Perceptor went straight to work. The new appearance of Captain Knightingale was certainly a distraction. Each time Teletraan ran a scan, he would inquire information about Taylor’s transformation, little by little. Meanwhile, Lennox and Epps returned to the main floor, where the sky spies continued to monitor Decepticon activity. Red Delta, with the exception of Taylor and Bumblebee went up to the rec room floor in order to give the Autobot scientist some space. Taylor and Bee stayed behind to answer Preceptor’s questions.
“A human, Cybertronian hybrid. That’s extremely interesting!” Preceptor exclaimed, “How were you able to cope with it?”
“Well, the soldiers at the base helped me get used to it, I’ll give them that much. It became very easy and I became comfortable in my skin. However, when the gang got back together, it really hit me how small and fragile I am compared to you guys. I’m not really sure that I’m fit to lead Red Delta, at least, not in the field.”
“I’m sure you’ll do fine, ‘Gale” said Bumblebee.
“I appreciate your vote of confidence, Bee. But I have to look at this realistically.”
A few minutes later, Bumblebee remembered something.
“Knightingale, don’t you have a job your starting tomorrow? Maybe we should get back to the cabin” he recommended, “The average human in your estimated age group require at least seven-to-nine hours of sleep.”
Taylor facepalmed her head and sighed.
She turned to Perceptor.
“Is Wheeljack able to help you with your research?”
“As best as he’s able to. I’ll contact you if I have any questions.”
Taylor nodded. “Alright Bee, let’s roll for home.”
Taylor and Bumblebee drove in silence into town. A bag of school supplies and books sat in the passenger seat and thumped as they rolled over patches in the road. The radio played on the 80s station at mid-volume.
“Welcome to your life
There’s no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find You acting on your best behavior
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world.”
When they entered into the town limits, Taylor slouched. She sighed, then raised her hands in frustration:
“How in the world am I supposed to focus when all the chaos going on at the base? Not at all the ideal first day!” She added with a mutter, “And why did they make my first day a Friday? It makes no sense!”
“I don’t know what to tell you, ‘Gale. I’ll monitor everything going on and let you know if anything happens. I wish I could do more.”
Taylor shook her head.
“It’s okay Bee. You don’t need to feel bad.”
She sighed again, and mumbled to herself.
“It’s just tutoring…for more than one age group…one of them being teens. I’ll totally be fine…”
She sighed again, taking deep breaths in and out.
“Are you okay, ‘Gale?” Bee inquired, concerned.
“Yep! Totally fine!”
Bumblebee was not convinced.
“Just…got a little bit of butterflies in my stomach. It’ll go away in a few weeks.”
“Humans eat butterflies? How do they stay alive?”
“Figure of speech, Bee. Figure of speech.”
“It’s my own desire
It’s my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world.”
The two arrived at Mountain View Academy shortly after. Taylor pulled out her books and bags, left Bumblebee alone in the parking lot, and went inside.
It was relatively quiet, as school was in session. She walked down the massive, empty hallway, searching for her classroom. She found it the bottom floor, next to Detention. She slowly entered the room and flicked on the light.
“Huh. I was kind of hoping someone would be meeting me” she thought.
She went to her desk and got to work, removing the miscellaneous papers and dust within the drawers. She had barely made it halfway through when the door opened. A girl with tan skin, brown hair layered with red highlights and a Duran-Duran shirt with dirty jeans, clearly a teen.
“Excuse me, is this Miss McCarthy’s classroom?” The girl asked.
“Yes it is, that’s me!” she replied.
The girl then picked a spot in the second row to the back and sat down at a desk. Taylor was a bit surprised at the seemingly abrupt end to the conversation. Taylor straightened her shirt.
“So, what’s your name?” She asked.
The girl lifted her head.
“Riley,” she replied, “Riley-Embers.”
“Ahh, yes, I recognize that name on the list. How’re you doing this morning?”
Riley shrugged. “Fine, I guess?”
She seemed standoffish, and desired to avoid smart talk.
“And you?” She asked, politefully.
Taylor sighed, then smiled.
“A bit side-tracked to be honest. But I’ll be alright.”
Riley nodded. She took a seat near the back of the room and stared out the window. More teenagers began filtering in, quietly taking their seats and playing on their phones. There were a few children whispering amongst each other, but for the most part, everyone seemed unhappy to be there. Taylor took a deep breath and sighed. She stood up, and clapped her hands together.
“Alright, put your phones back in your pockets and backpacks so we can get started!”
Everyone shuffled around and begrudgingly threw their phones in a non-accessible area. Some slouched in their seats, some leaned forward, holding their heads in their hands, and a couple even genuinely enthusiastic.
“Okay, so according to my notes, you guys have been learning about the rise of Greece?”
Nobody responded at first, then a wave of mumbled “yes” echoed across the room. Taylor shifted her weight.
“Alright, good! A very exciting time in Earth’s History! Now, to get started, open the Usborne History book to chapter five and let’s begin.”
The students slowly pulled out their books and shifted through the pages. A couple kids didn’t even budge. Taylor glanced at them curiously. She looked down at the list of names, then back up.
“Is there any reason why some of you aren’t pulling out your book?” she asked, firmly.
“Some of us are little more than hobos, Ms. McCarthy” responded one.
There was a rush of quiet giggles. The ones with no books slowly hid their faces. Taylor scowled.
“There will be no talk like that in my classroom. Next time I hear that, I will be writing you up.”
She sighed again. “Is anyone willing to share their books?”
The children exchanged glances. Then, a blonde haired girl with bangs nearly covering her face timidly raised her hand.
“Thank you. Cassie, right?”
The girl nodded.
“Brian, please trade seats with Cassie so she can help.”
The boy groaned under his breath and reluctantly stood up. Cassie gathered her things and shyly moved to Brian’s seat.
“Anyone else?” Taylor asked.
After some coaxing, two other students volunteered and there was a shuffling of seats. Finally, class could begin.
“Well, I’ve got good news, and bad news…”
Taylor sat up suddenly, closing a book on Ancient Rome. Bumblebee, who was leaning on the wall, with his arms folded, waiting, straightened and approached Perceptor with Taylor.
“Break it down for us, Perceptor” said Bumblebee.
“The good news is: the biological coding of Earth energy isn’t too complex…”
“And the bad news?” Bumblebee inquired.
“-Is that unfortunately, figuring out a formula compatible for Cybertronian biology could take Earth months to figure out!”
“We don’t have that kind of time,” Taylor stated, worriedly, “The Decepticons could be plotting something at this very moment and could attack us while we’re outnumbered! There’s got to be some way we can speed up process…!”
“I think I can be of some assistance.”
Everyone turned around. In came Dr. Masumi Glau. She was holding a tablet, wearing a white shirt, and a leather motorcycle jacket over it, with black leggings.
“I have some data that can be of some use to you” she announced calmly, “It’s incomplete, but I have a feeling that you-” she gestured to Perceptor, “-Will have more luck with finishing it.”
Glau began typing rapidly on the virtual keyboard.
“I’m transferring the files to your computer now.”
Preceptor turned to the computer to find files being transferred. Everyone’s spirits started to lift a little. All except Taylor of course, who eyed Dr. Glau suspiciously. She still didn’t trust her.
“Incredible! These equations, this coding…This would’ve taken decades! I can figure this out in no time!” he exclaimed, excitedly.
“How do you know about cybertronian DNA coding?” Taylor asked, abruptly.
Everyone turned around and stared at Masumi.
Taylor continued, “You had them in stable cryo-stasis for barely a week! How would you be able to gather so much information about cybertronians?”
Dr. Glau sighed, adjusting her glasses. “I’m not your enemy, captain. You want to save you friends, and I’m giving you what you need.”
Taylor raised an eyebrow. “You’re lying. You’ve obtained this information elsewhere. Where, and when?”
“Come on Knightingale, we need this” Bumblebee argued.
Taylor sighed irritably. “Just…do what you need to do. In the meantime, I’m going to work on the list of assets we’ll need before heading out into the field.”
And with that, Taylor marched away, near the back of the room, glancing concernedly at the unconscious autobots, before exiting to another section of the room. Bumblebee frowned, and went to follow her.
Meanwhile, a group of soldiers were given a fifteen minute break from training. Dakota Fisher prepared a hot cup of tea and sat down on a table far from the others. She spotted Bumblebee come in, looking around for a few seconds concerned, then exiting after speaking inaudibly to an officer. A few minutes later she saw Red Delta enter the rec space. Their faces were stricken with grief. They talked quietly amongst themselves. Dakota cocked her head. She knew there was something wrong the Autobots power supply, but little else was told to her. Something drove her to stand. She was curious about the Autobots, especially after being debriefed on Captain Knightingale’s situation. She was bizarrely fascinated. She decided to approach them. She caught the attention of Nightshock, who looked like to be second in command and saluted.
“Ma’am, Corporal Fisher, ma’am. I’m one of the recruits, ma’am” She introduced.
“So you are” Nightshock monotonously replied and started to walk away.
“Nightshock! Don’t be rude!” Roadshot exclaimed, “Y’know we gotta be workin’ with these humans for a while!”
Roadshot turned to Dakota with a friendly smile.
“I’m Roadshot. This is Nightshock-“ she gestured to Nightshock, then to the male bots behind her, “Wadewatch, our medic, and Hotline.”
Wadewatch nodded politely. Hotline smiled briefly then looked away nervously.
Dakota raised an eyebrow before inquiring, “You settling in alright?”
“Well, it’s still a bit of a shock,” said Roadshot, “Of course, I never imagined The Ark would be able to make it, let alone to an organic planet so far away from our home system!”
“The Ark is the ship that was found in the Arctic” Dakota recalled.
After a moment of silence she asked, “Is everything alright with the rest of the Autobots? I heard about your situation with the energy supply.”
“Well, Captain Knightingale got Preceptor our chief scientist up and running. If anyone is going to help with that kind of skill, it’s him” Nightshock informed.
Dakota noticed Hotline glancing at her out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t address it, but she could sense a small joy from him, as if an exciting thought popped into his head. Then, Dakota saluted again.
“It was a pleasure to meet all of you. Excuse me.” And with that, she went back to her table and sat down.
A little later, Dakota pulled out a small tablet and began flipping through a streaming channel until she found a playlist and began playing it. She didn’t have headphones, as she didn’t want to risk getting in trouble with her superiors. Instead, she turned on the subtitles and read them on silent. She had been sitting there in peaceful solitude for about fifteen minutes.
Dakota suddenly jumped up, hastily turning off the tablet. The one asking the question jolted in surprise and took a step back, nearly stepping on another set of tables. It was Hotline.
“Sorry!” Hotline exclaimed, “I didn’t mean to scare you!”
Dakota sighed and straightened her uniform.
“It’s fine. I don’t even know how you managed to sneak up on me.”
She looked down at her tablet, and hesitated. She didn’t like discussing her watching tastes, let alone anyone knowing she watched any kind of media to begin with. However, she didn’t want to lie.
Hotline paused for a moment, then stuttered.
“Erm, what kind of videos?”
Dakota shifted uncomfortably.
“Can I see? Please?”
Dakota hesitated. She was extremely uncomfortable. But something about Hotline’s expression. He was nervous, clearly questioning whether or not he should run away. He seemed harmless, with no ill intentions to cause Dakota grief. Slowly, Dakota reopened the tablet. It was a video of a man in his early twenties, half-asian, sitting in the top left corner of the screen, while a potted tree skidded about in a computerized, modern-style home. When she made sure no one else was around, she unmuted the volume, and turned it up. She held it up so that the shy Autobot could see. Hotline leaned into his knees, and stared intensively. The man in the video suddenly started screaming nonsense as the potted plant fled from two guys in armor and holding guns. Hotline cocked his head, curiously. Then, a red text appeared on the screen: “You won!” The man yelled again, this time with joy, and playfully bad-mouthing his friends who failed to defeat him.
Dakota glanced at Hotline.
“I don’t quite understand what is happening; and yet, it’s humorous” Hotline commented.
He looked at Dakota with a nervous smile.
“Do…Do you have some more?”
Dakota lept from her seat. A strong-built man in uniform spotted them.
“You are needed at your platoon! Move it!” he shouted.
Hotline froze. Dakota saluted.
“Yes sir!” she shouted back and immediately scrambled to put her things in a bag.
“Why did he feel the need to yell at you?” Hotline asked.
Dakota sighed. “It’s just a military thing, he’s not actually mean.”
She swung her bag over her shoulder and started to walk away. Then, she hesitated. She turned around.
“It’s easy to find more videos. I’ll find you some more, okay?”
Why did she say that?
A war glow formed on Hotline’s face and he grinned.
Dakota nodded. Then, she ran off towards one of the tunnels, leaving Hotline alone in an ocean of unknown faces, and scrambled off to find Red Delta.