The Chicago landmark was crumbling. The neon sign was hanging by a thread, and had one side on the ground. Sparks of electricity flew from it, and rubble was everywhere. Taylor entered the lobby. “I hope there’s no oil puddles around here, or that sign could be really bad” Taylor thought. Then, she called, “Carly! Carly Summers! This is Taylor McCarthy, I’m here to help!” She didn’t want to shout too many times, as she would be pretty much announcing to any Decepticons nearby that she was there. She was surprised when she made her way into the actual theater, that, with the exceptions of a couple holes in the roof, the theater was still intact. “Carly Summers!?” she called again, her voice echoing throughout the room. Suddenly, she heard someone cough. Taylor whirled around. “Help! Over here!” called a raspy voice. She sprinted to where she heard the voice. It was coming from a pile of rubble. Taylor took a deep breath, and lifted the heavy debris. When she threw it to the side, and the dust cleared, Taylor could see four teenagers, two boys and two girls, covered in cuts and bruises. One even had a leg that Taylor could tell immediately was broken “Thank goodness! I was hoping someone would come!” exclaimed one of them. Taylor pressed the button in her ear piece. “Knightingale here, I’ve got four civilians in need of medical assistance. Requesting backup on 175 North State Street in the Chicago Theater” she announced. She turned back to the teens and reached out her hand. She gestured to one of the boys. “I need your help to lift her out.” she pointed to the girl with the broken leg. The boy stuttered, then nodded. The girl whined as her leg shot seering pain. The boy gently pulled her to her feet, and took Taylor’s hand. One by one, she got the rest of them out. “This is General Morshower. I’m sending a medical team your way” said Thomas’s voice through the comm link. “Be advised, Decepticons are lingering in the area. Repeat, Decepticons are lingering in the area” Taylor replied. “Affirmative, Knightingale. Stay on your guard.” Taylor faced the teenagers. “Has any of you seen a girl with blonde hair, side-swept bangs, about 5’4 and typically wears a headband?” she inquired, “Her name is Carly Summers.” “Carly, yes! Yes I know her!” the other girl replied, “She’s in my computer club. She came too with some friends. I saw her for a moment before we got to our seats. I don’t know where she went, though.” Taylor sighed, disappointed. But she didn’t say another word.
The ground rumbled underneath their feet. The teen girls whimpered in fright, while the boys held them close, whispering into their ear reassuredly. Taylor pressed her comm piece. “Knightingale to Bumblebee. What’s your status?” she asked. She waited a few moments, anxious for her friend to respond. Finally, she heard a fuzzy transmission, saying “Bzzz-Bee Here. I’m-bzzzz-bzzz–bzzzz-Heading your way!” “That doesn’t sound good.” Taylor ordered, “Get to safety. Find a place with no windows, and duck your heads.” “Got it” replied one of the boys, “Come on guys.” Taylor watched them hobble away. She turned back to where she saw the opening of where the entrance was torn away. She pulled the cybertronian weapon from behind her back and put her hand inside. The weapon snapped around it, and the barrel powered up, a faint orange glow rising from inside. The ground rumbled again. Taylor was getting anxious. Bumblebee sounded like he needed her help. Should she go? Optimus Prime explicitly stated to not put herself in danger, and she had a duty to keep these children safe. But what about Carly? Taylor needed to find her too! Taylor cautiously advanced out of the theater, and back into the lobby. She pressed her comm link. “Knightingale to Bumblebee. Do you require assistance?” she requested. There was no answer. Taylor got closer, and closer, until she was back outside, and the sun shone in her eyes. She pressed the earpiece again. “I repeat, this is Knightingale calling Bumblebee. Do you require assistance?” Again, there was no answer. She heard a crash, one that sounded very close. She raised her gun, her fingers getting twitchy, waiting for something to happen. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she found exactly who she was looking for, come flying right at her!
She didn’t have time to duck, as Bumblebee’s metal helm hit her directly in the head and she flew back a solid half mile, and rolled onto the ground, her limbs scraping against the hot concrete street. Her head rang and her vision was blurry. She didn’t move for a solid minute. Every time she tried to move, her head was getting dizzy and her world spinned. She could see her jeans were now torn and blood was staining onto it from the scrapes of the pavement. Her hands were covered in dirt and tiny pieces of rock embedded into them. Her weapon had been flung from her hand and onto the other side of the street. Her arm now had deep rash marks, from the clicking, compacted structure of the weapon. She could see Bumblebee’s blurry figure leaning down. “Knightingale, you okay?” His voice echoed. Taylor was too nauseous to reply. Somebody grabbed him from behind and started pulling him back. He equipped his blaster and shot behind him. He hit the Decepticon’s shoulder and it released him. Slowly but surely, Taylor’s head was starting to clear. The clanging and screeching sounds of the robots fighting grinded on her ears. She was feeling a sense of dejá vu. Something was familiar about this. She sat up, gently moving her head back and forth to locate her blaster. She spotted it in front of a tool shop across the street. She pulled herself up onto her feet, her legs wobbling as she took each step. She could hear another crash nearby. Her thoughts were pulling together, and she realized what was happening. “He’s outnumbered! I’ve gotta help him! I’ve gotta-!” She thought. When she finally got to the other side of the street, she grabbed her blaster and re-equipped it.
Just as the strength was returning to her legs, the feud of the two Decepticons and the little yellow Autobot flew right her way. This time, Taylor was able to duck in time. Bumblebee was now looking pale. He had a large slice in his shoulder, with blue energon dropping from it. He shot a look at her: fear and desperation. “Run, Knightingale! Run! Don’t look back!” He knew he was losing. A giant fist hit him in the face, that sent him flying back again. When he stopped rolling, he didn’t move. Taylor ran only a short distance away, back behind an abandoned truck. She froze. “Inform Megatron that we have a little gift for him” sneered the police car. His voice sounded familiar. He heartlessly kicked Bumblebee’s side, keeping him from getting up. Bumblebee grunted, jolting painfully. That kick felt like a stab in the heart for Taylor. “Come on Bumblebee, get up!” She hissed. He stirred only a little, but he was only met with another kick in the stomach. As he could hear the Decepticons continue to taunt and slur in their tongue, Taylor suddenly realized why the police car’s voice was so familiar.
He did the unthinkable. Something that would haunt Knightingale for the rest of her life. Something that haunted her nightmares for eons to come. “THE CODES!” He shouted. He grabbed Bumblebee’s throat with claw-like knives attached to his fingers. He began to pull harder. Bumblebee closed his optics, trying to pretend that he didn’t feel it. But he couldn’t do it this time. He started shouting at the pain. He pressed the knives harder against his throat, so hard, that they tore into Bumblebee’s plating. That’s when it REALLY began to hurt. The neverending pain. Bumblebee felt his throat being ripped right off! “NO! STOP! STOP IT!” Knightingale shouted desperately. His shouting turned into a scream. The pain grew, and grew, and grew. Then, it was all over.
He was the one who did that to Bumblebee. He was the one that hurt them, humiliated them. He was the reason Bumblebee nearly died that day.
Something changed in Taylor in that moment. Something snapped. Anger. Rage. Vengeance. She pointed her blaster right at Barricade’s helm, and fired. She only scratched the surface of his faceplate. But Taylor had the element of surprise. The two Decepticons were shocked. “What the-!?” Barricade exclaimed. Taylor fired again, and again, and again. It took them a moment to realize where it was coming from. “A fleshling!?” The other Decepticon cried. “Shoot it!” Taylor front flipped, avoiding every blast, but still approaching them. She had more decent shots once she secured the blaster with her other hand, shooting the wrecking ball and chain right off the hand of the Decepticon. They tried to grab her, but she was too quick. She jumped on the back of the Decepticon, and turned his helm around enough to punch it as hard as she could. The Decepticon shouted in pain, then slumped over, unconscious. Taylor’s eyes had changed, both figuratively and literally.
Meanwhile, Bumblebee’s helm was clearing, though his lower area was still throbbing. He stirred, and opened his optics. He changed his blaster to his hand and slowly pulled himself up. He could see a small flash of red firing an orange light at the black figures he knew to be Decepticons. “Knightingale!” Bumblebee suddenly sat up. Where was she? He had to look no further than the little human female with the flowing red hair, knocking one of them out cold. She wiped her nose, energon smearing across her face. Suddenly, Barricade managed to draw his gun and shoot her across the face! “Knightingale!” He shouted, horrified. He lept up to his feet, ready to rush to her aid.
Taylor’s face didn’t hurt like she thought it would. It felt numb. She tumbled back for only a brief moment. In that one moment, Barricade assumed victory. “I will give you some credit, fleshling, you were a worthy opponent” he stated, then bent over her and sneered, “But in the end, a Decepticon remains superior!” “Knightingale!” She heard a voice shout. The moment Barricade turned away, Taylor jumped to her feet. The world slowed around her. Taylor’s blaster changed; from a short-barreled gun, to a long, sharp edged, blue energon blade. With all her remaining strength, she threw her entire body, slamming into him and causing him to fall into the ground. He was stunned, not expecting a tiny flesh creature to have such strength! Taylor jumped onto him, took her blade, and shoved it into his side. Barricade screamed, with the seeding pain, and started shaking. “You took my friend’s voice, tortured him, humiliated him. You’re lucky that you failed to kill him, or you’d be dead right now!” Taylor growled. Barricade’s red optics widened. It was so satisfying to see a Decepticon afraid. Taylor took the blade, that was still embedded in Barricade’s side, and twisted it. Barricade growled again, the pain getting worse. She continued, “I’m not gonna kill you. I want you to feel the pain you put us through. What you put my friend through! I want you to suffer!” After twisting it one more time in the opposite direction, she pulled it out. There was so much energon lost, Barricade went into shock. When she got down, he did no attempt to resist. He was defeated.
Taylor walked back into the middle of the intersection. It was quiet. The dust had settled. She looked up, and saw Bumblebee, standing there, staring at her in awe. He had never seen her so angry, never had he seen her so lost in her own rage. That wasn’t the only thing that stunned him. When she walked up to him, he announced, “Knightingale, your face…” Taylor touched the side of her face. She was shocked to feel not skin, not the liquid feel of blood, but of slick, metallic texture. Taylor forgot to breath for a moment. She looked down at her leg, and at one of the large holes in her torn jeans. She took her fingers and ripped the fabric further to see more clearly. One of the scrapes on her leg was so deep, she could see bone. But it wasn’t an ordinary human bone, it was metal. Cybertronian metal. She touched her face again. She felt normal human skin again. Did her skin…Just grow back?
Taylor’s feelings and thoughts turned from simmering anger and exhaustion, to horror and anguish. “What is this?” She gasped. She breathed rapidly, in and out, tears forming in her eyes. “What did they do to me!?” She shouted. She couldn’t hold it back any longer. The tears flowed from her eyes and down her face. “Knightingale…” Bumblebee tried to speak, but trailed off, and was speechless. “Even as a human, I can’t find peace. I’m a freak!” She cried, “I’m not human, I’m not an Autobot. I’m…A monster…” She watched as the metal bone was covered by the nearly rejuvenated skin. She gritted her teeth. “WHY!? WHY ME? WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO ME!? WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS!?!?” Hot tears rolled down her eyes, no matter how hard she tried. Then, she felt a warm presence.
She felt herself gently lifted, and clutched warmly. She opened her eyes. Bumblebee had pulled her into a loving embrace. “Stop” he said again, “It’s okay.” Now, Taylor was the one that was stunned. She wasn’t used to being held like a doll in another’s arms. But somehow, she felt very comforted when she could hear his spark emitting from his chassis. “You’re not a monster” he whispered, “You’re a great warrior, and my best friend.” He loosened his grip slightly, holding Taylor as if she was a toddler in his grasp. “Whether is was fate or chance, you were chosen for this purpose. Just know that you’re not alone.” He smiled, “I meant it when I said I would protect you with my spark.” Taylor’s cheeks turned a rosy red as she bowed her head and wiped her eyes. “As would I” she sighed, smiling.
The two froze. Bumblebee immediately put Taylor down and transformed into alt mode, praying that he wasn’t seen. Taylor looked around and saw a blonde haired senior teenager emerge from the tool shop. She was wearing a blue, sleeveless vest, a polo white shirt stained with dirt, a blue headband, and jeans. “Carly!” Taylor exclaimed. She ran over to her. “Are you alright? Anything broken?” She asked, concerned. “I’m fine, just a few scratches” Carly replied, “It’s so good to see you, Ms. McCarthy!” Taylor gestured to Bumblebee. “Come on, let’s get you somewhere safe.” She pressed her comm link in her ear. “Knightingale to Squad Alpha, I’ve located the missing civilian” she announced, “Repeat, I’ve located the missing civilian.” “Knightingale, this is Squad Alpha, we copy. Please proceed to rendezvous with the medic team on 175 North State Street.”