Disclaimer: In case you're wondering, no recognizable characters are mine. No harm, no foul, no worries.



"Sam? Sam, come down here. Your father and I want to talk to you."

Sam kicked off the offending sheet wrapped around his legs, and fell out of bed. "I'm up! I'm coming!" he shouted, in case they hadn't heard the thump.

He had learned the hard way about avoiding his mother's summons after 11 a.m.: once she had borrowed an electric shock collar, laid it gently on his sleeping form, and when he grumbled and waved her away, she zapped him. Just once, but it was enough to get him up—straight up.

Sam tried not to give her a reason to get creative again.

He pulled a faded t-shirt over his head as he yawned and dug around on the floor for a pair of cut-offs. Finding some that weren't too dirty, he hopped down the stairs while stepping into them.

His parents were in the kitchen.

"Sam, dear—" his mother's tone immediately sent up red flags, "—have a muffin."

The muffin suggestion sounded like a last meal.

"What's up?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.

The two exchanged glances. "Well . . . we haven't been back from vacation very long—"

The kidnapping by Sector Seven goons had been a bad experience for them: having their house overrun by federal spooks, being taken away from Sam and interrogated—about, of all things, alien robots?—and then having to deal with the after effects of the "earthquake" . . . Sam's parents decided they needed a break from life, and had flown to Hawaii for a month.

"—but what happened to the old Camaro we bought you?"

Sam had been expecting this. "That old car?" he laughed, hoping it sounded genuine. "Well, the government people felt so bad about the whole kidnapping thing—plus the fact one of their secret op Hummers totally trashed the side of it when they were swarming the house—that they gave me a new car. Concept car. 2008. All the bells and whistles."

Glad he had a new friend who was a world class hacker, Sam ran outside, gave Bumblebee a quick rundown on what was going on, and pulled the faked title and registration papers out of the glove box. Back inside, he handed them over to his father.

His parents looked them over.

"Okay, I guess . . ." his dad said, sounding unconvinced.

But his mother had more to say. Clapping her hands she said, "Well, Sam, we've also decided that you've got a car, and now it's time for you to learn some responsibility.

"You're getting a job."

"What? A job?"

"Yes! You're seventeen."

What was that supposed to mean? Sam was stunned, and stuttered, "But-but . . . it's almost summer—I had plans—"

"Your Aunt Callie needs some help. She says summers are really busy for her."

"Aunt Callie?!" That was a bombshell he hadn't expected.

His mother continued as if he hadn't spoken. "And now that you have your new car, you can drive yourself over there!" She smiled brightly, as if this was the best thing ever.

"Oh mom! Aunt Callie?!"Now that he thought about it, hadn't his mother borrowed that shock collar from Aunt Callie?

"Listen to your mother, Sam."

"But she's so weird!"

His father agreed but wouldn't say so in front of his wife. It was her sister, after all. "That's beside the fact, Sam. It's all settled. She said she'd pay you above minimum wage, which is great at your age.

"You can head on over—I'm sure what you're wearing is fine."

Dejectedly, Sam took a muffin and walked out the door.

His parents watched him slump down in the driver's seat of the Camaro.

"Giving a sports coupe to a teenager?" his dad asked aloud as the car roared away.

"The government's not known for making good decisions, dear," his wife answered.