#Transformers This is fanfic kids. These aren't my OCs.
“Sari, can you look at this for a nanoclick?” Bumblebee asked.
The girl paused her game and climbed up his shoulder. She looked at the multicolored shapes and lines on a screen he held. “Lots of feeling in this! That’s real art.”
Bee threw his head back to hit the couch. “It’s not art,” he pouted, “I’m supposed to read this and type the words I see, but there are no words.” He gave an aggravated sigh.
“Oh! I think,” She turned the picture upside-down, sideways, upside-down again, then right-side up, “I see... Nope. Nothing.” She sighed, echoing him. She hopped down from the couch. “I’ll ask Bulkhead.”
“Good idea. I’ll ask Prowl.”
Shaking his head sadly, Bulkhead handed the picture back to Sari. “Sorry, I don’t got anything. Looks pretty, though.”
“Yeah, it’s like cubism!” She said, “Bee can’t read it, so he asked me, but I can’t read it either.”
“Bee asked you before me? But I’m his best friend,” Bulkhead said, offended. “Well, you are too, but I’ve known him longer.”
Sari shrugged. “I was playing Mario Kart on the couch next to him.”
Suddenly, both heard Prowl’s voice clearly call for Sari with a hint of annoyance.
“Did Bee ask Prowl?”
“Oh. Got it. Wanna race after?”
As Bumblebee expected, Prowl was in his tree meditating. Unexpectedly, Jazz was on a neighbor branch.
“Oh, hey Jazz. Prowl, can you read this?”
Jazz hanged upside and scrutinized the picture. “What exactly am I looking at?”
“Doesn't matter,” Bumblebee sighed, “Prowl?”
He was still on his branch. “I thought you knew how to read.”
To this, Bumblebee took great offense. He knew how to read. Training taught him numbers and important glyphs like Autobot, Decepticon, Prime, medic, help, Cybertron, fire, and his own name. He learned more on his own by reading reports. Reports were boring, but there was no other way he could practice reading. Higher-ups expected him to be illiterate like all grunts and gave him errands as a messenger boy. All he had to do was match the glyphs on the files to the ones on office doors. No one wanted him to actually know what he was reading. It was a secret he kept to himself. He learnt a lot about his commanders that way.
“There’s no glyphs to read anyway,” Prowl continued, “We answered your question, now please leave.”
A light went off in Bumblebee’s head and he knew how to get revenge for the insult. “Oh, slag, I crashed your date-thing,” he said with a knowing smile.
Prowl fell for the bait. “SARI‽” Prowl called loud enough his voice echoed through the warehouse to wherever the girl was. Sari dashed in Prowl’s room and hooked an arm around the doorway.
“Please escort Bumblebee away from here.”
She gave him a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”
Prowl muttered something under his breath about ‘appropriateness’. Jazz opened his mouth, then closed it and looked away.
Bumblebee stood at the threshold. “Speaking of ‘appropriateness’, you know he’s Elite Guard, right? There’s no wa―”
“LEAVE,” Prowl growled. Bumblebee yelped and ducked, shuriken embedded in the wall where his head was a moment ago. Sari laughed. Bee scooped her up to his shoulder and fled.
The two entered the infirmary. Ratchet sat at his workbench tinkering on something and Optimus leaned a hip on a nearby console, watching the ambulance work.
Sari asked this time, cutting straight to the chase. Ratchet dropped his tool and swore, clearly startled by the sudden noise. “Can you read this?” She had Bee show the image.
Optimus took the picture and squinted at it. “It’s very, uh, nice. Good for a piece of art.” He forced a smile that fooled no one. Sari giggled. The Prime passed it to Ratchet, who transformed his eye to get a closer look.
His perpetual frown deepened and he gave it back to Bumblebee. “This some kind of joke, kid?” He said to Sari, “There’s nothing written here.”
Before she could speak, Bumblebee’s arms flailed in a rage that had been building all day. “Exactly! I can’t read it, Sari can’t read it,” He started pacing and Sari had to brace herself, “Bulkhead can’t read it, Prowl can’t read it, Jazz can’t read it; I’m this close to asking Sentinel if he can read it!” He held his digits an inch apart.
The ambulance scrubbed his face, Bumblebee’s impatience leeching into him. “What do you need to even ‘read’ it for?”
Bumblebee sniffed, “Doesn’t matter. I’m done with this. So done!” He stalked out the infirmary. Sari patted his back from her perch.
After they left, Ratchet turned back to his work and Optimus stared at a corner intensely.
“I’ve seen a weird picture like that before.”
A tool clattered on Ratchet’s workbench again. “I’m too old for this slag.” He said louder, “I only let you in here because you’re so quiet, you know? Don’t make me change my mind.”
Optimus put a hand on his medic’s shoulder. “Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. I was just remembering where I saw something like that picture Sari and Bumblebee showed us. When Professor Sumdac gave me his e-mail, it was on his computer screen.”
Ratchet picked up his tool. “You’re saying he could read the picture?”
Optimus nodded. “It was different, but I’m certain it was the same type of picture.”
Having asked everyone they could, Sari went to the living room of the factory and played video games with Bulkhead as promised as Bumblebee watched. When Sari kept nodding off, Bumblebee offered to take her home to Sumdac Tower. She called her dad to let him know she was coming home.
The drive was short, but still gave Sari time to think. She realized something when she exited her friend. “There is ONE person we haven’t asked yet.” She skipped inside the building, beckoning Bumblebee. “DAD! I’M HOME!”
Isaac met his daughter halfway across Sumdac Tower’s lobby. Before he could hug her, she asked him the question she and Bumblebee had asked everyone. This time was different, however, and they received a new response.
“Oh, of course. It says,” Isaac peered closer, “Bobo Pete. Why do you ask me such a question‽ Do you doubt my eyesight? I am not that old! Why, I am only sixty-seven.”
“Bobo Pete? What the slag does that mean‽” Bumblebee cried.
Sari refreshed the image. “Can you read this, too?”
“Part Gremlins, of course.”
“How about now?”
Finally, Sari gave up. “Dad, what are these?”
“It is a ‘captcha’ code. Sari, you are an adventurous child, surely you have seen such images on the internet,” Isaac explained.
The girl shrugged. “What I wanna know is, how come you can read it and no one else can.”
“Yeah, what makes you so special?” Bumblebee jabbed.
“I am the father of reverse engineering― That does not matter. Everyone can read these. Or, I suppose humans. It is a clever way to prove you are human.”
“But I’m not human!”
“Bumblebee, This stops spambots and viruses and all sorts of nasty little things from creating accounts on different websites.” Isaac ran a hand through his hair. “When this method of blocking spambots was created over a century ago, we thought we were alone in the universe.”
Bumblebee nodded in understanding, satisfied with the answer. Sari was not. “Why can’t I read it, then?”
Isaac wrung his hands. “Oh, you are...” He stumbled on his words, “Too young? Yes, too young, much too young. Only adults can read these. Adult humans. It is also a way of keeping children off sites they should not be on. Have you eaten dinner? I’ll make us something. How do chicken nuggets sound?”
The thought of food distracted Sari. “I’m starving!” She turned to Bumblebee. “Thanks for the ride. Bye!” She ran to the elevator.
“See ya, Sari, Professor.” He left the building.
When the lobby doors had shut and only Isaac remained, he let out the breath he held. “That was close.”