friend said, and they high-fived each other.

“So what did it look like?”

“This one wasn’t like any of the other Autobots. Even the current girl Autobots. You know? Like Chromia or Elita One? This one looked like a girl. I mean a human girl.”

“She looked like some hottie supermodel girl!” his fiend interjected. “She’s super, super sexy, and wearing super-high heels and a pink swimsuit.”

“But she had on an ammo belt, with a rifle and a knife. She be a super-badass hottie!”

“Except she was, like, all shiny silver and everything.”

“Yeah!”

I now had an inkling of who this “new Autobot” was.

“So,” I asked, “did this Autobot come in with another one? A yellow Volkswagen Autobot?”

“A Volkswagen Autobot?” he asked. “There’s no Volkswagen Autobot! And, no, this girl Autobot flew in by herself using jets. It was great!”

Jet boots? That was definitely not RC.

“Anyway, they started whaling on each other, and the girl Autobot finished off the Decepticon with a built in rocket gun. That rocket gun sure packed a wallop! It sounded like bombs going off, and she decimated the Decepticon!”

Rocket gun, huh? Definitely not RC.

- - - - -

By the time we finished our piece, the military had arrived. They started cordoning off everything and herding people away. A few of the soldiers went to us, and asked us to move away. I showed them the white identification card that RC gave me. After studying it for a moment, they saluted me, and left us alone. Cool.

So we finished our piece and wrapped everything up. My producer had all our things packed up in ten minutes. When were ready to leave, I asked to be left. My producer reminded me that I had the six o-clock news to anchor but I promised I’d be back in plenty of time for that.

I looked around and marveled at the level of devastation around me. It reminded me of that abortive lunch date I had with Ronnie in what felt like a lifetime ago. Except this one was so much worse.

There were no bodies around, but I did see the telltale blood spatters and marks all over. I guess they had already taken all of the hurt and wounded to the hospitals. As to the dead – I wouldn’t know about that.

I noticed that there was a commotion. Many of the soldiers had congregated on the far side of the mall or park. I jogged over and noticed that all of them were looking over to a figure about fifty feet away. By the glint of shiny metal, I guess it was the Autobot that the kids were talking about, but what was it doing? No one was making a move to approach the Autobots but, since most people knew what Autobots and Decepticons were and what they could do, I can understand why.

A soldier tried to stop me but I showed him my ID again, and he let me through.

I peered forward and… it looked like RC.

I ran towards her and, yes, it was RC. She looked like her robot self - shiny, chrome skin, bright silver hair, and jointed plates covering her body. But she was practically naked – she was only wearing a semi-transparent pink swimsuit.

She was sitting on the ground cradling the broken, non-moving body of the Venus de Milo statue.

“RC!” I called, and she looked up. The sunlight glinted off her face, and off the tears that were on her cheeks. It broke my heart a bit to see her crying.

I kneeled down in the dirt and gave her a hug around the neck.

“What’s wrong, RC? Are you hurt.”

“No. No, I’m not… I’m not…” Oh, RC…

I looked at the figure she was cradling, and it was the shattered, broken body of the Venus de Milo statue.

I hugged her again. “It’s not your fault, RC. If you didn’t finish her off, she’d have hurt more people. It was your duty. It’s not your fault.”

“I know, Suzy. But…”

“No buts, RC. You did the only thing you could. You did good.”

She hugged me so tightly, I couldn’t breathe. But I didn’t complain. She needed this, and I’d give anything for my love.

After a while, she loosened her grip. I could breathe again, but tried to act normally.

She pulled back and looked at me. “Thank you, Suzy. I love you.” She leaned forward and gave me a small, chaste kiss. I would have thought her metal lips and face would have been cold, it actually felt silky and warm.

I wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I love you, too.”

“Okay,” she sniffed. “I need to get back to Fort Lewis, now. You need to step back, honey.”

I didn’t understand why, but I complied. She gestured for me to move back some more, and I did.

She then stood up, with the Venus de Milo body in her arms.

I noticed that she was wearing wedge-heeled pumps. What looked to be five-inch wedges. It made her stand in a sexy way. And with her suit, I could understand why the kids we interviewed were so taken by her.

“See you later, Suzy,” she said.

In a moment, fire and smoke came out of the bottoms of RC’s wedge heels, and she started to climb up into the sky. When she was about two hundred feet up, she did something and, like a jet fighter going into afterburner, her jets exploded in a stronger exhaust and she flew across the sky, towards what I knew was towards Washington, and Fort Lewis.

“Wow,” an army officer beside me said.

I giggled. “Yeah. Wow.”

“You know her, Ma’am?” he asked.

“Sorry, Lieutenant,” I said. “That’s classified.”

He took that at face value and just nodded.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I have to get to work now.”

I walked away, past the areas cordoned off by the military, and punched for an Uber taxi on my cellphone.

Pretty soon, the car arrived and I was able to get back to my office, with more than enough time to take care of my news program.

- - - - -

The main piece on the local and network news programs were, of course, the latest Decepticon attack, and I introduced my segment from earlier today, but now cut to include new footage that the network shot, or bought from other news outlets and even from twitter users and bloggers.

What they didn’t have, though, was my interview with the kids, and the illustrations that our graphic people made based on the kids’ descriptions as well as input from me. They used anime images, and images from the official website of the Louvre Museum as the basis for mockups of the robotic Venus de Milo and RC.

They were extremely accurate, if I may say so – especially the statue. In my piece, I conjectured that the new Decepticon model was a kind of Decepticon Pretender (I then had to explain what a Pretender was). As to its purpose, no one knew.

As for RC’s mockup, she was extremely sexy. My graphic guy explained that they used the main character from a Japanese cartoon movie called “Ghost in the Shell” as her basis. I didn’t bother to correct him but at the very least, if someone saw RC in either her Autobot or her normal form, she would never have connected her with the girl in the graphic.

As I explained to the guys, the Autobot girl was dressed in a swimsuit. They used a monokini as its basis, with large cutouts on the sides and back, and made it slightly translucent. They also put her in high-heeled wedges as I specified, and gave her an ammo belt and an M16 rifle. The graphic that they ended up was an extremely sexy, badass hottie.

In my piece, I said that the robot girl was a new Autobot. No one knew her name, or what her Autobot vehicle form was (which many Autobot fans were very interested in), but I said I was sure we’d see her again, if ever there were new Decepticon attacks.

My bosses were pleased with my news show in general, and with my piece in particular. My new network bosses were pleased as well, and asked me to have regular science or tech pieces every night, from then on.

I said that the piece I just did was hardly a tech piece, but they argued that it was about Autobots, so it qualified.

I shrugged at that.

- - - - -

Later that night, when I was done for the day and back in my hotel, I tried to call up RC. I was relieved to find that she was okay. I took this with a grain of salt, but she sounded so much better, my worries were mostly washed away.

RC laughed at my news show, especially about the Autobot anime girl. I giggled with her, and asked her what she thought of her picture. She thought that she looked real good, but I countered that I preferred the real thing.

Anyway, I was so full of questions that RC had to laugh. She didn’t mind me asking, so I did.

The first thing I asked about her robotic look, and she explained that she had now fully transitioned into her full Cybertronian self. Her robot look was actually her second form, just like the second vehicle form of the Autobots. She hastily explained that she can transform back to her normal human form at will, which, she explained was her regular form.

That was great news.

Anyway, I then asked my second question, which had to do with her new ability to fly. RC explained that it was due to her new footwear. They weren’t just fancy high heels – they were Perceptor’s latest inventions, and it allowed RC to fire jets from their bottoms, which then allowed her to fly.

My next question was her swimsuit. Not that I was complaining, but I had to ask why. She explained the problem with the shredding so Perceptor had to make a special outfit for her, but since she didn’t have enough for a full outfit, so RC had to make do with a tiny little suit. I had to giggle at that.

RC mentioned that she had some problems with her hair – it seemed that the long hair was really distracting, and caused a lot of drag. I was vehemently opposed to her cutting her hair, though, and we decided to shelve the topic for now.

I said that I was excited to see her, and she said that the weekend was coming up. I sighed and said I’d see her then.

- - - - -

As soon as the ramp opened, I jumped out. I saw RC and Betty by the side of the runway. I ran over and jumped into RC’s arms.

When Betty tapped me on my shoulder, that was the only time I realized we had been standing there for a while and that people were staring.

I reluctantly let go and we went home.

That night, we got reacquainted again. I was sure we were pretty noisy, but Betty was pretty understanding. I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. Not that I minded. Heehee.

I woke up a little late in the morning, but I found that RC was up already.

“Good morning, my love,” I said. “You’re up early.”

“Hey, Suzy baby,” she said. “Sorry about that. I have an appointment with Rodimus this morning.” She gave me a kiss. “Go back to bed. If you get hungry, I have breakfast on the dining table.”

“What’s going on?”

“One of the Autobot jets, Scattershot – he’s come down from the new moon base and he’s going to help us do some testing.”

“Testing? On what?”

“On me.”

“On you? What do you mean?”

“We’re gonna test me while in my augmented mode, especially my flight capabilities.”

“Well, in that case, I’m going, too.”

“No need, Suzy. You can stay and rest up…”

“Not on your life! I’m not gonna miss this! Just give me ten minutes for a quick shower and a cup of coffee.”

“Okay…”

I rushed into the bathroom, took a quick shower and got dressed right away. Nothing special – just denim shorts, sneakers and a long-sleeved plaid shirt that I tied around by the tails.

And we were off. Betty’s ride was as smooth and fast as ever, and we were soon at the main hangar by the airstrip.

There were a lot of people there, as well as several Autobots. There was one Autobot that I didn’t recognize, he was a big one – bigger than Rodimus, and was mostly blue-colored with several red markings.

RC brought me over and introduced me to him.

“Scattershot, I’d like to introduce to you Susan Blu, my fiancée. Suzy, this is Scattershot, one of Sky Lynx’s high flyers.”

“Hello, Ma’am. Please to finally meet you.”

“Hello, Scattershot. I haven’t seen you before.”

“I apologize. Sky Lynx brought most of us who are hypersonic to the new moon project. He needed flyers because of the need to travel to the moon and back.”

“How is the project going?”

“It should be finished in a couple of months. Soon, NEST will have a base to help monitor the planet and identify any Decepticon-related activities.”

I nodded. “So what are you all doing here?”

“Good morning, Ms Blu,” one of the officers approached me. I knew him to be one of RC’s people.

“Hey, Dave. Good morning.”

“We’re here to test RC’s flight capabilities and other abilities while in her augmented form.”

“So RC told me. How will you do that?”

“We’re going to attach some sensors on her, and track her while she does her thing.”

While we were chatting, RC went inside the hangar, and came out a minute later wearing nothing but her pink monokini and her high-heeled “jet boot” wedges.

All conversation stopped as they watched her come out. She was blushing all over.

“Hey, sexy,” I said, and giggled.

“Stop saying that,” she said.

“Sorry,” I said contritely. “So, you’re all set?”

“Yes.” The officer attached some electrodes on her upper chest and put what looked like a bracelet around her right wrist. “Thanks, Dave.”

“Okay, people,” Dave called. “Move back. Give the Captain room.”

I reached up and gave her a kiss. “Good luck, RC.”

She nodded nervously and moved away.

“Okay, Captain,” Dave called. “Here we go. Get ready to transform in: five, four, three, two, one. Transform!”

RC closed her eyes and we heard the Autobot transformation sound coming from her. In moments, she was in her “augmented” robotic form.” The ruby part of her wedges started to glow.

Everyone clapped and cheered, and RC gave us a little wave.

“Okay, Captain. Scattershot – stand by. Captain, ready for flight in: five, four, three, two, one. Blast off!”

Smoke and fire started to come out of her jet boots and RC took to the air.

Everyone cheered as we saw her streaking across the sky.

“Go, RC!” someone yelled.

Moments later, Scattershot transformed into some kind of jet plane and took off to chase after RC.

We saw the two of them flying in formation side-by-side and their speed noticeably became faster. After a minute, we saw them coming back.

“Telemetry’s good. Velocity reads as three hundred miles per hour… four hundred… five hundred… six hundred… Mach one!”

A loud thunderclap rolled over us and saw the two racing away. “Wow!” someone exclaimed.

“Mach one point two,” Dave called the numbers as they changed on his panel. “One point four, point six, point eight… there she goes! Mach two!”

“RC, Scattershot,” Rodimus said, obviously communicating with them, “climb to forty thousand feet, and continue acceleration.

We heard them respond, and Dave confirmed.

“They are breaking angels twenty. Twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, and forty! Velocity now at Mach three point two.”

“We are reading you at forty thousand feet, and Mach three-plus,” Rodimus called. “Continue with the test flight at your discretion and report when able.”

“Mach four at angels ninety now, one hundred. Now Mach five at one hundred-fifty, two hundred, two hundred-fifty. Mach six, by God! Altitude now three hundred.

“Now past the Karman line at three-fifty. They are now two hundred miles away. There goes our telemetry data. Switching to satellite tracking.”

Dave pressed a few buttons, and his screen changed. “Satellite signal acquired. Targets now crossing the state boundary. Velocity now at six thousand miles per hour, six-five, seven, eight… Sub-orbital altitude now four hundred thousand feet. Seventy-six miles, Eighty! Altitude now eighty miles. Velocity at seven thousand, nine, twelve, sixteen… Velocity now at twenty thousand miles per hour!”

Everyone had now crowded around Dave. On it we could see a global map and a curving tracer line that was going up and down the face of that map. That was RC and Scattershot.

“Signal now holding steady at twenty thousand miles per hour, altitude at three hundred miles.”

“Base to RC and Scattershot,” Rodimus called. “We are reading you at three hundred miles and speed stable at twenty thousand. Are you under acceleration?”

We heard RC respond and said that they weren’t

“Copy that, RC. You and Scattershot are cleared to return to base at your convenience. Acknowledge.”

They acknowledged and, after a while, they were back.

Scattershot was the first to land, followed by RC. I raced to her, but RC held out a hand.

“Stop, Suzy! My skin is still too hot from the friction.”

I stopped. “So when?”

Dave had a device pointed at RC. After a minute, Dave nodded, and I went over and gave her a hug.

She was a bit warm but not bad.

“So, how’d I do?” she asked.
 
 
Fourteen: RC and Life Going Back To Normal

After the flight test, they continued with strength, agility, range-of-motion endurance and resistance tests. Dave insisted that I wear the jet boots for all of them. He explained that I might not have time to switch footwear after transitioning from flight mode.

I shrugged since I seem to be navigating on them fine.

Suzy watched me through all of them, taking pictures as I went through the exercises, and, by the end of the day, I was pooped.

We did learn that I had the same dexterity, agility and range of motion when I was in my normal form, but my strength and endurance was typical of any Autobot. That made me quicker and more agile than any of the other Autobots. Maybe I shouldn’t use the phrase “other Autobots.”

During the testing, I fell down a lot, and Suzy was there every time to catch each pratfall on her camera. I wasn’t irritated – I took it with good humor. In fact, I would vamp after I fell yet again. Suzy laughed and laughed, and kept clicking away.

The conclusion was that, in my augmented form, I was more physically capable. The problem was that, in my augmented form, I didn’t look much like a normal human. I couldn’t pass for a normal and couldn’t move amongst people as easily, which gave Decepticon pretenders a very critical advantage – they were at their optimum even while they pretended to be human.

It was the color of my skin and hair, more than anything, that gave me away. I then tried to think that through, and reconsidered. Actually, it was everything: even if I could hide my skin and hair color by using some kind of make-up, and colored contacts to make my eyes look more normal, my height would have given me away.

I thought the problems over, and while I was thinking, I heard the familiar Autobot transformation sound.

“RC!” Suzy exclaimed, and pointed at me.

“What?” I asked. Looking up, I saw her pointing at me.

I looked down at myself, and found that I had changed again. “Betty!” I called. “Bring me a mirror!”

Betty came and brought a full-length mirror, and I saw my new self. My skin was back to normal, or rather, it looked normal, with the same texture and flexibility as normal skin, but it wasn’t my usual fair complexion – it was now a richer, lightly tanned shade. My face was also totally different, but still pretty. I now had brunette hair and green eyes. But…

Looking at my hand, it wasn’t seamed now except for the first joint of each finger, and there was also a seam at my wrist. I stretched my arm, turned it over and saw that it was plated like my original augmented arm except that the skin was more human looking. I then looked at my torso. I still had normal looking boobies but below them, it was like the rest of my torso was plated like an accordion. At least from what I could see through the pink suit.

As for the rest of me, my surface was still plated, but my skin color and texture was normal looking.

Also, I could see that I was a bit smaller given how loose the suit was and how I was falling out of my jet boots.

I concentrated and I was back to my regular platinum-haired augmented form. Whew.

“I didn’t know you had a second augmented form, RC,” Betty said.

“I didn’t, either,” I said. “Maybe it’s time to visit Perceptor again.”

- - - - -

We got back home late, but we didn’t mind. It seemed that Perceptor missed something. But he was able to confirm that I had another augmented form, not that he needed to, as I had just transformed into that.

What he did confirm was that the new form had the same capabilities as my first one. The only difference was the look and my dimensions were a little smaller. Actually, a lot smaller. Suzy had started measuring me, and, she informed me that my new form was about five-eight now – a foot and a half shorter than my old form, with dimensions the same ratios as my old form except on a smaller scale. I was now 36-25-36, with a D-cup. I’m a fox, whatever I do! Heehee.

Perceptor was able to give a possible reason for my torso’s unusual configuration – apparently, my mass wasn’t changed even though I was on a smaller scale now. The accordion-like configuration allows my form to be compressed. The only drawback was that Perceptor says I can’t hold the form for any stretch longer than about six hours. Being compressed in this way puts a strain on several of my internal systems and I would need to change back to either of my other forms fairly quickly.

I was wearing Susan’s clothes. Given my new figure, I couldn’t very well use my own clothes. Surprisingly, her clothes fit me real well, except for bras…

“So?” I asked Susan and turned in profile, bringing my bra-less condition into play. “How do I look, honey?”

She sidled up to me.

“Well,” she purred. “I don’t know. How about let’s go upstairs so I can, ummm, check things out?” She giggled. “See if everything is as advertised?”

We raced each other up the stairs.

- - - - -

After a while, our life had started to settle down. I wouldn’t say it was a peaceful kind of life, but it’s ours. Susan was now the co-anchor for her network’s local affiliate station in Seattle, and was her network’s chief science correspondent. Perceptor would usually help her with her background material, and she’d usually be able to come up with a lot of good pieces. There was even talk that her programs are in the running for next year’s Peabodys.

She’d take care of the news with her partner Mondays through Fridays, do a couple of science specials, and sometimes go out in the field and do some human interest pieces. Sometimes she’d take over for her co-anchor and do the editorial for her show, too.

She was also getting used to life together. I didn’t know about her, but I love having to wake up next to her every morning. I suppose some people would find our relationship to be a little weird, even deviant. After all, an Autobot and a human together, much less two women together. But the people that knew about us also knew about our backgrounds. And I guess those are the only people that matter, at least regarding our living situation. As for other people, if I didn’t transform, and Betty kept to her Volkswagen form, we looked like a regular couple. Well, regular lesbian couple. Well, actually, regular lesbian couple, with one of us over seven feet… Oh, shut up!

As for our “kid,” well, Betty has become very popular among the Autobots. Along with Aleta and Chromia, Betty has become the Autobots’ new pinup queen. And she was rarely alone these days, with a lot of Autobots hovering around her all the time. As a result, Susan’s been feeling a bit left out. But I explained to her that Betty couldn’t help being a hottie. She sighed and tried not to let it bother her. But Betty was still totally devoted to us. We couldn’t help but love her.

Also, Betty is now a full-fledged Autobot. She has had the opportunity to go on several missions already. She had been relegated mostly to the rear but she had shown her adaptability and skills several times so Rodimus had decided to deploy her to the front lines more. Her problem was that she didn’t have any long-distance weapons, so Perceptor helped her out by providing her a sidearm.

As for me, I had found my own niche as part of NEST, and as part of my new family. I was now directly reporting to General Lennox and was now directly in charge of most of our forces. I guess my role was analogous to Rodimus’ role amongst the Autobots.

I was also learning about my new self. In truth, the biggest epiphany I had was that, despite what has happened to me, I was still myself – the body wasn’t really the full reality of who I was. But it did help to have my current form. Heehee. Or forms.

I was getting acquainted with my new brunette self, and have been able to use this second augmented form on a few missions already: in my second form, I had all the advantages of my first form, but looked normal enough that I could pass for a regular girl. Ultra Magnus said that I was actually more convincing human than a Decepticon Pretender. This has allowed me to mix and mingle with regular folk while on a mission, and that has been very useful. The only problem was that my jet boots don’t fit. Perceptor was working on a new, smaller pair now, and I hope that they’d be ready soon.

I guess I am starting to get used to things. But I guess falling in love puts things in a better, rosier perspective. It was a lot like being reborn, actually.

Though my life is full of problems and conflicts, I guess my new family has put them in perspective. Decepticons and terrorists aren’t important – they’re just part of work. Bigots and gay-bashers aren’t important – they’re just distractions. Dirty old men and sexists aren’t important – they’re irrelevant.

You know what the big worries are? They’re things like deciding on what to order for dinner, what to do about Betty’s suitors, where to go during our vacation, and how to decorate our house. I’m sure you know what I mean, if you have a family already, or are in love.

Like, at the moment, the big deal was what to do about the empty space on the wall above the living room couch. Actually, Suzy had a solution, but I was not too happy about it.

rc - living room 2.png

She actually mounted a couple of pictures that she took herself – one was of me in my brunette form when I was goofing around before going to bed; the other one was of me in my platinum-blonde form when I fell down during my testing. In this one, I was vamping so I didn’t look like I just had a pratfall.

I didn’t really like putting up pictures of mine, but I knew how this will go – eventually, I’m going to give in. But then again, that’s how it goes in my new life. But I’m not complaining. Lol.

rc - brunette tilted.png           rc - bumblebee.PNG           rc - platinum blonde tilted.png
         
- end -

- - - - -

 
Postscript: The fact that you’ve reached this point means that you have gone through over fifty-two thousand three hundred words. All I can say is, “why!!”

Lol. Just jokin’. I truly appreciate you finishing my story, and I hope you liked it.

Anyway, here are the usual postscripts.

* This is a fanfic based on the Transformers franchise. The plot elements are from the Transformers movies, and the images used are from the Transformers cartoon series. No IP infringements are intended: no declaration of ownership, direct or indirect, is claimed, as well as for the other graphics. This is a not-for-profit fanfic.

* The story has also taken liberties with the Transformers characters, storyline and story elements. I hope that’s okay with all of you. Think of this as Transformers on an alternate Earth.

* If you want to let me know about a spelling error, grammar error, sentence structure error, or anything grammar related, please PM me privately instead of posting a public comment. I will correct it asap.

* And I would like to solicit your votes. This is an official entry in the May 2016 Rebirth story contest, so, if you like the story, please vote for the story by clicking the Kudos button. Remember, you only have until June 7 to vote.

Thanks again!!

 
   

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