Getting To Know You
By Dreaming of Everything
Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers in any of its various incarnations. The only characters I do own, in fact, are Bec and her father.
Timeline/Author's Notes: This fic is set in the 2007 movieverse; however, it brings in characters from other verses. This is ordinarily not a problem, but I'm really only intimately familiar with the movie canon. For that reason, I'd like it to be known that I'm not claiming that I'm writing these characters; I'm writing an interpretation of their characters for a different canon. Think of it as what the movie did for the characters that Michael Bay used. They're based off of what you're familiar with, and I'm doing my best to stick true to that, but research will only do so much.
…yeah, feel free to yell at me about that in reviews/PMs/whatever. It's a questionable move. I'm pretty hesitant about it myself. Also, I'd like it to be known that I blame Epona Harper (in the best way possible) for planting the seeds of this fic—although I wouldn't recommend you go yell at her. This is entirely my fault, in the worst way possible.
That said, I hope you enjoy the story!
A brief note: Why Sunstreaker and Sideswipe? Well, because they suited my purposes. I can't say they're my favorite characters (not that I really have a favorite character) but Sunstreaker in particular had the ideal personality for what I wanted for this fic.
This is tentatively planned for three chapters, but they are all likely to be doozies. That is what I get for writing my outline and then dividing it into chapters. For example, this chapter is 19 pages long. Gah.
Just out of college with a fresh new degree in astronomy, he'd gotten a job at a small observatory in the Oregon desert. That had been ten years ago, by now; he'd been married for the past five, and had kids for the past three. He was a decent astronomer, and probably could have gotten a higher-profile job, but he'd never had any urge to leave his life in Oregon.
And the observatory he worked out really was a pretty decent one, all things told. They were six hours away from Portland by car, and the nearest town—the one he lived in, along with most of the rest of the astronomers—was an hour away, and tiny. It had a peak population of 300 during the summer and the holidays, when all the vacation homes filled up. It was small, but good, and the schools were decent enough, even if it was a bit of bus ride to the high school, which was a town over from them. That wouldn't matter for quite a few more years, of course, but he planned on staying.
It had been a quiet evening until the small, localized meteor shower had started. It had been—odd, to say the least. It had apparently come out of nowhere, and it was spanning a remarkably uniform circular area with a radius of one mile, with only slight variation. One or two of the meteorites had managed to break through the atmosphere, but none of them had landed anywhere near what would count as civilization. There was that, at least. His first guess was that something larger had splintered, but the borders were remarkably neat for that. If he could retrieve the ones that had made their way through the atmosphere he could compare their chemical make ups…
The astronomer paused for a minute in his diligent note-taking, frowning at night sky above him.
His eyes widened at the sudden flare of light as two meteors broke through the atmosphere, breaking into flame as they arced towards the ground, towards him, although logically there was only the slightest chance that they would end up hitting the observatory, statistically speaking…
The shudder of the impact was enough to drive him to his knees, breath shaken out of him. Hesitantly, he got to his feet and started walking cautiously towards the door, speeding up as the overhead sprinkler system came on—something had probably been snapped or shifted by the vibrations, the thought dazedly.
Not even fifty feet away from the building were two huge impact craters, the ground plowed up around them; they were still smoking, and the air was thick with the dust they had thrown up.
Wide-eyed, he approached the twin holes. There was nothing in them. Nothing. Not even a little pebble. Just cooling dirt and rocks, and slowly settling dust.
And what looked like a single giant footprint in one—and not an entirely human one. Far from it, even when you didn't consider size.
Maybe he was going crazy, or it was shock. Or something. Possibly the meteors actually had hit the observatory, and this was what his brain had dredged up as he slowly bled to death. Maybe he was actually asleep right now, and dreaming.
It would take him half an hour to think of the robots that had caused what had been termed the Mission City Incident. He would call the police that evening. Two days later he would be on a plane with his wife, his three-year-old son and his six-months-old daughter on their way to Vermont. For some reason or another, Oregon just didn't feel all that safe anymore.
It had taken them a full three Earth days to find an 'acceptable' alt form. Personally, Sideswipe blamed Sunstreaker for being so vain, and for it making him so picky. They had finally (finally!) found something he approved of, in the driveway of one of the better-guarded vacation homes. It meant that they didn't need to keep sneaking around at night—the daylight hours had been spent in a fairly thick patch of woods. Sideswipe was usually all for sneaking, but it hadn't been pleasant, by any stretch of the imagination.
Currently, the two of them were heading further out into what the humans had termed, cutely enough, 'the middle of nowhere.' Judging by the reactions they seemed to be getting, they didn't blend in all that well.
Sunstreaker was actually pretty smug about that fact. It figured. He had to admit, though, that their new car forms were extremely attractive, and he was not nearly the egoist his twin was.
They were still stuck traveling at night. The last thing they needed was someone spotting that there weren't any humans in them—from what he'd gathered from human media, not many of them were big on the Transformers as a whole. The fact that they'd left behind craters from their impact was bad enough, and he was pretty sure that that one human had noticed the footprint he'd left exiting the hole before he had been able to sweep it away.
The whole no-human-drivers thing was a big problem, actually. They needed to be able to travel, and they needed to be able to do it without drawing any attention to themselves. The Decepticons they'd had on their asses were still out there, probably narrowing in on Earth, and they still needed to locate Optimus Prime and whoever was with him.
But nooo, they couldn't just send a message. That would make things too easy, and you couldn't have that, right? Nope. One of their old teammates had defected, and they'd been attacked before their encryption codes had been changed; anything they sent through any means other than verbal communication could and would get picked up by the traitorous turncoat.
And Sideswipe had a holographic projector, and had a program running that would come up with a fairly realistic image of a human to 'drive' him, but Sunstreaker didn't. He'd never gotten a holodrive installed. Sideswipe had only had one put in because it had come in handy when he was playing tricks, but Sunny really only participated in that sort of thing when Sideswipe talked him into it.
Even just traveling at night was kind of risky, and it would get worse as they got closer to larger human settlements.
It wasn't looking good…
"If any of the organics get anything revolting on my interior, I won't be responsible for what happens," sent Sunstreaker. Sideswipe hesitated—he was nearly at the point where their short-distance frequencies were ineffective, and the long-distant communication channels weren't safe any more. Smoothly, he pulled off to the side of the road. His illusory driver appeared to bend over to rifle through an (empty) glove compartment, an equally holographic map appearing in his hands as he sat up. Sideswipe's attention was focused on something entirely different as the 'driver' unfolded the map and appeared to look it over.
"A lot's hanging on this, Sunny. Don't blow our cover for something too minor. I'm relying on you, here."
"Yeah, yeah. I notice you're not the one selling yourself off to an organic."
"I told you a good holographic system would come in handy—"
"No, Sideswipe, you told me—and I'm quoting—'I bet we could really slag around with someone with a good holographic system!'"
"Same thing. Be careful, though, okay? We don't know where any of the Decepticons are, and all we've got to go on when it comes to locating Prime is a set of coordinates months old and a few exaggerated, doubtfully factual, highly suspicious sightings reported on this planet's information network."
"You, too. Not that you've ever really proved yourself capable of controlling yourself…"
"I'm hurt, truly. Especially when it comes from you, Mr. Self Control."
"Huh. Get driving, already."
"But you're the one who stopped me, Sunny!"
There wasn't a response, although Sideswipe waited for a few minutes. As he pulled away again, he barely caught a final transmission: "Hurry back."
They'd been alone a long, long time.
It had started out as a what-if and a single shard of metal, the last remains of the Allspark.
It was ending now, with a rebuilt corpse and that same piece of metal. They didn't have anything to lose, because they'd already lost it, or him. None of them had gone into that final battle really expecting to live, but they hadn't expected that Jazz would die.
And regret and irrational, half-crazy ramblings had brought the four known remaining Autobots to this. Now, they were all watching Ratchet work: the three humans closest to the Autobots, Sam, Mikaela and Captain William Lennox, were watching on a video screen a ways away, where they would be safer if something went wrong.
Ratchet paused as he prepared to slide the shard of the Allspark into where Jazz's spark had been. "This might not work," he said, as much to convince himself as anyone else. "It might not do anything. It might animate the body, but not be Jazz at all. Nobody's ever been stupid enough to try this before, or even think of it, even assuming that they had had the materials. I've checked the records."
He'd also looked into the human fictional novel, Mary Shelley's FrankensteinThe similarities were—unnerving.
Carefully, hands held perfectly steady, he slid the shard into the rebuilt, fully functional but empty shell of the robot who had been Optimus Prime's second in command and a close friend to all of them.
The tension in the room grew until it was nearly unbearable, and then kept on growing, until all of the Autobots could feel the tightly-reigned energy crackling around them—and they realized the air really was filled with energy, blue-white sparks that snapped and bit, weaving around and through themselves in a complex, three-dimensional pattern that filled the room, radiating out from the prone form that had been Jazz. Ratchet bit off a cry of surprise, only half-heard over the shrieking of the not-quite-lightning-like movements of the energy the room was filled with.
And then Jazz sat up yelling, his cannons firing a hole through the wall of the building and a considerable stretch of woodlands beyond that, before he slumped back down.
"Out of the way," snapped Ratchet as he pushed his way back towards his charge, glaring at Bumblebee, who looked cheerfully unaffected by the slight reprimand.
After a few minutes carefully inspecting the now-lax body, he began snapping orders. "Ironhide! Get me that rack over there. Bumblebee, I told you to stay out from under my feet, and get me a piece of tubing about this long, and the middle size from that tool drawer over there—the third one from the bottom. Optimus, whoever or whatever we've brought back is suffering from total energy drain. Would you please monitor that machine over there? It should be set to level six, and tell me if anything changes. Captain Lennox, contact the Pentagon and inform them that something happened, but we're not sure who, yet, and we won't be able to tell until after he's conscious again. Ironhide, would you be careful? For Primus' sake, that's sensitive medical equipment!"
Geoffrey Kurtz was feeling pretty good about himself. He'd been worrying over what to get his daughter—the youngest of three, his baby girl—for her 21st birthday, but he kept on drawing blanks. She hadn't had much in terms of helpful suggestions, and he wanted it to be something big. His other kids had all gotten big-ticket items when they turned 21, and he'd be damned before his little Rebecca felt that she wasn't as good as they were. Plus, he'd always liked to spoil her, and he knew that there would be talk if there was even the slightest hint that his fortune was going to collapse, and a 'hint' could be anything from selling off a house or a yacht to not getting anything of any importance for one of his kids' birthdays.
He was getting too old to deal with all of this shit. Maybe he should retire in the next year or so, get a house on the coast and relax for once in his life. If his father were still alive, he'd have a heart attack—another one—at the very idea. He'd never been idle a day in his life, and it was that sort of work ethic that had made Geoffrey Kurtz the man he was today.
The man who had just bought his daughter a brand new Lamborghini—sunshine yellow, her favorite color, drove like a dream—as the perfect 21st birthday present. She needed a car—she had refused one when she'd started college, saying that it would take up too much room in the city—now that she was taking correspondence courses from her own little home out in the country. He'd have found her a better apartment and helped her with the rent on that, but the last time he'd called she'd waxed lyrical about how much she loved the place she was at. He didn't understand it, but he was willing to respect it. All of his kids were great, but Bec had always been wise beyond her years. He trusted her judgment, so he'd let her stay, even if it meant the neighbors talked a little. He could deal with that. He'd been taking worse shit than that for years.
And that was part of why he loved Bec so much. She never argued. She was calm, peaceful. He liked that. You just didn't see that kind of thing, these days. Yeah, all the yuppies talked about all their talk about yoga and Zen, but true peace? You just didn't see it. He sure didn't have it, for one. He was too much of a businessman. He got it from his old man. He didn't know where Bec got her personality, but it sure as Hell wasn't from him. He couldn't even understand his Rebecca most days, they just worked so differently. One of his damn psychologists had explained some of it to him once, with 50-dollar words and seemingly endless psychobabble, but he'd puzzled out most of what he'd come to realize all by himself. Him and Bec, they just had two different ways of thinking. And some days he just couldn't understand hers.
Bec waited at the end of the driveway until her Dada's taxi had crested the big hill and was fully out of view, then walked up the driveway and past the blaringly yellow Lamborghini now sitting, gleaming, in her driveway, and stepped through the open doorway into her house—her house, even if it was just a rental—and through the living room and then the kitchen. She locked herself into the bathroom, and cried for half an hour.
It wasn't that she hated her Dada. She loved him very much. It was just that he didn't understand. He never had, really. This always happened, on her birthday. Every June 10th, no matter what, ever since 1994, when she had had her 7th birthday, she'd been horribly disappointed. She had gotten the doll she had wanted, and a full wardrobe of doll clothes, with matching ones for her, and a playhouse to go with it for her 7th. The next year she had asked for art supplies and a book about gardening. She had gotten a pony that had scared her so badly she hadn't gone anywhere near where it was stabled for half a year.
And this year she had asked for books—a new plant guide, a few collections of essays—and garden supplies (some seeds and plants she wanted to try, a new lightweight shovel, five cubic yards of manure) and she had gotten a hideous monstrosity of a car in burn-your-eyes-bright golden yellow.
That wasn't fair, though. The car was, in fact, gorgeous. The sort of car even someone like her could recognize as incredible. And it was a pretty color, even if a bit glaringly obvious for her tastes.
But it was… ostentatious. To say the least. She hadn't wanted a car at all, let alone one that would turn heads—and keep them turned—wherever she went. She had been idly flipping through the car ads before, trying to find something close enough to being a junker that a college student could reasonably own it and far enough away from one that it would still run reliably, but she hadn't moved fast enough.
At least her Dada hadn't gotten her a new rental house. She liked this one. She was finally getting the gardens together, getting them to actually look halfway decent. It had been a close thing.
And so she spent half her birthday crying against the cool tiles of her bathtub, waiting for it to be over, wishing that her father would just listen for once in his life and get her what she wanted.
Sometimes he did listen, though. She had to be fair when it came to that. The first plant Bec had ever fully grown had been a sunflower she'd sprouted and tended in her third grade science class at her expensive, exclusive private school. When it had bloomed she'd been so proud. She told her Dada that yellow was her favorite color ever, and sunflower yellow her most favorite. She'd gotten yellow dresses—hideous with her skin tone—and yellow bedsheets and yellow roses and yellow dishes and everything else you could imagine in yellow as gifts ever since. And now she had a car that was bright yellow. Summer sun yellow. Daffodil yellow. Sunflower yellow.
Of course, he hadn't caught on that yellow wasn't her favorite color anymore.
At least her mother wouldn't be able to visit for at least a week. She was busy again—another string of meetings. She was flying out to Milan, and might have to delay it another week if things didn't go smoothly. When they'd talked, she'd said, in her rich, deep voice—a voice like melted chocolate—that if it went into a third week she'd be 'forced to shoot herself, something not even the divorce ever pushed me to consider.'
If Bec remembered correctly, she was pretty sure her mother was incorrect—she definitely had memories of suicide attempts. That was unlike Mom. Accuracy had always been one of her sticking points.
She sighed, and stood up, brushing a hand over the deep, bruised indent the shower handle had left in her shoulder.
She needed groceries. It was time to go for a drive.
"Did you just say hello to your car?" said Miles as he ducked into Bumblebee, fumbling for the seat belt. "That's a little weird." The seat belt seemed to suddenly stick.
Sam tried to look like he hadn't jumped at the accusation, and then tried to look like it was perfectly normal to talk to your car. Nope, no alien robots here, folks, just keep right on moving. He'd gotten used to that in the last year.
But he kept on forgetting himself around Miles. It was tricky, erasing years of habit and friendship. But Sam just couldn't come out and say something like 'Hey, you know those robots who attacked Mission City? Well, one of them's my car and my other best friend, want to meet him?'
But it was getting tricky. It was only complicated by Mikaela, who said 'hello' to his car as well—she'd never forgotten herself around Miles, but that was probably helped by the fact that Bumblebee was a two-seat car, and himself and Miles and Mikaela made three. With Bumblebee they were four, but he didn't really need a seat, it being a part of him.
The typical answer as to how he'd gotten his 'new' car—'It got busted in the Mission City incident, and the government paid for a new one. I think they gave me a nicer one than the one I'd had so that I don't sue'—had worked for Miles, so that wasn't an issue. The fact that the radio still appeared to be broken (not that it was, Sam knew) was possibly more risky, in terms of what would or would not attract Miles' attention as abnormal.
His parents knew, of course, but his dad still flinched a little, whenever he treated Bumblebee like the fellow sentient he was around him. His mother seemed a little nervous still, but she kept on asking Sam all of these weird questions ("What does he eat?" "How much can he feel?" "Isn't it weird riding around inside him?") which was a good sign. Or a bad one—from the asking-Sam-questions phase she'd move on to the asking-Bumblebee-questions phase, and then she'd move straight on to threatening-Bumblebee-to-bring-Sam-back-by-curfew-or-else. And from there she'd probably end up taking on Ironhide (and probably winning) for something-or-other.
His mom had what one of his old teachers had politely termed a "forceful" personality. Captain Lennox had told him that Secretary Keller had told him that her letters and phone calls had been one of the driving forces behind the shutting-down of Sector Seven. Judy Witwicky didn't hold a grudge unless it involved her son, her dog or her roses. Simmons had managed to mess with hall three.
He thought that Miles was starting to suspect something, though—they'd been best friends for years. They'd told each other everything. But now Sam had another best friend and three—maybe four again, now—other friends, all of whom weren't even human, and four new, human friends—Epps, Will, Glen and Maggie—and government identification that gave him a higher security level clearance than most of the rest of the government, let alone average civilians, when it came to certain things. And a direct line to the Secretary of Defense. There'd been talk of naming him a diplomat if or when the Autobots were revealed to the world. Miles didn't know that. Miles didn't even fully know how Sam and Mikaela had gotten together, and he'd been involved in that from the first. (Actually, some of the more disastrous getting-to-know-you plans had been Miles' fault.) Of course, Sam wasn't entirely sure how he'd gotten together with Mikaela, and he'd lived it.
"You're quiet today," Miles said, shaking Sam out of his thoughts. "You get in a fight with Mikaela or something?"
"Huh? No! I guess I'm just tired. The homework always gets piled on at the end of the school year, and I'm studying for finals. Dad says he'll talk Mom into moving my curfew if I bring home good grades."
"Yeah, rub in the fact that you've got a reason to want an extended curfew—I still don't know how the hell you managed to get Mikaela Banes, Most Wanted Girl In the School, to go out with you. Rumor has it that she likes guys with muscle."
"Hey! You make me sound like some nerd incapable of—"
"Sam, my friend, you are some nerd."
"Perhaps, but I'm some nerd who's dating Mikaela Banes and has, quite possibly, the coolest car in the world."
"I dunno, man. The radio seems kind of messed up, and yellow's kind of a girly color."
The engine revved, although Miles remained oblivious. "I like the yellow," said Sam mildly.
"If it works for you, I guess. You should take down these things on the dashboard mirror, though, at the very least."
"Hey! Stop messing around with my car!"
"Seriously, don't come crying to me when Mikaela leaves you because you've got dorky things on your rear-view mirror."
"I… Really don't think that's ever going to be a problem," Sam said, trying to hide the amusement in his voice. Bee was the last reason Mikaela would ever break up with him. Remember, he thought. Miles doesn't know. Keep it that way.
"So, what are you doing on Friday?"
"I'm going up to the look-out with Mikaela. Why?"
"Awww, man, you always do that. It's been forever since we've had an all-night movie marathon—and it's your turn to pick the theme."
"I'm sorry, Miles, but I really can't miss this. Next week for sure, though."
"The bros-before-hos rule is shot to hell and back by now. One of these days I'm going to get a girlfriend, and then you'll see what it's like. And you'll call and want to—What's going on?"
"I can hear a police siren," said Sam.
"Yeah, you're right. That's weird…"
"You haven't gotten any neighbors, have you?"
"Nope, this road's still just us. And nobody's home—"
Before Miles had even really finished his sentence the car's doors had shrugged open. "Barricade," hissed Sam. Then, urgently, "Miles, get out. This is really important. I need you to get out of the car right now."
"What? What's going on?"
"Get out of the car, Miles. Really. As your friend for more years than I can count, I'm begging you get out of the car and step away from him a little."
"Okay, okay, I'm going! Christ, you're weird. I don't see why this is so important—and you use weird pronouns for your car."
Bumblebee began to shift, moving upwards into his bipedal form.
"Thing is," said Sam, "He's not really a car."
"Holy fuck," said Miles.
And then Barricade came hurtling down on them, meeting Bumblebee, with a clash of metal. "This way!" yelled Sam, over the clangs of two mechs in combat, and the whirring of cannons charging.
The two boys ran down the winding country road until they were far enough away that the sounds of battle had faded to only the loudest collisions and the occasional explosion.
Miles seemed so overwhelmed that he couldn't manage to actually get one of the hundreds of questions overwhelming him fully said.
"They're Transformers—Autobots and Decepticons. The Autobots want to save Earth; the Decepticons want to kill the humans. Those old glasses I was trying to pawn off—you remember them?—well, as it turns out, they held the coordinates of this super-powerful cube the Transformers were all fighting over. It was being guarded by that super-secret government agency, Sector Seven, that got shut down a few months ago, and we ended up stealing it and then going to Mission City to fight the Decepticons. I stuck it into the chest of Megatron—that's the leader of the Decepticons—which killed him. There's three Autobots on Earth right now, and a fourth who's maybe being brought back from the dead. But more might be arriving."
Miles' eyes looked glazed.
"That's really creepy, but also the coolest thing I've heard in my entire life. Giant alien robots? It's liked the bad cartoons I watched during my childhood, only a thousand times better."
"Also, they can all turn into cars, which is how they hide."
"Awesome." There was a brief pause. "I think I'm going into shock."
"My second real experience with the Transformers, I was attacked by Barricade. Bumblebee fought him off that time, too. He's one of the smaller Autobots—only one of them was smaller, and he was dead and might be alive again—was shorter. He's a killer fighter, though."
There was another pause. "Are you okay?" said Sam carefully.
"…Maybe?" squeaked out Miles.
The two sat in silence for a few minutes. Miles finally opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get a word out a piercing scream rang out through the woodlands.
"That sounds like it's coming from back where the fight is," said Sam, rising to his feet from his sitting position at the base of a tree, next to Miles.
"So why are we running towards it?" said Miles plaintively as he ran after Sam's rapidly-retreating form.
"I never asked you to follow me!" yelled Sam over his shoulder.
The two turned a final curve that revealed the tail end of Barricade, who was fleeing the scene, and Bumblebee trying to talk to a panicking human.
"Trent?" said Miles in disbelief. "What are you doing here?"
"Giant robots," said Trent, voice heavy with terror.
"Uh, are you okay?" said Sam hesitantly, taking a step towards the jock. They were not on the best terms, to say the least.
"You must be the one who keeps on changing the 'Gillon' on our mailbox to 'Gibbon!'"
"Oh my God. I— I—"
"It's okay. This robot here? This is Bumblebee. He's not going to hurt you—he just finished keeping that other robot, the one that just left, from turning you into smoothie," said Sam, voice soothing.
"…thank you?" said Trent, sounding dazed, looking in the direction of Bumblebee with wide eyes.
"I think he got hit on the head," said the Autobot helpfully.
"Damn. We can't take him to a hospital like this," said Sam, shifting back a few steps to get a look at the back of his head. "Everyone and their second cousins would know about you guys by the end of the second shift."
"I've got stuff at home," offered Miles. "But do I have to let him inside?"
The combination of Sam and Miles proved to be enough to get a dazed Trent inside and his head into the kitchen sink, so that they could wash some of the blood off and get a look at the gash. Bumblebee stayed outside the house, peering through the front windows at the three boys.
"At least it doesn't look too bad," said Sam at last. "I think it just bled a lot."
"Ergh," said Miles. "I've got blood all over my hands. Trent's blood. That's worse than cooties. And I still don't see why I'm helping him after he's spent the past week and a half painting my mailbox every day."
"Your car is a giant robot," said Trent, voice starting to sound a little clearer.
"Uh, yeah," said Sam, resisting the urge to cringe. Trent hadn't ever gotten too violent with him, but there'd been other guys—usually other guys on the football team—who'd given him some pretty bad bruises and, in one memorable case, a streaming bloody nose.
Trent glanced in the direction of Miles' living room and jumped visibly at the yellow-and-metal face and bright turquoise eyes peering in at them. It made Sam feel a little better. At least he wasn't the one freaking out here. Plus, Trent was unlikely to try to kill him with his guardian around.
"That is freaking weird," said Miles fervently. "Even more so than having Trent in my house. Why the hell do you keep on changing the name on our mailbox, anyways?"
"Dare…?" said Trent, sounding a little doubtful. "It was either a dare or a lost bet."
"Oh, I'm glad to know that hours of my time wasted trying to get the paint back off again isn't even worth remembering why you're doing it—"
This time, both Sam and Miles turned to look at him in amazement.
"Ohhh," said Miles, with a sort of dawning realization. "I must be dreaming. Or hallucinating. I'm either asleep or there's been some sort of horrible accident in third period chemistry, and the fumes killing off my brain cells are supplying me with these weird stories—"
Bumblebee had an expression on his face Sam had come to associate with barely-stifled laughter. "I've sent the details of the attack to Optimus," he called out. Miles and Trent both jumped about a foot in the air, Miles letting out a startled shriek.
"You scream like a girl, Gillon," said Trent, possibly on automatic.
"Fuck you," said Miles, voice still nervously high-pitched. "Out of all the Mission City theories, I'd thought that someone would have it up somewhere. Never seen anything like this, though. Yeah, giant alien robots got mentioned lots, but nothing about them turning into cars. Or my best friend driving one. Oh God. I was in him. Why didn't you tell me this, Sam?"
"Well, it was classified…"
"This, like, breaks every single friendship rule we've ever had since we first met."
"You two are so—"
"—Gay?" cut in Sam, voice snapping with anger. "I'm sick of you, Trent, and I'm sure Bumblebee there would be happy to stick you on top of a lamppost for me or something…"
"What? Fuck, no. My uncle's gay. You two are stupid."
"Yeah, says the football jock only getting through high school because of hours of tutoring every week…"
"At least I'm working at it. You? You're stupid, and you can't play any sports, and you don't work hard to make up for any of it. I get hours of tutoring, yeah, but I've got a 3.6 GPA."
"Really?" said Sam, honest surprise tingeing his voice.
"Why are we listening to him, Sam?" asked Miles. "He's a jerk. A sexist jerk. Remember what happened with Mikaela? So he's not homophobic. So what? He's still an ass."
"It was a new car," said Trent, sounding somewhat defensive.
"Odds are Mikaela's a better driver than you are," put in Sam. "The car we practice in gives us feedback. Okay, we should probably get going. I don't know what Barricade was doing, attacking us here like this, but there's a meeting being called to talk it over. I guess you guys are involved in this, now… Trent, do you have any criminal record at all? A MySpace? A Facebook?"
"A parking ticket," said the jock numbly. "Two MySpace accounts."
"That means he probably knows who you are by now. I know you're going to want to just go home, but you need to come with us, okay?"
"We're not all going to fit into your car," said Miles.
"Bee's not 'my' anything," said Sam. "Someone's going to have to sit in the back. Fortunately, we're not going too far—it should be less than an hour to get there."
"Since when has that been 'not far?'" yelped Miles.
"Since the place we're going to needs to be big enough for a handful of giant robots to un-transform."
"Fine. As long as I don't end up in the back."
"I can't believe I ended up in the back," moaned Miles as he crawled out of the car. "It figures. Just because Trent's got more muscle than—Good lord."
"Trent, Miles, meet the Autobots."
There were a few murmured sounds behind them. Sam recognized it as Bumblebee transforming; Trent and Miles were still too boggled by the robots in front of them too pay much attention.
"Is Jazz okay?" said Bumblebee's scratchy voice from behind them.
"Ask him yourself," said Ratchet with a smug grin as a silver Pontiac Solstice pulled up and transformed.
"That is awesome," muttered Miles.
"Jazz!" said Bee happily, stepping forward and over the small cluster of humans to greet him.
"Hey," said Sam with a smile, looking up at the mech. "It's good to see you again."
"How are you doing?" asked Bumblebee, voice a little worried.
"I'm fine. You know me—I ain't gonna let being torn in half by crazy megalomaniacs keep me down for long. How you doin', Sam?"
"Decent. Jazz, these people here are Miles and Trent. Miles is my other best friend, and Trent's Mikaela's ex-boyfriend."
Bumblebee let out a brief burst of spoken Cybertronian that made all the Autobots smirk, except for Optimus, who tried to hide his smile. Sam guessed that what he had said hadn't been very complimentary.
"Miles, Trent, these are Jazz, Optimus Prime's second-in-command; Optimus is their leader, the red and blue one; that's Ratchet, their medic; Ironhide, their weapons specialist—"
His introductions were broken off by a brief warning from Optimus. "Put the cannons away, Ironhide."
"—and Bumblebee, who you already know."
"What do you mean, your other best friend?" said Miles, looking a little affronted.
"Sorry, but Bumblebee's my other one."
"Jesus," muttered Trent, head thrown back to fully look at the towering shapes around them.
There was a brief period of silence, although Sam had the vague sense that Ironhide and Ratchet were arguing about something over their comm. systems.
"I just called Mikaela," said Bumblebee finally. "She's taking her mother's car here, and should arrive soon."
"Oh! Mikaela! Crap! I can't believe I forgot something like that!"
"At least I never forgot her when she was my girlfriend."
"Shut up, Trent."
Bec needed groceries. The state of her pantry always seemed to catch her by surprise—But I just bought this milk! It can't have gone bad already. And I know I had fresh fruit just a few days ago—but at least having a car would make it easier to get her groceries back to the house. Her bicycle was great for getting around, but it certainly wasn't ideal for carting around bags of food or large loads of library books.
Still, the car had enough going on for it in the 'bad' section that the convenience of not needing to pedal her groceries up the four hills between here and town and then up her gravel driveway was entirely cancelled out, and then some.
First on the list of what was wrong with it? It was a Lamborghini. She hadn't really wanted a car at all, but if she had been forced to get one she had wanted something low-key and serviceable. This was about as far away from that as it was possible to get. Second problem: it was bright golden yellow. That… Basically spoke for itself. What was wrong with a nice, subtle beige? Brownish was a good color for cars. It didn't show the dirt that gravel roads inevitably kicked up. Even black would have been better. Dark blue, maybe. Red probably would have been just as bad, actually, but she supposed it could have been purple, God forbid, or pink. Or fuchsia. A bright-yellow Lamborghini was one thing, but a fuchsia Lamborghini was… unimaginable.
"Thank you, Dada, for not getting me a fuchsia Lamborghini," she muttered as she picked the car keys up from where he'd left them on the seats. For a minute she thought she heard the sound of an engine, but it faded before she could really make up her mind as to what it was. It had been faint to start with, anyways. She shrugged. It had probably just been a car going by on the highway.
Before she headed off down her driveway Bec spent a few minutes flipping through radio stations. The only station she could get was playing jazz music—she shrugged. She was a ways away from civilization, she supposed. If she had had her iPod on her—one of last year's birthday presents, a specially customized yellow one—she could have played that, but it wasn't worth going back inside for it. She went with the jazz. She didn't actually like jazz all that much, but she just didn't want to face the silence on her birthday.
The city center (for a given worth of 'city' and 'center') was surprisingly empty, even for a weekday. Bec decided not to speculate—it wasn't empty enough to suggest, say, an epidemic or an alien invasion, so it almost definitely wouldn't involve or interest her—and to take advantage of it by visiting the library before she went to the grocery store.
The library took up longer than she had expected—it always did—and after she got her groceries she took a wrong turn on her way out of town. It wouldn't have been a problem—the road would bring her back to the highway again—but it meant that she ended up passing a nursery she'd never seen before.
And that meant that she had to stop.
Three hours after that, she finally emerged with a flat of assorted seedlings, a new variegated sage to replace the one she'd lost to winter wet and, excitingly, a giant fennel. It was the perfect birthday present to herself—she'd been searching for one for over a year.
The car had driven like a dream , but Bec was finding herself having trouble with the door, all of a sudden. It had opened without a hitch, earlier, but now she was tugging at it—and pulling pretty hard, at that.
"Come on, open!" she growled. "I've got milk in there! It figures. This is just my luck. Maybe if I tried unlocking it again…?"
It didn't work.
Bec glared mutinously at the car, then started to sniffle, eyes getting damp. "Gee, thanks for the birthday present, Dada. It's just what I wanted."
She gave one last vicious tug at the handle, falling backwards when it actually opened. "Whoah!" she gasped from her half-sprawled position on the ground. "It was just sticking, I guess…" she said, doubtfully.
She loaded the plants onto the footwell of a spare seat—she'd have to track down a ratty old blanket to cover the seats with tomorrow, so she wouldn't risk the upholstery too much. She'd stick them in the trunk, but there were groceries back there, and library books, and it was one thing to get dirt on your car seats and another thing entirely to get dirt on library books.
The squishy had wanted to put pots full of vegetation and wet, dripping dirt inside of him. On his interior.
Sideswipe was the only reason the human wasn't still standing in the nursery parking lot, and he wasn't five hundred miles away from her and/or someplace he could shoot something. Preferably Decepticons.
So he'd gone along with it.
The girl who 'owned' him better not test her luck, though…
It was fully dark by the time Bec started her drive back home. It made her a little nervous—she didn't like driving at night.
The car behind her—the one that was tailgating her—wasn't helping matters. Speeding up so that she was a little over the speed limit—she tended to drive slowly at night—hadn't helped. Honking hadn't particularly helped, either.
"I can't take much more of this," she muttered, pulling over to the side of the road so the car behind her would just pass her already. Was wanting to be left alone to much to ask for?
The car that had been tailgating her sped up until it was far above the speed limit, shooting past her. The car behind it slowed down, though, and then stopped, parallel to her but in the middle of the road. Bec shivered. It had started to rain, even though it was technically summer, and by now it was pouring; through her fogged-up and rain-covered window the driver's seat had looked empty, the first time she'd glanced at it; a second look had revealed the driver, of course, a blank-faced man with brown hair and a matching moustache.
She was being silly. He probably just wanted directions, or something.
She scooted over until she was in the passenger's seat, rolling down the window, ignoring the rain that blew into her face as she did. At least it meant she didn't have to get out of the car in this rain. "Can I help you?" she called out.
The driver looked at her for a few seconds more, still with that same eerie expression. "No," he said flatly, before rolling up the window and driving away.
"Hmm. I'm going to be glad to get home, I can tell you that. It's the sort of evening that asks for hot cocoa and a bad movie."
Nobody replied, of course. But it was nice to have the sound of a voice talking nonetheless.
Sunstreaker only relaxed once the girl had pulled into her garage and gone into the house for the night. He hadn't expected to run into Decepticons so soon… Fortunately, it seemed that they hadn't detected him. Much as he hated to admit it, the girl had been useful when it came to that. They would have caught a hologram, no problem, even if he had been able to make one.
Of course, it would have been useless if he also didn't have a powerful damping system to disguise his energy signature. Still, the 'Con that had been tailgating them hadn't followed them, even after they drove past where it'd hidden itself along the road. It'd headed off in the opposite direction after they'd passed it, actually.
So it looked like he was safe for another day. They were safe for another day, because if he was recognized, odds were they'd double their search for Sides.
In the meantime, he wished he could wash himself off. The organic's road had turned to watery slop in the rain, and he was covered with it.
--End Chapter 1--