You’re still not quite certain how you got here.
—here being on your ass in the snow, watching with a deceptive sense of surrealism as two enormous robots (?) beat the ever-loving fuck out of each other in the midst of the burning remains of what was, not so long ago, a gas station. The fuel pumps are gone, blown apart. The building itself is just a blackened, blazing shell. The only car that had been at the pumps when the attack came—your car—was flattened in the early stages of the titan’s brawl you are observing. It's burning too. Your brain is attempting to mitigate the trauma of the past five minutes, which began with a red and blue robot (??) crashing into the far side of the gas station with a cry that you could only describe as “pain-filled.”
Pure shock had led to the first dozen faltering steps you took backward, away from your car and the now unattended pump nozzle lodged in its tank, away too from the enormous humanoid creature getting slowly to its feet. One of its arms appeared to be smoking, perhaps the aftermath of whatever force had propelled it into the gas station. Panic, which set in when the robot (???) glanced around the area and spotted you with a pair of unnervingly blue eyes, prompted you to quickly and clumsily retreat another two dozen steps, well away from the station and well into the middle of the adjoining highway. Terror flooded through you when the metal colossus took one step in your direction, pointed behind you, and said in an extremely authoritative voice, “Run.”
You complied, whipping around and racing for the ditch on the other side of the highway without bothering to look for oncoming traffic (of which there was none on this early Sunday morning, smack dab in the middle of very rural Alberta as you are). You slid down the incline into the ditch proper, the soles on your cheap boots not up to the task of providing traction on ice. You hit the bottom on all fours, heaved yourself back up, and crawled/clawed your way up the other side. Once there, feeling weirdly secure by the fact that a ditch now separated you from the robot, you defied all survival logic and turned around to see if what you thought you saw had in fact happened.
It had. And it seemed that during your ungainly flight another enormous robot had arrived on the scene. This new red and white metal creature was swiftly attacking the first, delivering a flurry of blows with its fists. The one that had spoken to you was deflecting those blows as best it could, and finally broke the chain of attack by executing a ferocious uppercut that had the newcomer airborne.
In your direction.
You scampered backward with a complete lack of grace and a desperate will not to be crushed to death. Fortunately for you, the robot skidded to a screeching halt in the middle of the highway, immediately got to its feet, and hurtled back toward its opponent. Every running step it took caused the ground to shake, and that was all the reason your already numb legs needed to crumple beneath you. You watched open-mouthed in disbelieving terror as the first robot began to fire at the second robot with cannons inexplicably where its lower arms had been mere seconds ago. You questioned its aim as it seemed to miss with every shot, and questioned it even further when a stray shot struck a gas pump, leading to a burst of heat and light so loud and so bright that you buried your head between your legs and screamed for fear of being incinerated.
So, perhaps you do know how you got here, on your ass on the ground, the melting snow seeping uncomfortably through your jeans. You don’t know why this is happening, nor do you know just how there came to be two giant metal robots intent on pulverizing each other into oblivion. You do know that you are still too close, perilously close, to the unearthly smackdown that is occurring. You try to get your legs to obey you, but they staunchly refuse. Your body seems to have shut down all non-imperative functions to focus on those that matter: Hyperventilation. A racing heart. A dry mouth. And, should the scenario before you escalate any further, involuntary urination.
“Leave it to an Autobot to pick a fight in the middle of nowhere,” says the red and white robot as it grabs a light pole and wrenches it out of the ground before brandishing it as a bat. It takes a wild swing at the other, striking a glancing blow. Its opponent, the one that had spoken to you, catches the light pole in both hands and attempts to wrestle it free. The two tussle for a long string of moments before the bigger one triumphs, and in a movement so swift it’s nearly a blur, brutally whips it across the face of the enemy.
“Sorry about your finish, Knock Out.” It says in a voice that is anything but apologetic.
“My face!” the other—Knock Out—howls, staggering back. “Never scratch the face!”
If you didn’t know better, you’d swear the first was smirking a little. “I just did.”
Knock Out makes a garbled sound of rage before launching itself at the other. Their collision causes tremors and reinforces your body’s notion that being partially supine is better than standing right at this moment. You continue to observe as the two colossi continue their combat. The bigger of the two seems to have gained an advantage, landing a slow but very effective series of hits that send Knock Out reeling. It reaches down and grabs a concrete parking barrier, hefting it as easily as you would a pen, and hurls it at the recovering Knock Out. Its aim is unerring; the concrete block strikes Knock Out with enough force to launch it (him?) ass over teakettle. The red and white titan is sent tumbling down the highway, mercifully away from you.
You finally manage to get to your feet, but you have no intention of running away just yet. You’re invested in this battle now, invested on a level that could be very detrimental to your health. And so you watch, breathing in little, still-panicked pants, as the red and blue robot strides down the highway with the clear intent of delivering further punishment upon its opponent. Except it doesn’t, because Knock Out suddenly transforms into a flashy red sports car and takes off at breakneck speed with the audible screech of tires.
“What. The. Fuck.” You mouth silently, because goddamn if the transforming part of this little scenario isn’t the part that’s breaking your brain.
You fully expect the red and blue one to give chase. You would like it to give chase, because then it would be gone and you’d be able to reassert your grip over reality. To your dismay it doesn’t. Instead, it turns to look at the smoldering wreckage of the gas station. And then, to your absolute horror, it turns to look at you.
“Fuck no,” you gulp as it begins to move in your direction. “Fuck no, fuck no, fuck no—” And with that mantra on gasped repeat, you spin around and bolt in the other direction.
You know you can’t outrun it. There’s no part of you that isn’t aware of that fact. Fucking really? Your brain asks you in an internal voice dripping with scorn. You really thought you were gonna make a five second mile? The answer is of course no, and it’s a big No at that as the red and blue colossus manages not only to overtake you, but cut in front of you.
“Don't run,” it tells you. You respond with a shriek, skidding to a halt and landing on your ass in the snow yet again.
“You will not be harmed,” it goes on to say, holding out both hands in a manner that you assume is meant to assuage your fears. It doesn’t work. Perhaps in an effort to make itself less intimidating, it drops to one knee in front of you, leaning down so that its enormous face is terrifyingly close to your own. You utter a squawk and scuttle backward.
“It was unfortunate you had to witness that,” it says. “I had attempted to draw him to a sparsely populated location. I hadn't intended collateral damage.”
You think for a fleeting half-second of the poor man that had been manning the till inside the gas station, and spend the next few seconds after that coming to grips with the fact that you may have just barely escaped death today. Then again, you silently amend as your eyes fix again on the surprisingly expressive face of the metal titan before you, I’m clearly not out of the woods yet.
The two of you are staring at each other now. You’re not sure what it’s expecting from you at this point. Conversation is beyond your mental capabilities. Instead you remain mute, watching it out of eyes that feel impossibly wide. Finally it expels a breath (it can do that?), which sounds an awful lot to you like a mildly exasperated sigh. “Can you understand me, native?” It asks you in that strangely sonorous, very male voice. It’s a him, your brain helpfully provides.
“Y-yes,” you manage in a voice barely more than a whisper.
“Good. I need you to listen to me. Carefully. I'm required to leave behind no witnesses that could spread confirmation of my existence. Furthermore, I'm required to ensure that any and all native life forms that witness anything of this nature are both protected and brought to Agent Fowler.”
He looks at you expectantly after he stops speaking. There’s a ridge above each of his strange, glowing blue eyes and right now one is hiked upward, mirroring what your own eyebrows could do. As your poor mind attempts to sort through the jumble of unbelievable things it’s been spammed with in the past fifteen minutes, it eventually dawns on you that he’s awaiting some kind of acknowledgment that you comprehend what he’s telling you.
“Protected from what? Who’s Agent Fowler?” Your voice is three pitches higher than it usually is, accompanied by a very obvious quaver.
“From the Decepticons,” he tells you, his tone impatient. “And Agent Fowler is one of you.”
His answers aren’t really answers at at all. Now, along with the still-present fear, you feel the first stirrings of hysteria. “Who are you?” You demand shrilly. “What are you?”
He looks momentarily taken aback by your sharp increase in volume. “I am Ultra Magnus,” he responds, “and I am an Autobot.”
“WHAT THE FUCK IS AN AUTOBOT?”
Your shout startles him enough that he leans away from you. In the silence following your outburst, you start breathing quickly. Too quickly. Your heart is racing again, and this time it’s kicked into overdrive. Still sitting, your jeans completely wet from the snow, you protectively bring your knees to your chest and press your face against them. You’ve never had a panic attack before, but you’re pretty sure this awful constricting feeling in your chest and throat is a sign of an impending one. Or a sign that you’re having one.
“You're panicking,” Ultra Magnus says, making a timely observation. There’s a lilt to his words that makes it sound more like a question than a statement. It takes you several attempts to wheeze out an affirmative.
“Remain calm. This reaction is not beneficial to our situation.”
Our situation. You feel a bubble of inane laughter rising in your throat. You force it down. Instead you surprise yourself (and presumably the Autobot) by getting to your feet. You stand there for a minute, willing the wobbliness in your legs to fade. It doesn’t. On the bright side, your breathing has slowed considerably. Basking in that minuscule triumph, you woodenly turn on your heel and begin to walk back toward the highway.
“Where are you—” Ultra Magnus’ incredulous voice rises behind you. You steadfastly ignore it. On some level you’re aware that you’re operating on reserve sanity, because the bulk of it is currently occupied with the chaos that is your thoughts. What you’re doing right now doesn’t make much sense, but then again, neither does anything else that’s just happened. You’re walking because some primal part of your brain is telling you to, but it isn’t telling you why.
It takes the robot a step and a half to cut in front of you again. He doesn’t bother dropping down to your level this time, instead addressing you from up high. “You must accompany me,” he says.
“No,” you reply immediately.
This time both his eyebrow ridges shoot upward. “No? Were you unable to comprehend what I said earlier?”
“I—I understood. But I don’t want to go. I want to go home.” You muster up the calmest tone you possibly can in order to try and convince him to just let you go.
His brows descend, his face arranging itself into a frown. “I can't allow that.”
“I won’t say anything!” You cry, deciding to switch gears. Maybe begging pathetically is the key here. “Nobody needs to know this happened!”
He slowly cranes his head around to look at the still burning, very obvious ruins of the gas station, and just as slowly turns it back. “Well obviously some people are going to see this,” you amend desperately, “but nobody needs to know it was you!”
“There's a chance we were observed,” he counters evenly. “And there's also the chance that Knock Out spotted you. If he did, your life is now in peril.”
You swallowed heavily. “Knock Out being one of those … Decepticons you mentioned earlier?”
He nods once.
“Oh god,” you whisper, burying your face in your hands. Speaking through your fingers, your words a little muffled, you ask with little hope, “But I’m just … small. Human. Why would I matter to other robots?”
“Robots,” he repeats, distaste emphasizing every syllable of the word. “If you must call us something, call us mechs.”
“Sorry. Mechs.” You remove your hands from your face, looking up at him as you repeat your question. “Why would I be in danger from them?”
“Because it's in their nature to harm. Because they will not care that you were merely a bystander. Because they will take any opportunity to threaten native species such as yourself in order to thwart our plans.”
“And you? Why do you care?”
He stares down at you wordlessly for a long span of moments, and you are almost certain that the answer to your question is “I don’t.” But eventually he stirs and gives you a response. “Because Optimus expects it.”
“Well that fucking clears everything up!” You announce, sarcasm and hysteria warring for control over your voice. “Tell Optimus I said thanks, but no thanks!” And driven by the heady rush that’s a result of feeling every negative emotion known to mankind in the span of less than an hour, you angrily march between his legs.
You hear him sigh again, very loudly, behind you. And then you are screeching, because suddenly his giant metal fingers are wrapping your midsection, and just as suddenly you are being hefted into the air. With surprising gentleness considering his size and capacity for violence, he transfers you to his other hand, depositing you onto his open palm so that you are now facing him.
“You don't need to agree with me on this,” he says grimly, his luminous eyes narrowed. “And you most definitely don't need to like it. But you will be accompanying me until I can deliver you to Agent Fowler. Am I understood, native?”
You debate saying no again. You debate flipping him the bird. You debate telling him to fuck off. You even debate jumping out of his hand, but a quick glance over the side reveals to you that you’d probably be severely injured in the fall to the ground. “Yes,” you finally huff reluctantly.
“Good. Now, I'm going to put you down. Don't run from me again. I'm going to transform and then we will mobilize.”
As he lowers his hand, you recall the manner in which the other
robot mech had transformed. You step off his palm and back up a few feet, giving him room to work his magic. In a split second he is no longer a metal humanoid titan. Instead he is a large blue semi with red accents and plenty of chrome. Your brain tries very hard to reconcile his former stature with what’s before you now. It fails miserably.
The passenger door to the semi swings open. The headlights flash. “Get in,” he orders in a clearly audible voice. Instead of complying, you back up a step. The truck’s horn sounds once in warning.
“What the fuck am I doing?” you whisper to yourself as you hesitantly approach the truck. Once you’ve reached it, you stare up into the empty, open cab with a dire sense of foreboding. You feel in this instant like you are perched on the very edge of a precipice, and you have an awful suspicion that regardless of where you fall, when you fall the consequences will be worse than anything you’ve ever known. You can taste the fear of the unknown on your tongue, a metal tang that has you swallowing thickly, and it’s all you can do in that moment not to whirl around and run away again.
“Get in,” Ultra Magnus blares, startling you. With a sigh, you use the step to hop up and grip the handle before swinging yourself up into the cab. The door shuts the moment you’re inside. “Buckle up,” his voice orders you, loud enough that it feels like he’s speaking directly into your ear. “It's going to be a long drive.”