Rafael glanced patiently at the wall clock. Five minutes to five. His torture was almost over.
"Mr. Esquivel, detention does not let out until I tell you. Please keep your eyes on your desk," the teacher said sternly.
"Yes Mr. Manhym," the boy replied sheepishly, ducking his head and casting his eyes downward quickly as his fellow detainees snickered. Not for the first time today, Raf cursed his poor luck.
He felt a sudden, squish-splat sound from a spitball impacting the back of his head, but resisted the urge to react to it.
'He's at it again,' the little genius thought glumly, already knowing who his assailant was. Vince had been picking on him all day for some reason, so Raf wasn't all that surprised the teen delinquent would continue during their shared punishment. Being bullied was nothing he couldn't handle; it was simply something he accepted as part of being in high school. What really got Rafael's goat was that he himself was even in here with Vince. By any standard he was a model student, or at least he tried to be. Sure there had been one or two… "incidents" involving the school's computer system, but on the whole the bespectacled tween tried to stay inside the rules. And his grades were impeccable; he always turned in his homework on time, even going so far as to do the extra credit just to keep his teachers happy. Plus there were few students in the school who acted as politely as he did.
But all of that mattered not when, after having to endure an entire day of Vince surreptitiously hitting him with spitballs, tripping him in the halls, and knocking his books on the ground, Raf had turned in his chair and yelled at the older teen to stop. Needless to say this had greatly disrupted the atmosphere of the classroom.
That's why their substitute teacher Mr. Manhym had given him detention as well as Vince.
As a dull ache appeared at the back of his head, working its way slowly down to the base of his skull, Raf shuddered. He could already hear his mother having a fit when she found out.
Several miles outside the town of Jasper, Nevada, an odd phenomenon was taking place. In the stillness of the desert air, what could only be described as a swirling green vortex opened out of nowhere, hovering just a few feet above the ground. It would have truly been a sight to see, were there anyone in the vicinity who could witness it. Years of experience had allowed Ratchet to be precise when it came to opening the exit gate of the Autobots' Ground Bridge where no one would see it.
Of course the rather desolate nature of the area around Jasper also helped.
From the emerald portal Bumblebee emerged, shifted into his alternate sports car form, his wheels screeching just a bit as they made contact with the hot desert asphalt. Jack had informed the Autobot scout that Rafael was going to be detained at school today, something that had miffed the young Cybertronian to say the least. Hanging out with his little human friend was usually the best part of his day, particularly if he hadn't gotten the opportunity to trash some Decepticons. There was only a limited amount of time they had to spend together, though, before Raf would have to be taken home for the night, and Bumblebee was not overly keen on wasting it. Unfortunately, much as he might have wanted to, it would have been much too risky for the scout to hang out at the school waiting for detention to let out. The last thing they needed was for a patrolling Vehicon to identify the school as important.
Absentmindedly Bumblebee began to adjust his radio, curious as to what traffic was like in Jasper proper. The last thing he wanted was to get caught in a traffic jam. Suddenly something slammed into his side, snapping the bot back to attention.
Two cars had taken advantage of his distraction to take up positions on the road to his front and to his right. A quick check of his short-range radar revealed a third car rapidly coming up on his rear. None of the vehicles looked to be Vehicon alt-modes, nor were they throwing off any Decepticon signals. The sight of very human drivers at the machines' wheels confirmed Bee's suspicions that he was being attacked by M.E.C.H.
Immediately he attempted to contact base, but all that came out of the comm. was static. Someone was jamming him, no doubt one of the M.E.C.H. units. As if to drive home the point, the scout's radar began to fizzle as well.
Again the car to his right swerved; slamming into his side and attempting to force him off the road. Deciding he'd taken more than enough of such treatment, Bumblebee returned the favor, relishing the squealing sound as his assailant struggled to regain control of his machine. The threat to his side dealt with for the time being, the Autobot sped forward and rammed into the car in front of him, causing it to swerve violently. Before Bee could breakaway though, something clamped hard onto his rear bumper. The rear car had apparently used a grappling claw to catch hold of him, and was even now applying its brakes in order to slow him down until its partners could catch up. Under control again, the side car drew level with Bumblebee and suddenly opened fire, peppering the scout with bullets as it tried to puncture his tires. Reflexively the Cybertronian's own defenses activated, sending four metal plates hidden within his frame down to shield his wheels.
But that wouldn't be enough. He had to ditch these goons, and he had to do it before getting to the town. Left with little option, Bumblebee hit a hard left, cutting across the opposing traffic lanes and going off road.
Raf sat on the sidewalk outside of school, casting occasional glances up and down the road. Bumblebee had not arrived yet. That alone was enough to make the young boy nervous, even discounting the fact that Vince had been eyeballing him like a piranha watching a cow since detention let out. The last time his robotic buddy had been late to pick him up, Bumblebee had turned out to be possessed by Megatron.
Valiantly Raf resisted the urge to call his Autobot guardian. He'd only been released a few minutes ago, and Bumblebee was a busy person. Besides, Rafael didn't like the idea of appearing like some scared little kid just because his ride was late.
'Twenty minutes,' the boy decided, pulling his backpack closer to his chest. 'I'll wait twenty minutes. If Bee's not here by then I'll make the call.'
In retrospect, driving off the road and into the desert might not have been the wisest of moves. Bumblebee had thought getting away from the prying eyes of civilians would give him an advantage and allow him to assume his true form. What he hadn't counted on was the M.E.C.H. units having reinforcements, or at least not ones that were so close. Two more cars had appeared as if by magic, accompanied by one of the stealth helicopters the human tech-thieves seemed to favor.
But all this did not mean the scout was beaten. The M.E.C.H. units might have outnumbered him, but even their advanced weaponry was insufficient against his Cybertronian body. Bumblebee ran, firing his laser at any of the cars that managed to draw too close or tried to circle around him.
A blast of energon managed to take out one of the cars, but this was taking too long. Deciding to change tactics, Bumblebee skidded to a halt. Predictably his four remaining pursuers began to circle, their guns taking aim and peppering the large robot. Bumblebee pulled back into a defensive stance, the human munitions bouncing off his armor as he stood. Even as the M.E.C.H units completed the circling maneuver, the scout remained still, his eyes watching as the vehicles drew closer. When he judged the cars were within range, two cylinders flipped up from the Autobot's shoulders, launching into the sky before exploding. Bolts of blue energon rained down on the battlefield, exploding in a show of light and sound. While the blasts might not have been enough to cause a Cybertronian more than a bit of irritation, the significantly lighter and less armored M.E.C.H. cars were not so lucky. The drivers fought and struggled with their damaged vehicles, trying to keep from crashing as they did so.
Bumblebee charged forward, leaping over the struggling cars as he transformed back into his alt-form. The sound of whirling blades reminded the scout of the aerial support his foes had had, just in time to avoid a rather powerful laser blast that probably would have done a bit more than scorch Bee's paintjob. A sharp trill escaped the Autobot's damaged vocalizer as he tried to come up with a way to get rid of the helicopter. This proved to be unnecessary as, rather than pursue him, the chopper seemed just to hover in mid-air over the wrecked cars. While curious as to this odd behavior, Bumblebee was not about to look a gift drone in the fuel intake, especially since they were still jamming his radio. Shifting his engine into high gear, the scout sped off.
Silently Raf thumbed his cell phone, his tongue nervously licking his lips.
"Five more minutes," he said to himself. "I'll give Bee five more minutes to show up. If he's not here in five more minutes then… then I know something's up." The youth began to hum the theme tune to one of his favorite TV shows, once more casting furtive looks up and down the street as he kept track of the passage of time. Vince had already left to go home, without any further incidents no less. Everyone had gone home. Even the janitors were getting ready to leave for the day. He was just about to hit the speed dial on his phone when the sound of a horn drew his attention back to the road. A familiar yellow and black muscle car was rolling into the parking lot of the school, causing Raf to smile.
"Bee!" he cried in relief, waving his arms as he hopped up and grabbed his backpack. The car pulled up to the curb right in front of him and the little human scampered around to the rear driver's side door. Seemingly like magic, the door opened to admit the boy and he tossed his backpack inside before climbing in himself. "I was starting to get worried," he confessed with a half laugh. In response the faux-vehicle was quiet. As Raf closed the door, he pondered the oddity of that occurrence. Usually Bumblebee at least whistled a hello to his human friend, even if his mind was occupied by more important Autobot matters. Idly the pre-teen wondered if his Cybertronian guardian wasn't perhaps miffed over something.
"Bee, is everything all ri…?" he began to ask, leaning forward to speak directly to the robot's radio. That was when Raf noticed something quite unsettling. While this car's exterior was indeed a perfect match for Bumblebee, the dash on the inside differed greatly from his mechanoid friend. As a dreadful realization dawned on Raf, the sharp click of the doors locking reached his ears. "Hey!" the boy cried as he scrambled for the doors, only to discover that none of them had any handles. A sudden jerk threw Raf roughly against the back of the passenger's seat as the imposter car began to back away from the curb, turning as it prepared to drive off with its captive. Frightened now, Raf began to beat on the car's windows, hoping to attract some attention to his plight. A quiet hiss followed by an unpleasant smell heralded the release of some form of gas into the car's cabin. The dull ache in Rafael's head began to intensify as he breathed in the gas, his vision swimming as his fragile balance failed him. Coughing, he tried to use his shirt to filter the noxious chemicals, but slowly the boy fell flat on the back seat, consciousness slipping from his mind.
Its passenger now sedated, the automobile quickly turned onto the road, melding neatly into traffic as it moved away from the school. A few minutes later, a somewhat more harried looking yellow car pulled into the school's parking lot, driving around a bit as if searching for someone.
To be continued…