Disclaimer: All Transformer characters and settings are property of Hasbro/Takara, Transformers 2007 Movie property of Dreamworks. This work is fan fiction and is not intended for profit.
Author's Note: This is my first attempt at fan fiction. Comments, reviews and cogent criticism are welcomed.
Doors to Let Out Life
The silver Audi blew past Miles, drawing behind it a gritty blast that flipped his light oversized shirt over his head. He grimaced and, switching his outstretched thumb for a more expressive finger, gestured after the driver.
"Goddamn prick," he muttered as he settled and dusted off his coat.
The light was fading. Another brilliant sunset colored the sky above the distant coast far to the west. Miles didn't want to get clobbered by the next ignorant asshole, so he took up a position beneath one of the few pole lights on this stretch of US 66. Standing on the shoulder, he settled his bag at his feet and stuck out his thumb.
A sedan, red, the driver an older guy in shirtsleeves moved into the passing lane and didn't slow. So did the green Jetta with the canoe on top. Two pickups, neck and neck, showered him with more gritty dirt and chaff. Miles shook his head and scowled. He was sweaty and grimy after his five mile walk from town to the highway. He reached down into his bag and took out his bottle of water. It was still about half full. He opened the top and took a modest swig. He was screwing the top back on when he heard the growl of a big diesel engine. He looked up. A big rig tractor was coming towards him down the highway. It flicked on its indicator to move to the passing lane. Miles stuck out his thumb again and gave the big rig a wave.
It passed him, a sweet custom Peterbilt, blue and red with flames and a shining chrome grill, gleaming crimson and orange in the last light of the day. It was spotlessly clean, except for a little road dust on the rims and mud guards.
"Extended cab, but no trailer, must be heading home. Wonder what this guy hauls to afford a truck like that," Miles though.
The brake lights came on and Miles heard the rumble of jake brakes as the truck eased itself across two lanes and onto dusty shoulder about 100 yards ahead. The passenger side door swung open. Miles scooped up his bag and hustled to the side of the idling truck. He shook the dust from his shaggy blonde hair and thumped his shirt and shorts a few times before climbing up the side and peering into the cab. The driver, compact and tan, with bright eyes and a neat black mustache under a brown suede Stetson, smiled and motioned for him to get in the passenger's seat.
"Thanks for the ride, mister." Miles said.
"No problem." The driver replied. His voice was surprisingly deep, but sounded calm and friendly. "Where are you going?"
"Well, eventually LA, but I'd like to make Barstow tonight. Are you going that far?"
"Barstow? Yes, I'm headed in that direction. Any place in particular?"
"Nope. You can drop me off somewhere when you get close. I got money for a motel."
"If you wish," said the driver. "Please fasten your safety restraint."
Miles pulled the door shut and buckled up. The driver carefully signaled and pulled back out onto the highway. He glided up through the gears until they were cruising along. Miles looked around the cab. This guy loved his truck. The interior was immaculate. It was also outfitted with every gadget known to man; GPS, satellite radio, flip down DVD player, CB radio, heads up dashboard display, radar detector, and a range of unknown lights and buttons. Miles looked again at the driver. The man gazed steadily ahead, taking in the road. He had on work worn cowboy boots, faded jeans and a blue denim shirt, all topped off with the brown Stetson that cast his features into shadow. He rested one hand lightly on the gearshift and draped the other almost lovingly over the top of the big steering wheel.
The man spoke without looking at him. "I didn't ask before. What is your name?"
"Miles, Miles Nelson. What's your name?"
The driver hesitated, "My name? You can call me Pete." He smiled under his hat, showing a flash of white teeth in the dim cab.
"Ok, Pete. Thanks again for the ride."
"It's no trouble. I appreciate the company. However, I must say that standing by the road and beckoning for a ride like that can be very dangerous," the driver warned.
Miles scowled again. "Yeah, well, I've had to do it before. I'm careful." He slouched down in the seat and slid his hand up to fidget with the door lock button.
"That's good. Some of the young people I know haven't yet learned to be cautious."
"Sucks to be them," Miles snapped.
"Indeed?" The deep voice sounded wryly amused. "So, you appreciate the value of caution."
"I guess, for what it's worth, yeah. Look no offense, Pete, but if all I ever do is worry about what COULD happen, I'll never DO anything. I use my eyes and ears. I trust my gut. But I don't avoid things because they're supposedly dangerous. It's my life. Mine and no one can live it for me, but me." He yanked up on the door lock button in agitation. The lock popped up and clicked down again.
"I did not mean to upset you." The sonorous voice was concerned, but the man still did not take his eyes from the road.
"It's not your fault. Sorry." Miles looked moodily out the window at the passing telephone poles and sighed. "I shouldn't bitch at you. You're doing me a favor by getting me away."
"Ah, I gather that you are going from something, rather than to something, then."
"Yeah. I suck. I'm skipping out on my sister's funeral."
"Your sister? Did you have a quarrel? What would prevent you from honoring her?" The deep voice was baffled.
"No, we didn't fight. It's not her, really, it's the rest of my family. My mom and dad had a big fight right after we got the news. Now they aren't talking, but we still have to do all the funeral stuff. My mom won't even come out of her room and my dad is so angry all the time. Amy's dead. They shouldn't be fighting. I know some families fall apart when this kind of thing happens. So I decided, if I'm going to lose my family anyway, then I would pick the time and place, so I took off after the first viewing this afternoon. I'm going to go to LA and stay with some friends. I'll try to start over there."
"This is wrong. I shouldn't be helping you with this." The vehicle started to slow. "I will turn around and take you back."
"No! Please. Look, you can drop me off here and I'll catch another ride. I'll be OK."
"I cannot leave you here." The vehicle slowed more and shuddered as the driver applied the jake brakes. There was a blare of horns as the SUV that had been following the truck swerved around it. "I think it would be best if you went back to your family. I will take you there."
"Pete, please! I'm sorry I brought it up." Miles slipped his hand around the door handle. If the trucker insisted on turning around, he would jump out and make a run for it.
"Do not try to exit the vehicle!" The deep voice was loud in command. "I will not force you to go back with me against your will," he said more softly, "but will you travel with me and tell me about it?"
Miles sighed. "If that's what you want. Just don't take me back, OK?"
"I will not."
Miles took a deep breath. He stared out the passenger side window at the dark and light patterns the headlamps made on the passing world. He traced his finger against the cool metal of the window hardware. Collecting his thoughts, he spoke.
"Amy is, uh, was my older sister. She was going to be 21, right, like in college. She was learning to be a elementary teacher at Mission College. She always liked little kids. And this year she moved off campus. She had this apartment with two other girls. Except it was kind of far from the school, so she has to take the city bus to school every day. She even got a free student pass.
Sheesh, the bus. I mean everyone at our school wants to get a car, right? So they don't have to take the damn bus anymore. Some people even sell their souls and ditch their friends once they get one, that's how important a stupid car is. But, Amy, man, she wanted to live in that apartment more, so my parents made her a deal. She can live in the apartment and they'll pay for it, but she has to take the bus back and forth to school. Or she can live in the dorm and they'll get her a car. They were pretty pleased with themselves, 'cause in either case she wouldn't be driving much and Amy was a TERRIBLE driver. Like it matters now, but she was. I wouldn't ride with her unless it was a real emergency. That's why I developed my fine ride acquiring skills." He gestured briefly with his thumb. "It's honestly safer to ride with a psycho than my sister. No offense."
"None taken. So, was she in an automobile accident then?" The deep voice was concerned. Miles looked out of the window again and rubbed his hand absently on the smooth dashboard.
"No. Not exactly. She was in a bus accident." Miles took a deep breath. He laced his fingers tightly together.
"That's what the cops told us. Amy was on her regular commuter bus, coming back to the apartment after her classes. The bus was on the highway coming towards Mission City. Somehow a big construction vehicle, a bulldozer or a crane or something broke loose from a truck and smashed into the bus. It tore the bus in half. There was a huge pileup. Amy was in the middle of it and she was thrown out onto the road. She rolled to the side of the road, but the impact broke her neck. She was already dead."
"I'm so sorry. I didn't know." Pete's voice was full of pain.
"'s OK. How could you know?" Miles looked over at the driver. The older man turned his head to look briefly at the younger one but the shaded eyes under the Stetson were unreadable. Miles looked down at his lap. "It was an accident. They said there was an earthquake, too. Mission City got all messed up. We saw the National Guard troops there when we went to the school to get Amy's things."
"Y'know, that was the worst part. My dad and I went. We had to pack up her things, all of her life, and it fit into three boxes and a suitcase. And the carrier for the cat"
"Did you say, 'The cat'?"
"The fricking cat. It's a little stripey orange cat named George. The roommates said it belonged to Amy and that they weren't going to be able to take care of it now that she's gone. So we took it with us. My mother, she didn't talk to us when we got home. She just picked up that stupid cat, went up to her room and locked herself inside. We could hear her crying, but she wouldn't let us in. Eventually my dad forced the door. He said all she was doing was sitting there, crying and holding the cat. When he came in, she flipped out on him. She yelled at him to get out and leave her alone. He left and she locked the door again. She comes out at night for food and stuff, but otherwise she just stays in there and cries. My dad stays away from her. He's been sleeping in the guest room. I think he's really mad that he has to make all of the arrangements and talk to all the people himself. I was trying to help, but with him snapping and her crying, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to bail."
"Your parents are grieving. They have suffered a terrible loss. I don't think their behavior is intended to punish you," Pete began gently.
"I KNOW that, all right. I do. But I'm tired of losing people. Everyone leaves me. Sam with his evil jock concubine in his Camaro from hell, Amy and Mom and Dad. It's all changing. I can't stop it, but I can get away. So that's what I'm doing." He scrubbed at his eyes.
"Miles, your world is changing. Everything is changing. How far will you run?" The deep voice was challenging.
"As far as I have to." Miles snapped. "It's a big world."
"It is, but if you run long enough, you wind up back where you started."
"Ooh, deep wisdom from the trucker." Miles glared at the older man. "Don't patronize me."
The bright eyes gleamed from under the hat brim, Pete smiled sardonically. "I wasn't being patronizing. But perhaps I am being intentionally obscure, Miles. I was there when your sister died."
"What?" He was incredulous.
"I was on the road to Mission City that day. I saw the accident. I stopped to help those I could. I knew about the bus. It was a terrible tragedy. We saved the ones we could save. I tried to contain the damage as much as I could." Pete sounded like he was reassuring himself as well as Miles.
"You were there? You were IN the accident, with this truck? And it doesn't have a scratch on it. How can your damn redneck truck survive and my sister die? How?" Miles banged the glass of the passenger window, his hand stung with the impact.
"People. People are fragile. I, this truck is not quite as fragile. Crash damage, scratches and dents, even broken glass, can be repaired or replaced. This is not so easy to do with people. I am sorry your sister died. I would have saved her if I could have. I have to protect the living, the ones who can be saved."
"The ones who can be saved?" Miles was thoughtful for a second, he looked over at Pete. "Can you take me back?" he asked.
"You wish to go back?"
"Yeah. I do. Look, Pete. I know you don't owe me anything, but you seem like you want to make up for something. You can do that by taking me home. Take me home and tell your story to my mother. If she hears about Amy from someone who was there, maybe it will help her accept it. Please."
"Of course. I will take you home and talk to your mother, but I have to ask you to bring her out to me so that we can talk together. Can you do that?"
Miles looked puzzled, but nodded. "I live in Tranquility, on…"
"Linden Street, I will take you there." Again, the truck slowed and at the next intersection it grandly turned and headed back down Route 66, back to Tranquility. Miles listened to the growl of the diesel engine and stared out the window at the familiar landmarks as they passed.
The ride back to Tranquility was short. Pete idled the truck in the driveway as Miles ran into the darkened house, dumped his bag and dashed up the stairs to his mother's closed bedroom door.
He knocked gently, "Mom?"
"Miles, honey, what are you doing here?" She sounded tired.
"Mom, please come out of the room. I want to talk to you."
"Miles," she sighed. "Honey, I don't want to talk right now."
"Mom, please, you have to come out of the room and talk to me. It's about Amy."
She didn't reply, but he heard her get up from the bed and come to the door. The door opened slightly to reveal his mother's sad, pale face. She held the little orange cat, George, in the crook of her arm. George looked solemnly up at Miles with wide green eyes.
"Please come outside with me for a minute. I have someone I want you to meet." Miles put his hand on his mother's arm.
"Honey this is not really the best time for me," she began.
"Mom, I know," he said quickly. "But I think you need to hear what he has to say. Please, mom, just for a minute."
"It's not your father is it?" She peered down the dark hall. "I've said my piece to him."
"No, Mom, he's at the viewing, just come with me for a minute."
She sighed. "Fine. Let me go and get my shoes."
She turned to slip on her shoes next to the door. Miles noticed that she was carefully dressed and made up, her hair combed and pulled up in a black band. "Mom, were you planning to go somewhere?"
"No, Miles. I…I just wanted to show your sister some respect. It wouldn't be right…" she trailed off.
"I think I understand, c'mon." He put his hand on her shoulder. She walked quietly down the hall, carrying the little orange cat.
They went down the stairs and out of the front door to the idling truck. The passenger side door swung open as they approached. Mrs. Nelson turned to her son. "What is this?"
"I'll explain in a second, just climb up into the truck, ok?"
She cradled the little cat in one arm as she caught the side of the door and pulled herself up to the seat with the other. Miles stepped up on the running board to look into the cab. "Mom, this is Pete. Pete, this is my mom, Carla Nelson."
"I am pleased to meet you, Mrs. Nelson," Pete said. "I hope you can forgive me for intruding on your grief."
"What is this all about?" She narrowed her eyes at the driver. "Who are you? Miles, who is this man?"
"Allow me to explain," Pete began calmly. "I met your son today and he told me of your loss. I was saddened to hear of it."
"Well, thank you for your concern, but you didn't have to bother…"
"Mom," Miles cut in. "Let him finish, OK?"
"Indeed," the deep voice continued. "I was saddened because I feel responsible, in a way, for what happened."
"Responsible? Why? Were you driving the truck? Did you cause the accident?" She stiffened and glared at Pete. He looked back at her steadily and she relaxed.
"I did not cause the accident. I arrived on the scene after it happened. I did what I could to mitigate and contain the damage. No, I feel responsible, because I did not know before that your daughter died as a result of what happened that day. She was an innocent victim of forces beyond her control."
"You don't think I know that? How stupid and senseless this all is? All we were trying to do was to keep her safe," she sobbed. "We never expected. How could we guess? That she'd be in an accident like this."
Miles reached up and put his arms around his mother's shoulders. "Shh, Mom, hey. Mom, it's going to be OK." She leaned back into his embrace.
Pete went on, "I, too, faced loss on that day. A brother and a friend, but they had made their choices. They chose to be there that day. Your daughter, she was never given a choice."
"I don't think any of us would choose to die." Mrs. Nelson began softly. "That's not a choice that's rightly given to us."
"But when you put yourselves in harm's way, don't you do so knowing the consequences?" Pete sounded startled. "Surely you know that you can die."
She smiled sadly. "Of course I do. I just have to trust that this time, any time, is not my time. Without that trust, I'd never leave the house." She glanced back at Miles. "I'd just be paralyzed. I'd never make it out of the door."
"So what makes you go out of the door, then?" the deep voice asked softly.
"Hope. Hope and trust that each day can be a better day, love for my family and my friends" she replied.
"And this hope, it is greater than the sadness? The love is greater than the fear?"
"It has to be," she replied. Miles held her tight as she gently stoked the orange cat's soft head.
"Carla Nelson it is an honor to have met you," the deep voice intoned. "You are wise and loving and you have given me much to consider. Please allow me to convey you and Miles to your family. If I guess correctly, he no longer has any plans to leave."
She looked into he son's face, startled. "You were leaving?"
"I was. Or maybe I was just running. But not anymore. Move over Mom. Pete can take us to the funeral home." She slid over and he sat down. "It's over on Pine Street, Pete."
"Right, Miles, let's go."
Mr. Nelson ran up to embrace his wife and son as they climbed down from the blue and red truck. The little family held each other tightly for a moment, silently forgiving one another for the hurts and slights of grief. Then they walked through the doors together.
Several hours later, Miles emerged alone from the funeral home and walked across the parking lot. The blue and red truck was parked discreetly behind the building, its chrome grill gleaming faintly in the dimmer glow from the few windows still alight. He walked up to it and laid a hand gently on the fender. It was nice of Pete to have waited. Miles peered up at the windshield, but the driver's seat was empty. Maybe Pete was inside the building getting a cup of coffee. He walked around to the driver's door and was just going to sit down on the running board when with a soft whir, the window opened. George's orange face peered out of the truck window for a moment and then the cat launched himself out, landing neatly on Miles's shoulder.
"Hi George. Were you OK waiting with Pete?" he asked as he stroked the little cat.
"Mrraw," George replied and rubbed his head against Miles's face.
"Well, I guess that means yes," he chuckled.
"Miles? Miles are you coming?" called his mother from the funeral home entrance.
"Yeah Mom, I was just getting George. Did you see Pete?" he called back.
"No, I thought he left. He's not inside. We're getting in the car now, are you ready to come home?"
"Yeah, I'll be right there." He looked up at the truck again. "Well, goodbye Pete, too bad I didn't get to see you. I'm sorry that I kept you from getting home tonight, but I really appreciate your concern for me and my family. I wanted to say 'thanks'," he murmured and turned away.
From behind him a deep voice said softly, "You're welcome."