Shoots and Ladders. By Lindsay Smith ---------------------------- G1. Sometimes first impressions aren’t always the right ones, but around the Ark, one truth remains firm and everlasting: When in doubt, duck. Spike centric series of related one-shots. ----------------------------- Chapter One: Traffic Tickets and Color Wheels The day had begun much like the day before and the one prior to that. For the most part, it was very pleasant. Strange, alien, and mind boggling, but pleasant. Everything around him was big, very big. Just looking up at the ceiling too long made him dizzy, which was kind of fun for a while until he started feeling nauseous. After taking a moment to secure his equilibrium, Spike returned to his current pass-time: Robot Watching. Well, they actually referred to themselves as Mechs and even seemed to have taken offense when Spike used the ‘R’ word. He was careful not to do that again. When he could help it. It had barely been a week since the world had woken up to having Giant Alien Ro—er, Mechs wandering around their backyard. Spike was still riding a giddy high that’d been with him since he and his father had been rescued from the waters of the Pacific ocean. The oil rig they had been on was attacked…by other giant alien Mechs. Evil giant alien Mechs. Who called themselves Decepticons. Spike made a mental note to ask one of the Autobots how they came up with those names! Perhaps the name had more of a terrifying connotation in their native language, but something seemed to have been lost in translation. It was fascinating to watch the Autobots as they went about their duties to get their ship – turned impromptu base- up and running; repairing bits of corridor, replacing broken panels and consoles, testing out everything. They appeared so alien, yet so human, the young boy could not help but be fascinated. The Ark was a complex, highly advance piece of technology that boggled Spike’s mind whenever he attempted to wrap his around the sheer improbability of it all. Everything seemed so intricate, so delicate; circuitry and the like ran through almost everything, the floors, the walls, everything. Had Spike not been seeing Mechs who most certainly weighed a good couple tons, walk on the flooring, he was certain he would be scared to do anything but tip-toe across the metal plating, all too aware of the delicate, and likely expensive as hell, circuitry underneath. Yet everything was guarded, reinforced, and covered to a degree virtually unknown and certainly unheard of to mankind. Even if he had a diamond crowbar, Spike didn’t think he could do the ship any real damage; maybe a dent in the wall if he swung hard enough. But that was a big maybe. Sitting on the ledge of one of the consoles, Spike allowed the scene before him unfold like some never-ending television show. For the most part, what was once the bridge of the ship had become the main control room, the official room of business. It was here that Spike had the best vantage to observe Humanity’s newest allies, and, really, it was one of only a few places where he could be out of way of large, clambering feet. The Autobots were always careful whenever he was around, but, it was in everyone’s best interest that Spike always took the initiative to find elevated seats to keep from getting caught underfoot. For the most part, the day had been routine and uneventful, and Mechs wandered through the control room, practically deaf and blind to all except their work. He hadn’t met all of the Autobots yet, or spoken to most, but they didn’t seem to mind the young human watching them as they worked. Though Spike did notice one of them kept glancing at him as if to see if he was still there. After a while it began to nag at the boy, wondering if maybe the Autobot was silently trying to tell him to scram, that he was annoying them. The last thing he needed was a pissed off robot. He was about to scoot off the edge and find some other room to observe when the door to the far right of the room opened and a Mech walked in, malice seeming to rise off his red armor plating like heat. When the Mech glanced towards Spike and then tromped forward with deliberate steps, Spike froze. In his mind, he wondered what he had done to anger anyone. He couldn’t think of anything, perhaps he wasn’t looking at Spike. Maybe it was one of the Mechs next to him or… “You!” the Autobot said, pointing towards Spike and any hope of avoiding a confrontation was deflated. What had he done? As the Autobot approached, Spike shrank back, glancing pleadingly to the two Mechs who were working on the large computer only a little ways off, but they seemed just as confused as he and even a little curious. Spike belatedly realized that the Mech was a lot shorter than most of the Autobots, and he had a similar shape to Bumblebee, but, despite the similarity, the Mech’s red armor and little horns made him look more like a (comparatively) little devil. The small Autobot towered over Spike, blue eyes aglow with fury. His hand shot forward and Spike clenched his eyes shut instinctually. When nothing happened, he opened his eyes warily and was greeted with a small slip of paper pinched between the Mech’s large fingers. Bemused, Spike glanced up at the angry ‘Bot quizzically. When no explanation was forthcoming, Spike attentively reached out and took the little piece of paper, giving the Mech one more uncertain glance. Looking over the words on the paper, Spike clamped down on the sudden urge to giggle inappropriately. He bit his lip and looked up, noting the Autobot seemed to expect something from him. “OK?” Spike asked, unable to completely mask his amusement. “Explain this!” boomed the Autobot. If the situation had not gotten the attention of the room before, it certainly did now. The perpetual sense of diminutiveness suddenly multiplied as the Autobot practically loomed over him. It was quite a disconcerting feeling, especially considering this was supposedly an ally. “You’re human, you should know!” “I do know; It’s a ticket,” said Spike simply. What was there to explain? “What is it for?!” He blinked, confused. “..Says here you ran a red light…” Logic told him that should have satisfied the red Autobot, however it only seemed to create more ire. “So?” the ‘Bot demanded. Spike struggled to answer the question with any sort of dignity. “Well…..That’s against the law.” “Says who?” Spike regarded the Mech with an incredulous stare. Was he being serious? “Uh…The Law? The President, Congress…our entire judicial system? Everyone.” “Well how do you expect us to know that?” Spike blinked, unsure how to answer him. “Well…Everyone knows…it’s just common knowledge.” “Everyone knows what?” Spike allowed himself a small smile as he explained a concept he knew since he was in kindergarten. “…that red means stop.” It was curious to see the Mech’s face change from intensely furious to utterly confused in the span of a second. “That makes absolutely no sense. Red is a color, it doesn’t mean anything.” It was Spike turn to look confused and even a little offended. “Of course it does. All colors have a meaning. Well, most do. It’s psychological.” “How stupid!” Spike was vaguely aware that there was now a small audience gathering around them, some of them looking rather amused. A tall green Mech walked up beside the smaller red one and placed a placating hand on his shoulder. “What’s wrong, Cliffjumper?” The red mini-bot turned to the taller one. “I got pulled over by the human police today and the stupid fleshy gave me this thing!” he waved the itty-bitty slip of paper around like a piece if confetti. “A ticket! How stupid is that?” “You ran a red light,” Spike reminded him. “That’s a big traffic no-no.” Despite the probable imprudence of such an action, Spike wagged a finger at the Autobot as if gently scolding a toddler. “What does it mean when you get a ticket?” The green Mech asked Spike before Cliffjumper could respond. “Well…usually it means a fine. This is your first one so that’s pretty much all it means, but if you’re a repeat offender you could loose your license or get sent to jail. But if that ever happened to one of you guys I don’t think they’d send you to jail….the impound lot maybe…” “For not obeying a stupid light?” Cliffjumper demanded, furious again. “What’s the point? Are they some religious relic or something? Is it some taboo to not respect the shiny lights? Have I offended your primitive culture?” Spike rolled his eyes, trying real hard not to feel offended. “No. They’re traffic lights. It helps regulate the flow of traffic at intersections to keep people from crashing into each other when they cross the road. When you ran a red light you broke the law. You could’ve caused a wreck and hurt someone.” Cliffjumper shook his head in exasperation and grumbled. “What a useless system. Using colors as traffic signals…” “Works for us,” remarked the human with equal grouchiness. As enthralling and as fascinating as these Autobots were, he had limits on how many insults on his people and culture he could take. “Red means stop, yellow means caution, green means go.” “Why? Why not blue means stop and red mean go? Or black means stop. That makes more sense then red.” “We wouldn’t be able to see a black light very well. And…red is kind of…well, people see it as kind of an ominous color. It grabs people’s attention.” “Cliffjumper being the exception, apparently,” a dark blue and yellow Mech smirked from the group of spectators, a red chevron on his forehead. Spike had noticed several of the Autobots with a similar design. It made it kind of hard to remember their names. “Ominous?” Cliffjumper asked dubiously. “How? Red is an Autobot color!” He pounded his fist against his chest with bravado. “The color of bravery and strength! It’s a heroic color. What’s so slagging ominous about the color red?” Spike was silent for a moment as he analyzed his own perceptions of the color in question and why it always caught his attention. “…red’s the color of human blood.” The group went silent as they absorbed the statement, understanding and confusion playing their minds at once. “Usually when we see red the first thing we think of—well, I think of— is blood. And then other related images pop up. Like anger, death, murder, pain, torture, war…and so on,” added Spike. “But it also has the same connotations like you said. There are some colors that have multiple meanings depending on the context.” “How so?” The green Mech—Hound, wasn’t it?— asked. He, like several of the other Autobots, looked intrigued, and Spike felt a bubble of amusement rise from the pit of his stomach. So far, his time around the Autobots was spent being virtually ignored by all save a few he’d made friends with, and his insides filled with the warm-fuzzies at the notion they were actually paying attention to him and even asking him things. His inner child squealed with joy. “Well, let’s take your color for instance- green. Usually we associate green with nature, for obvious reasons; it’s the most abundant color in nature. From that association we get things like life, peace, freedom, and tranquility.” The green Mech smiled at that. “But then green can also mean jealousy. There’s a saying that describes someone as being ‘green with envy’.” “How about yellow?” Asked Bumblebee, one of the few Mechs so far he had gotten to know fairly well. Spike had not seen him come in. Beside him stood a Mech he had been introduced to as Prowl and beside him was Optimus Prime. With such a prestigious audience hanging on his words, Spike began to feel a bit self conscious. “Yellow? Oh, us, well in a traffic light it means caution and you’re supposed to slow down… so when the light turns red you can stop.” He paused and add, rather embarrassed, ”But then again, most people speed up so they can dodge the red light, so I guess that one’s a bit of a catch-22. But yellow can also mean happy, peaceful, and fun. It’s considered a happy color.” Bumblebee smiled at that, but Spike was confused when around him, the Mechs began chuckling and murmur to each other. Spike caught a muttered ‘oh the irony’ and ‘Someone go tell Sideswipe’. Spike hadn’t met anyone named Sideswipe, or at least he didn’t think he had. He turned to look at Bumblebee, tilting his head quizzically. The yellow minibot merely shook his head and waved the silent inquiry away, chuckling. “I’ll tell you later.” He said. “What about blue?” Someone asked to Spike’s left, but he didn’t see who. “Blue? Ah, that’s kind of a hard one. See, a light blue, like the sky, is considered a happy color. But a deep blue is more mellow and sad. We don’t call certain styles of Jazz ‘The Blues’ for nothing. Blue can either mean really happy or really sad. One extreme to another depending on the shade or hue. But there’s an old idiom that says someone who talks really fast without stopping is “Talk up a Blue streak” but I’m not sure how that relates to the actual color.” The room erupted in another bout of laughter and several Mech were shouting ‘Ain’t that true!’ Spike made a mental note to ask Bumblebee about that as well.