Sam was busy working on his physics homework, kicking his feet under a heavy wooden desk as he squinted his way through a scroll of holographic Allspark symbols to translate what it was telling him into the limited frame of reference understood by most Earth scientists, when the guy who was supposed to be able to help him manage the Cube energy finally showed up.
If he'd still been a normal teenage boy, your oversexed average kid more concerned with his next opportunity to score than whether or not his car might have motives independent from its driver, he'd probably have just been starting his freshman year at some state college or other. Lucky him, though, he got to worry about both... and he couldn't even sit at a metal table anymore without inadvertently bringing it to life. Not to mention, he had an alien database in his head that wouldn't let him half-ass his classes any more even if he tried. He'd finished up his GED within a few months of inadvertently turning several blocks' worth of Mission City residents into machine whisperers, and was already halfway through a mechanical engineering degree. Might as well work with his new strengths rather than fight everyone around him trying to drag his head back out of the sand.
Right. Much as he loved Bumblebee and the guys, though, and as happy as he was to have Mikaela with them at Diego Garcia, he'd been 'making the best of things' long enough to be really looking forward to anything that might give him a time out from being The Human Prime. Two years without being able to touch a cell phone, computer, or networked gaming system-- yeah, he could have Bee surf the web for him or place his calls, but it just wasn't the same. He was past withdrawal pains now and into full on pining for the ability to so much as change the channel on a TV without help.
Fortunately, the day he'd been waiting for seemed to have arrived. The door of the office NEST had temporarily stowed him in opened, and Lennox stuck his head in. "Sam? They're here."
"Yes!" Sam dropped his pencil, slammed his textbook shut and cracked his knuckles. The Allspark overlay faded back into whatever corner of his brain it usually slept in when it didn't have any specific input to give him, and he grinned at the Major in relief. "Main conference room? I'm so there."
"Careful what you bump into; we didn't totally clear it, so O'Conner would have some way to demonstrate his usefulness before we actually make a deal with him."
Lennox flexed his visible hand in its black glove as he spoke. He and Epps and half the other agents and soldiers on base were technically able to control their own reservoirs of Allspark energy with the help of a thin nonconductive barrier, but it was still kind of like being Rogue, Mikaela had told him; they were mostly as excited about the idea of ditching their hand-condoms as Sam was about being allowed within breathing distance of electronics at all.
"Who else did he bring with him? That big scary guy he had with him in Berlin?" Sam had seen pictures, courtesy of Ironhide's memory banks; the bald guy with the really impressive musculature, not to mention criminal record, had nearly made two of his companion-- never mind a still-growing kid like him.
"Toretto? Yeah, they're brothers-in-law or something, apparently," Lennox replied, arching his eyebrows as he held the door for Sam and began escorting him down the hall. "He has a kid with Toretto's sister; they brought them both along, as well."
Huh; but they had insisted on the meeting taking place in a non-extradition country, hence the whole reason Sam had been doing his homework on his own rather than under Bee's supervision at the base. Apparently, that had given O'Conner enough of a feeling of security to risk bringing his family along.
"Show of faith, you think?" he asked Lennox, curiously. "Or maybe proof of sincerity?" He'd learned a little about strategy and politics over the last couple of years out of necessity, even if it was incredibly unlikely he'd ever be allowed a job as public as a diplomatic position.
Lennox nodded. "So we figure. According to Ortiz, they're just the ringleaders of a larger group of extremely gifted criminals; the rest are probably standing off somewhere close to attempt a rescue if we shaft them. Not that they'd get very far-- but it would be more problematic than we'd like, since they have to have at least one more NBT out there. They only brought one to the meet outright, and O'Conner said 'cars', plural, when we met up with them before."
"I guess I'd be suspicious, too, given their history," Sam shrugged. "You think they're actually here to deal, or have they got something else in mind?"
"Don't see why they'd have come if they weren't serious about dealing. It's not like they need the money-- or that we have anything they don't that they'd be able to get access to, here. Except for the obvious: they could have dealt with the Decepticons before they came to us."
Which meant there was a nontrivial risk that they might be spies-- but somehow, Sam didn't think a couple with a little kid who'd taken down at least three drug lords that NEST knew of would be all that keen to work for homicidal would-be robotic overlords. "True, true. Okay, then; here we go."
Lennox had stopped in front of the door to a large conference room; now he swung it wide with a flourish. Damn, but Sam was looking forward to being able to touch doorknobs again himself; then he could choose his own timing for entrances. He rocked up on his toes, took a deep breath for courage, and then went inside.
A heavy-duty, polished wooden table took up the center of the room; ten chairs had been spaced up and down its long sides, and a wide bank of windows filled the scene with streaming sunshine. Epps sat in the far chair on the right; two chairs had been left blank next to him, presumably for Lennox and Sam, and in the near chairs on that side a pair of hardlight holograms represented the Autobots' interest, in this case Ratchet and Optimus.
Sam skimmed over his allies' presence with a distracted eye and focused on the people seated across from them instead. Nearest him, across from Optimus, sat a blond guy with jeans, a screen-print tee, and really intense blue eyes: O'Conner. His huge, darker-skinned bruiser of a friend sat next to him, and on the far side of him, a dark-haired, smiling woman who could only be the baby mama: Mia Toretto. It was a little weird, though, that she wasn't sitting next to O'Conner-- and that she wasn't the one holding the baby, either. Incongruously, the tiny little dude in the creeper was draped over Dom Toretto's shoulder instead; the big man was gently patting the baby's back as he eyed Sam in return.
"So this is the kid," Toretto said, his voice a rumble low and rough enough to out-masculine Ironhide. His eyes were warm with amusement-- though he directed his smirk toward O'Conner, not Sam.
O'Conner raised one eyebrow in return, then stood, holding out a bare hand for Sam to shake. "Sam Witwicky? I'm Brian O'Conner. This is my family: Dom, Jesse, and Mia."
Interesting, the way he'd ordered that list. Sam's mom would have killed his dad if he'd introduced their family to people in that order: Mikaela or whoever, then Sam, and then Mom. Something was up with that. But probably still not anything Megatron related.
"Nice to finally meet you, man," he replied, smiling as he automatically responded to the gesture.
He froze halfway through the greeting, though, pulling his hand back a little as his brain finally registered the physical implications rather than the social ones. He hadn't actually touched anyone else's naked skin, except for the Autobots or occasionally Mikaela, in the two years since Mission City; the energy always humming along under his skin gave normal people an unpleasant shocking tingle, and even most others affected by the Allspark were set a little on edge by it.
O'Conner frowned a little at the pause-- then bowed his head slightly as Mia stood and leaned over to murmur something behind the shield of her hand. He nodded at whatever she'd told him, and his expression softened a little. "Hey, man, it's okay. I'm here to help, remember?"
Sam swallowed, then nerved himself up and reached out to grasp the guy's hand like a normal person. And-- nothing happened, at least nothing like what usually happened when he touched someone new. The excitable remnants of the Allspark that had set up shop in Sam's head flickered outward, as they usually did-- only to bounce off O'Conner's somehow shielded presence, leaving him with an impression of calm, ordered strength. O'Conner's eyes briefly flared an even more electric shade of blue, but that was the extent of his reaction.
"Wow," Sam breathed, forgetting to let go in his enjoyment of the moment. "This is-- this is great! You really do know how to control it."
"Yeah," O'Conner grinned back. "It might be a little tougher for you-- shit, you could probably have repaired Bestia in an hour, when it took me weeks to wake her-- but practice makes perfect. You put in the time, your little problem will take care of itself soon enough."
Little problem? Sam snorted. "Time is all I got these days, don't worry."
"You're sure you can help him?" Epps asked, intently.
"Very sure," O'Conner replied, tugging at his hand until Sam got the idea and let go, flushing a little in embarrassment. Then they both took their seats at the table, Lennox following along behind them.
"Teaching him how to safely discharge the energy will be the easiest part," O'Conner continued, "or at least it was, for me. What you probably really want him to be able to do, though, is be able to control it enough to affect only certain things, at certain times, and not others. That might take a little more trial and error-- I sure hope you have some junked machinery for us to work with-- but if I could do it? He definitely can."
O'Conner's brash confidence was reassuring to Sam-- and drew thoughtful looks from the others. "Maybe a demonstration, then...?" Epps replied, then pulled a smartphone-- a smartass little 'bot called App that O'Conner had lent the NEST team when they ran into each other in Berlin-- and slid it across the table. "We give a little, you give a little."
O'Conner's grin widened as he saw the phone, and he stretched out a hand; the phone immediately spun and unfolded into a shiny little spidery shape as familiar fingers approached it. App skittered right across the offered hand, up O'Conner's sleeve, and onto the guy's shoulder, chittering loudly the whole time.
"Calm down, calm down. I'm here, aren't I? And I know damn well you've been talking to Velocità every day, so you can just quit with the unappreciated act. I won't loan you out again anytime soon, I promise."
App gave a little electronic huff at that, then arched against O'Conner's neck, tiny green optics shuttering as it rubbed its metallic spine against his skin. Then it hunkered down, hooking tiny claws into his collar as it settled in to observe the proceedings.
"...Where were we?" O'Conner said next, blinking over toward Toretto.
Toretto had stopped patting the baby's back at some point during Sam's introductory handshake and shifted him to a reclining position in the sling of one beefy arm, draping a soft scrap of blanket over his upper face to coax him to sleep. Sam had seen Lennox do the very same thing with his little daughter, Annabelle, just the year before, and it softened his impression of the guy considerably. Which was probably the whole point of him being the one to carry the baby in to begin with; the whole rest of Team NEST were watching the guy with half-disbelieving, half sappy expressions on their faces, too.
"Demonstration," Toretto rumbled, one corner of his mouth curling up in a smile.
"Yeah. About that." O'Conner turned to face Epps again, then glanced at Lennox, and finally shifted his attention to Optimus' trucker-drag avatar, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully. "Sorry, guys; milk, cow, and all that."
Down the far end of the table, Mia was suppressing a smile; across from her, Epps made a disbelieving noise, and Lennox raised his eyebrows. The Autobots were still watching him calmly, though, not thrown off by the slang.
"Paperwork first, I think. Amnesty for us-- and any other friends I name," O'Conner continued, firmly.
"You'll promise to come with us and assist to the best of your ability if we agree?" Optimus replied, preempting any further response from the human NEST representatives.
"Said I would, didn't I? The only time I ever broke a vow before was to put family first." He exchanged a shrewd grin with Toretto beside him, reaching out to rest a hand on the other guy's thigh... and okay, maybe Sam needed to do a little mental rearrangement about the makeup of that family. How did that even work with the baby, anyway? Nevermind; it still wasn't his business.
Then O'Conner smiled, matching gazes with the senior Prime again, blue eyes to blue optics. "If nothing else, I'm gonna need a safe place for my kid to go to school. Teaching adults-- or near-adults-- control over this shit is one thing; I'm really not looking forward to Jesse's terrible twos."
"The effect is genetically transmissible, then?" Ratchet spoke up then, mechanical voice lifting with intrigue. "I had theorized that it might be possible given the degree of modification to each host's cellular structures, but none of the affected personnel at Diego Garcia have procreated since the dispersal of the Allspark."
Sam blinked; Mikaela was going to smack Ratchet with his own socket wrench when she heard about that; no one had bothered to tell her or Sam about the possibility of passing the Allspark-granted abilities on to any kids they might have, just gave them the standard speeches on 'being careful'. At least-- to his knowledge. Damn; that made his figuring out how to rein things in even more imperative.
Not that they planned on having kids any time soon! They were just eighteen, and between his education and Mikaela's apprenticeship in the mech med bay it would be a long time before they had the energy to devote to any sparklets of their own. But it would be kind of nice to be sure they knew what to expect, when they did.
Mia had smiled at Ratchet's enthusiastic tone. It made her even prettier; he couldn't believe O'Conner would pick her brother over her. But then again, to each their own, he supposed. Mikaela was that gorgeous, and she'd chosen him and Bee, right? Maybe they wouldn't have made it on their own, but with an Autobot guardian in their lives whose EM fields interacted so pleasantly with their own Allspark-magnified ones... well. And these guys lived with their own giant robot friends; that kind of threw all questions of standard human behavior out the window, to Sam's mind.
"You'd be surprised how many infant toys have batteries or metallic moving parts," Mia said. "We were lucky the cars were already awake, or there might have been a disaster the first time Jesse threw a tantrum when we were out for a drive. Though it is pretty helpful to have a mobile that activates on its own whenever he cries in the night."
"Damn, never thought about that," Lennox muttered. "Wonder if Annabelle would like one."
"Better warn Sarah before you try it, though; she'll kill you if she walks in to check on your little girl and the crib talks back to her," Epps snickered, elbowing his commander.
"Fascinating," Optimus commented, eyeing the napping infant.
"So," Sam spoke up loudly, eager to drag the meeting back on track. "We going to do this thing, or what?" He crossed his arms, leaning back in his chair, and glanced between the visitors. "We can help you; you can help us. Sounds like a win-win scenario to me."
O'Conner glanced at Toretto again, and Toretto inclined his head in agreement.
"All right," the guy said, knitting his fingers on the table. "Let me see what you have drawn up. And something else. There's this DSS agent named Hobbs...."