Other than the iron lamps, the tunnels were dark. For a while, the sound of Bumblebee’s engine bounced off the walls, echoing in an eerie way. Taylor observed the long stretch of the tunnel. Then, she began to hear something in the distance: The combination of voices, shouting and yelling, the sound of clattering metal, and dropping objects. Taylor’s heart began to pound, excited to see what lied ahead. Bumblebee then slowed down and paused. There was a sound of a machine wiring. Blue light suddenly flashed, scanning the yellow Volkswagen beetle and its content. Then, Taylor heard a “blooping” sound, almost like the blue light machine answered in approval. At once, a bigger, louder machine whirred. Taylor would see a light crack suddenly appear. It grew bigger and bigger, as she realized it was a descending door. She was blinded by the light as she could feel Bumblebee moving forward. She squinted, eager to see.
Taylor and Bumblebee had entered the Autobot’s new headquarters. It was a vast room, half as big and as long as the mountain’s mass could hide it. There was a huge door at the very back of the room and two huge cargo planes sat to the left of it. It was the door that they would enter through. There were containers stacked high of supplies. Taylor could see Ironhide, the Autobots’ Weapons Specialist taking them off one-by-one at the top and lowering it for the group of soldiers, hastily unpacking. On the back right side of the room were at least three jeeps, along with two tanks, sitting quietly and untouched. And on the far-right, Taylor could see a scaffolding, holding a balcony, almost a complete square, with only the front side missing. Computers neatly rounded it, and technicians were typing away on them and chattering to one another. There were three giant televisions screen installed onto the wall, that were displaying various countries on the continent, and information about them. Bumblebee slowed to a halt and opened the driver seat door. Taylor slowly stepped out, gazing in awe at the size of everything around her. Everything was so much larger than she expected.
Taylor saw Captain William Lennox and another soldier, a darker-toned man beside him. Both were wearing camouflage suits with their rank symbols ironed onto them.
“Welcome to N.E.S.T.”
“Captain Lennox” Taylor greeted, politely, “Good to see you again!”
Lennox chuckled nervously, putting his hands behind his back, with a sense of giddy pride.
“It’s ah, actually Major now. I’ve just been promoted.”
Once he mentioned it, Taylor could now see that rather than a captain’s rank, which is typically two silver bars, connected to each other, Lennox now wore a gold leaf, symbolizing his rank as Major. Taylor smiled.
“Congratulations, Major Lennox,” she corrected.
“Thank you, Captain.”
Then, Lennox continued, “I have been assigned as the overseer of all operations in N.E.S.T. At least, the human operations. It’s Optimus’ job to do the rest.”
“First name basis now, eh? That’s nice.”
“So that’s what they’ve decided to call it? After the treaty?” Taylor asked.
“Yep: ‘Non-biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty’.”
“Personally, I think it has a nice ring to it” Epps added.
“I agree!” Taylor expressed.
Taylor soon spotted Strategic Specialist Jazz a few feet away, squatting to see eye-to-eye with a couple of female technicians. He said something and smiled cheekily. The technicians giggled. Then, Jazz saw Taylor and Bumblebee, and quickly stood up.
“Excuse me ladies” he excused.
He approached them.
“Aaaay! The famous Captain Knightingale has entered the buildin’!” he announced.
“Hey, nice to see you too Jazz!” Taylor exclaimed, grinning.
Jazz bent down and stretched out his hand for a high five. Taylor couldn’t help but chuckle at his contagious energy.
“What do you mean by ‘famous’?” Taylor inquired, playfully raising an eyebrow.
“Well, everyone on base has been askin’ ‘bout ya! I think you’re becoming something of a celebrity.”
Taylor’s face turned red. “I am? Well, let’s not encourage that. I’m just here to serve, as I always have.”
“You settle ‘n alright ‘n that tiny little red house of yaurs?”
Taylor nodded. “Yeah. It’s a little messy. But I’m making due. You?”
“Ah everythin’s been working fine. I must say ‘Gale, humans aren’t as…shall we say, faltering, as I expected…”
Taylor raised an eyebrow. “Oho, is that so?”
He turned to Bumblebee.
“How ‘bout you, Bee? That garage cozy ‘nough for ya?”
Bumblebee chuckled, “Yeah, very cozy.”
Taylor looked around for the rest of the Autobots.
“Where’s Optimus Prime? He wanted us to check in with him” she asked.
“Oh, Prime’s surveying the area for ‘Cons. He’ll be back shawrtly-”
“-He’s out there by himself?”
Jazz shrugged. “Yeah, that’s how he wanted it” He continued, “Ratchet’s down on level six settin’ the med bay up” Jazz answered.
Taylor raised an eyebrow. “Level six?” Taylor echoed.
Just then, Bumblebee, who had been standing there awkwardly as the humans talked, said:
“Erm, is Knightingale suppose to get her tour before or after Prime returns?”
“Ah, Prime did tell me y’all could get started as soon as Knightingale arrived” Jazz responded, “I’ve gotta get back to helpin’ Ironhide. He’s a little sour after one of the cadet’s accidently spilled that brown liquid all over his hood.”
“You mean coffee?” She corrected.
“Yeah, that. Guess I’ll see you two young’ns in a few cycles.”
Taylor and her guardian waved as Jazz walked away.
“Bye Jazz” Taylor called.
“Well, let’s get started” Lennox announced. He turned to his friend. “Epps, can you hold down Central Command until I get back?”
Epps smiled. “Certainly, Will.”
And with that, Major Lennox, Taylor, and Bumblebee, walked off, beginning Taylor’s tour of the base.
“This base is enormous for a human military base,” Taylor commented, “What was it formerly used for?”
“The higher-ups weren’t particular clear about that, Captain,” Lennox answered, “But from what I heard, it apparently was a small C.I.A. operation, called, ‘Sector 7’, or something like that.”
Why would a small C.I.A. operation need such a large facility?
The N.E.S.T. main headquarters had three levels: One served as the air hanger, while the back was comprised of three, human sized levels, including a cafeteria, longue, bedrooms, and offices. In addition, when Taylor, Bumblebee, and Major Lennox moved from floor to floor, each one had tunnels going to each level, similar to the tunnel Bumblebee and Taylor first entered in.
The lounge had rows of four seated tables, with napkin holders, and salt and pepper on top. In the corner was three coffee machines, which included caffeinated and decaffeinated, straws, sugar packets, and creamers.
The kitchen was large, and vast. It was mostly a buffet, which tried their best to keep food fresh, to keep the soldiers happy, and served three meals a day. There was also a section in the back of the room that was a snack table, and drinks.
In the med bay, the main doctor, a thirty year-old female, with brown hair tied up with a claw behind her head, curly bangs in the front, and a lab coat, named, “Doctor Jane Haddock,” along with three other doctors and nurses worked there. Doctor Haddock greeted them warmly.
“Nice to meet your acquaintance, Captain Knightingale. I have heard a lot about you” she said in a soft voice.
“All good things, I hope” Taylor joked.
“Very fascinating things, Captain” Doctor Haddock corrected, “I am currently working with the Autobot medical doctor to supply a unique set of equipment for you in case you find your way in here.”
Taylor wasn’t sure whether or not to be flattered, offended, or feel like a burden. Instead, she smiled, a bit forcefully.
“Thank you, Doctor.”
The med bay had a total of twelve beds, neatly made up, and a small operation room and lab for more serious injuries.
The second level was one large training center, suitable for both autobots and humans alike. There were multiple crates and other cubical object stacked high, with ladders and stairways. There were dozens of sandbags, all neatly set up in certain areas, along with truck-sized containers; all in one obstacle course. There was only a fourth of the area squared off with rows of weight lifting equipment, punching bags, and lastly, areas of large, square blue foam mats, for one-on-one combat. The touring group saw Ironhide again, this time in session with a group of cadets. They decided to pitch in the overseeing rooms (which were on each side of the room), and observe.
Ironhide was in a game of cat-and-mouse with the circle of the fresh-blood. He casually walked through the maze, sometimes sneakily, sometimes not. He was creating a scenario in which the cadets would have to take down a Decepticon without Autobot assistance. Just then, as the tour group saw the cadets appear, one of them pulled a grappling hook from off her tool belt. She had black hair, with parted bangs, and brown eyes.
“What are you doing?” one of them hissed.
“We can’t be standing around in the open!” The girl hissed back, “That Autobot could open fire on us with no time to react! Hernandez, you’re with me, Williams, get into the first level of that building and be ready to fire when needed. The rest of you, go to the left and position yourselves somewhere you can hide. Move!”
“You can’t give us orders!” The one named Hernandez snapped.
The girl soldier rebuttled, “Well someone has too! Move, or you will have your toush handed to you!”
Hernandez retorted, and begrudgingly pulled out his grappling hook.
Taylor leaned over to the side towards Major Lennox.
“Who’s that?” she asked.
“That’s Dakota Fisher” Lennox explained, “She’s been in the Marine-Corps since 17, military school even longer. She was specially selected. She’s actually a Corporal, but we needed all new recruits to be re-educated.”
“Ah” Taylor replied.
Dakota pointed her grappling gun upwards, towards one of the objects that was more or less shaped like a building. Then, with one eye closed, she fired. The gun made a small poof as it jettisoned into the air and grappled onto the third level. Her companions did the same. She tugged it, to make sure it was secure, then, once her group was also ready, they started to climb.
“They don’t actually use real rifles right?” Bumblebee asked.
“Of course not. They are required to train with weapons that are more-or-less, big honkin’ tasers. Ratchet helped program them. They only shock Autobots a small bit if hit in less-dangerous areas. However, if they’re hit in a fatal spot, they’ll be fully immobilized long enough for the session to end.”
“I know that Ironhide is equipped with smoke bombs” Bumblebee added, “They’re supposed to react by what humans call ‘pepper spray’. It’s supposed to signify their termination.”
“-Not enough to harm them though, we put very low doses of pepper spray in there.”
Ironhide was creeping closer to the other group, who were spreading out in an intersection, their rifles raised. Suddenly, Ironhide jumped out in front of them.
“Roar!” he shouted, menacingly, as if he was scaring a child.
The soldiers jumped and were about to fire, but Ironhide already had splattered them with pepper-smoke. The cadets choked and spat as the smoke got into their mouths and stung their eyes.
“Heh, rookies” Ironhide muttered to himself.
“Overconfident as ever Ironhide” Taylor thought.
Now, it was just Dakota’s team. Dakota and her group was not that far away from the terminated group. They covered their mouths with a camouflage bandana they had around their necks in case the smoke drifted in their direction. Dakota hid in the third floor of the building, and cautiously peered out.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are, little fleshlings!” Ironhide taunted.
Taylor could see that Hernandez’s heart was racing as he breathed in and out rapidly. Ironhide stepped closer to their position. Williams tiptoed out of the first floor and onto the other side of the “road.” He aimed for one of Ironhide’s leg joints and looked up for Dakota’s signal. Dakota spotted him and signed.
“Fire on three” she gestured, “Three…Two…”
But Hernandez was too nervous.
He suddenly jumped from his position and shouted, “Hey!”
Ironhide whirled around and spotted Hernandez. Williams quickly fired, even though Dakota didn’t signal him. He missed. Dakota ducked for cover as her comrades were quickly doused in pepper-smoke.
“Well now, that was just sad” Ironhide picked.
He was ready for the buzzer to go off, signalling that the session was over. But he didn’t get everyone quite yet. Suddenly, with her bandana secured around her mouth, Dakota lept out of her hiding spot, and jumped off the building. Ironhide was distracted by the awkward silence just enough to be completely surprised by Dakota’s attack. Before he could react, Dakota fired an electrical surge right in between his shoulders. He cried out in surprising shock as the immobilizing effect quickly overtook him and he fell to the ground, limp.
The buzzer went off and the session was over. Everyone walked into the open, dropping their weapons and grumbling over the heat in their throats and the watering of their eyes. The smoke was quickly dispersed and the particles were sucked out of the room by the vents. Dakota removed her bandana and took a deep breath. She looked over at her comrades and glared. She walked over to Hernandez.
“If this was a real battle, you and Williams would be dead,” she told him, sternly, and through her teeth, “Follow orders. Don’t be a coward.”
The major leaned into the mic and announced, “Well done, Corporal Fisher. Take ten at the longue. The rest of you, fix yourselves up and head for drills in five minutes. Dismissed!”
The rookies started sprinting their way towards the showers, while Dakota went the opposite direction to the longue. As she exited, she stopped suddenly as she saw the touring group. She threw her hand up in salute.
“Major Jones, sir!” she exclaimed.
“At ease” Jones replied.
He gestured to Taylor.
“Corporal, this is Captain Knightingale, the Autobot ambassador. Bumblebee is her guardian” he introduced.
Dakota turned sharply. “Sir!”
She threw up her hand in salute to Taylor. “Corporal Dakota Fisher, at your service, sir!”
“Oh, you don’t have you-” Taylor paused.
She wasn’t used to being saluted.
“-Thank you, Corporal. Excellent performance you did in there” she finished.
“Thank you, Captain” Dakota replied.
“Dismissed” Major Lennox announced.
And with that, everyone departed. Taylor hung back a little bit behind next to Bumblebee.
“I like her. She was firm, but not hot headed. She could have lashed out, and she almost did, but instead she was appropriately blunt.”
Bumblebee nodded. “She’s almost like you in that regard” he commented.
“Psh, no, I’m not that good” Taylor chuckled.
Ironhide soon stumbled out of the room, grumbling to himself, obviously humiliated by the spectacle. Taylor and Bumblebee couldn’t help but snicker. They weren’t used to seeing the big bad Weapons Specialist lose.
“Good job in there, Ironhide” Taylor called, jokingly.
Ironhide took one look at them, and just scoffed, walking away muttering to himself.
“Beaten by a human! Little bags of meat couldn’t even put a dent in and then-” was the one thing they could make out before he disappeared into the tunnels.
“Something tells me he hasn’t gotten used to living around humans yet” Bumblebee commented.
“Mmm,” said Taylor, “It isn’t always easy…”