"Jess! Jessica, come back!"
Jessica Blake darted out the front door and ran down the street. Her uncle's voice trailed her for a copule of houses, but she quickly left it behind. He'd complained about her cooking agian. She'd told him, when she'd come to live with him a month ago, that she couldn't cook. Still, he expected a hot meal every day when he came home from work.
"Give it your best shot," he'd say kindly before heading out to work. But by the time he'd come home at night, he had two or three drinks in him, and he was mean. Her cooking was never good enough. Nothing she did ever seemed to be good enough. Jess could only think of one place to go. To Uncle Liam.
Liam wasn't really her uncle, but he and her father had been best friends. Jess had spent many a day with Liam in his auto repair garage. It was there that she now sought refuge.
The garage was closed when she got there. It was after seven, but she knew from experience that Liam usually stayed till well after nine most nights. She pounded on the door, trying in vain to hold back tears. Finally, she heard someone moving around on the other side of the door, and when it was opened, she threw herself against the body on the other side, sobbing.
"What's wrong Jessie Baby?" Liam's farmiliar voice asked.
He drew her into the garage, locking the door behind them.
"Richard . . . he . . . I don't want to stay with him anymore."
She felt Liam's arms tense around her. Liam and Richard had never gotten along well.
"Come on, Jessie," he said, leading her into the back room.
He sat her in the swivel chair behind his desk and put a sweater around her shoulders, then disappeared. Jess felt bad for barging in on him and crying, but she'd needed it. By the time Liam returned with a mug of cocoa, she'd stopped crying and sat huddled in his sweater.
"There now, Jessie. Drink that down and tell me what's going on."
Jess sipped the cocoa and sighed.
"Richard's drinking," she said. Her stomach clenched and she set the cocoa aside. "It wasn't so bad at first, but he comes home drunk almost every night now." Tears were filling her eyes agian. "He gets mean. He doesn't hit me, but he yells, and I can't do anything right."
Liam swore under his breath. Jess felt worse. Liam never swore around her.
"Maybe I shouldn't have come," she said, getting up. "Sorry, Liam."
"Sit yer cute little self back in that chair," Liam said. "I'll not have you go back there with Richard in a huff. He just might take it into his head to start hitting you."
Jess sat, hunching into the sweater. Liam ran a hand over his face.
"You can stay here for a bit. I'll call Richard in an hour or so and let him know where you are. For now, come with me. I've a surprise I want to show you. I was savin' it 'til it was all fixed up, but I think you need a lift now."
He started back into the garage. Jess left the sweater on the chair and followed him. Back in the far corner of the garage sat a car. All Jess could tell was that it was a beautiful deep blue color. As she got closer, she saw that the windows were all shattered with bits of glass still stuck in the frames. The paint was scratched and there was a sizable dent in the hood.
"What do you think?" Liam asked, his deep voice gentle.
"It needs a lot of work."
Liam nodded, folding his arms across his barrel chest. "That she does. But she'll be yours when she's fixed up."
Jess's eyes went wide and she looked up at him. "Really?"
The skin around Liam's green eyes crinkled as he smiled. "Really."
Jess hurried forward and looked into the car. There was a hole where a radio had once been and the fabric of the seats was shredded. Glass littered almost every surface in the car.
"It really is a mess," she said.
Liam leaned down next to her. "But she has potential."
"He," Jess said.
Liam blinked at her.
"If he's going to be my car, then he's a he."
Liam grinned. "Okay. He. Will you name him?"
Jess nodded. "I'll have to think about it."
"You're welcome to come and watch while I work on him, if you'd like. It'll be after hours. Bring your homework."
Jess nodded excitedly. Any excuse to be away from Richard was a good one. Liam led her back to the office.
"Let's order out, if you're hungry. Then I'll take you home for the night."
Jess's enthusiasm over her new car deflated a bit, but she nodded. They ordered Chinese and spent an hour talking over sweet and sour pork and low mein. Feeling safe and full of good food, Jess began to doze. She was only mildly surprised when Liam lifted her into his strong arms and carried her out to his old truck. She didn't remember the ride home, nor how she wound up in her own bed, but she vaguely remembered Liam's voice, raised in anger.
. . . I am Optimus Prime, and I send this message to any surviving Autobots taking refuge among the stars. We are here. We are waiting.
With the Allspark gone, we cannot return life to our planet. And fate has yielded its reward. A new world to call home . . .