The Proper Etiquette

By Snare-chan

Pairings: Mentions of Trent/Mikaela, Sam/Mikaela
Ratings: T
Category(ies): Adventure/AU
Warning(s): Cussing, violence, spoilerish for the 2007 movie
Status: Continuation, 1/?
Summary: (2007 Movie Verse) What was supposed to be a testament to his final summer turned out to be a race back home for his life.

Notes: This started off as a gift to a friend of mine by the name of Jyuu. Now, Jyuu loves the Autobot known as Tracks, but I am far better versed in Beast Wars, the 2007/2009 movies, and Animated – none of which involve this character. So in a roundabout way I cheated, but, well, this story somehow got out of hand and turned into a far bigger project than I had intended. I guess that's what I get for trying to take an easier road. ;D

Though the story doesn't interfere with the plot of the first movie, my story does not coexist with anything that happens in the time before, during and after the second movie. So I'm putting 'alternate universe' on this.

Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers; wish I did like everybody else. They should put TF in stock, then I'd buy it all!


Prologue

Tranquility, Nevada

Trent DeMarco was going to go through with it. The timing was perfect; he knew there was no way such a chance would come up for him again. He'd been talking about it for months, actually putting forth the effort to plan it out, save up, and keep to his word.

It wasn't always easy. Though he had the confidence, the drive had waned once or twice – not that he was afraid or anything, but what he was proposing to do was quite the ambitious undertaking. However, there was nothing more he wanted in the world to do, and that gave him the extra boost he needed to hold out that much longer.

After he got back from tossing up his hat, letting out a chorus of whoops and gratified cheers of independence, and still wearing his graduation robes, it was all he could think about. Even now, while mingling and partying at his dad's house with the people he'd been hanging out with since sixth grade, it was all he could speak about, too.

"I still can't believe it," he heard for what must have been the millionth time, this instance thanks to one of his football buddies by the name of Kenneth. "Especially with that truck of yours."

The other's girlfriend, some brunette he could only recall by face and not name, whom he was hanging off of, was quick to chime in with, "Me neither; and all by yourself, too! That's some big plans you got going."

Shrugging, Trent smiled wider, quick to take hold of the attention and revel in it. This would probably be the last time he saw most, if not all, of his guests and ex-classmates for a very long time, if ever again, so he had some extra soaking up to do to make up for all that he was going to miss.

"What can I say? Big plans for a big guy."

The girl laughed sweetly, and was joined by some of her friends. Trent didn't know a single one of them by name, either, though he recognized a few others by appearances. One girl was from the cheerleading squad and another, he assumed, might have been from one of the sports clubs the high school hosted for supporting the different teams. The rest didn't ring a bell in the slightest.

"Are you talking about that same old thing again?" a curly blonde-haired chick – Number One, he mentally associated, since she was on the cheerleading squad – asked, smiling prettily. "If I didn't know you better, Mr. Star Quarterback, I'd say you're obsessed with this idea of yours!"

A second, curly blonde-haired chick – who he could not begin to place – added, "Yeah! If you love it so much, why don't you marry it, huh?"

Everyone stared at her blankly for a heartbeat, confused at her words and, more or less, dubbing her insane before returning to the topic at hand and dismissing her statement.

"Can you blame me? Nothing is going to compare to it, not with what I have planned."

He grabbed an untouched drink from a passerby, the guy he'd snatched it from giving him a surprised look before shrugging and going to get another one. No one thought any different of him for just taking what he wanted.

"Still, there's got to be an easier way to do it. Can't you, like…just fly or something? That would be so much faster than the long hours you've got planned. Might be way cheaper, too, what with these bogus gas prices."

Trent shrugged the other off. He had already considered all that, but came to the conclusion that it just wouldn't be the same, and he said as much.

"Dude, don't worry about it! I have it all covered, down to the very last detail. Money sure as hell isn't an issue; been saving up gift and side-job money for a while, and besides, my old man is a lawyer. He's loaded, remember? As a going-away present he gave me a credit card, for 'emergencies.'" A customary eye-roll was thrown in for the last part, everyone well aware that emergencies would have little to do with what such a thing would be used for.

"I believe you, Trent," the original girl said, a hand absently brushing her dark hair aside. "What I don't understand is what the huge deal is. There's nothing for you there, you know?"

He laughed, like it was the stupidest thing anyone could have said. In his mind, it was, because for him it had been obvious from the beginning. By now, he would have figured at least someone might have seen it his way, bearing in mind how much effort had been put into it and how much he had explained. Such children he was surrounded by! Ignoring her question for the moment, he turned to survey the party he had been throwing. It was in full swing at this hour, every popular kid worth their salt in attendance, some from schools outside his own.

"Babe, this is the last summer we've got before college, and I'm not about to waste it. So I'm going to turn this into the adventure of a lifetime and take control of my last chance at freedom!"

As he justified his goal, his voice became louder, countless eyes starting in his direction. Hopping up onto the nearest table, he held up his drink like some holy challis, his words ringing out.

A chorus had started, softly at first, before growing in volume, a single, unified chant ringing out as every party member yelled out: "ROAD TRIP!"


Chapter One

Space, 119 miles from Earth

In the dark, white letters appear in rapid succession, flashing across a black screen at a minimum speed of sixty-three milliseconds per sentence. Though none would realize it, such a sight has been occurring for precisely one year, four months, seven days, twelve hours, and twenty-three minutes. The current speed and extended length of the procedure suggests that only a machine could be capable of such an amazing feat, as further evidenced by the methodical way all the information is absorbed and stored away.

Nothing else could hope to catch even a glimpse of what is being accessed so purposefully, save another technological device of similar capabilities. Even then, no known computer could keep up with every single word with perfect accuracy, but perhaps it could do enough to at least catch any reoccurring themes in the accessed streams of data – Earth, humans, communication, Autobots. All of this and more comes and goes as different feeds are found and utilized.

Then suddenly, red is everywhere. What appear to be warnings pop up and take precedence over the monitor, the text from before dismissed by scales indicating raised temperatures, graphs breaking down power levels and odd, flashing symbols that spell out the dangers of what is happening. Every single one says the same thing upon review.

From the third planet of the inner Solar System, when the clock strikes 11:01 P.M eastern time, a shooting star can be seen blazing through the atmosphere.


New York City, New York

The first thing Trent noticed about the city was that it was loud. Very loud. This fact alone didn't surprise him; he had always expected that impression from what he'd read and seen of the place. But television and magazines didn't do the place any justice. Back home, when he had been looking into visiting, somewhere he'd seen a small blurb stating that Times Square was some seventy-plus decibels – but there was no way of telling how noisy that is until you experienced it in person. It was a good thing he didn't make it a habit to think, because it seemed impossible to do so, whether he wanted to or not.

That wasn't to say he wasn't glad to be there – the complete opposite was true. The commotion of everyday life spoke to him of action and countless comings and goings, making it impossible to get bored. Something new was introduced to him no matter where he moved. To put it simply, he was coming to enjoy the Big Apple.

After checking into his hotel, it was decided that some exploration was in order. Having been cooped up in a truck for forever, he was tired of the cramped space to the point of near self-induced claustrophobia. As an athlete, he thrived on activity, and the opportunity to stretch was a welcome relief. Not knowing, nor caring, where he was going, he took off in a single direction and went with it. There was a lot of time to kill, which left him more than ample room to sightsee, from enjoying a hotdog from one of the street vendors to checking out close to every landmark in walking distance.

But that was earlier during the daylight hours. As the sun went down and the night lights went up, the hours of real fun were about to begin. There was a friend of his that had moved here last year after his own graduation that he remained in contact with and who had volunteered to be his personal club-hopping tour guide when he arrived. Being nineteen now, it would be a snap to get into even the best NYC had to offer, though he couldn't drink…technically. His fake identification said otherwise.

A glance at his wristwatch warned that he didn't have much time left before his acquaintance would arrive. That didn't stop him from making a last appearance check, dashing in front of the vanity to adjust his shirt sleeves and collar. For his first night on the town he had donned his lucky blue dress shirt, knowing for a fact that it brought out his eyes. His mother had told him so. Expertly sliding a hand through his hair, he flashed his reflection a white-toothed smile.

Oh yeah, he was the incarnate of perfection.

His look approved, he grabbed hold of his wallet and room key and left to head down to the lobby via elevator. Such a trip was uneventful, and for the most part he was by himself for it, save the two men who got on after him around the fifth floor. Trent towered over the both of them, his final growth spurt having granted him the ability to look down on a lot of people. From the looks of them, they must have been some kind of business men, their clothes black-and-white suits.

"So, you heading to some high-residence party?" he spoke bluntly, mindset already in the mingling mood and hands stuffed casually into his pockets.

The guy to his right flipped up his sunglasses, giving him a surveying look, before offering him a grin – if you even wanted to call it that. Trent saw right through such a façade, recognizing it for what it was really worth. That kind of shit-eating grin that CEOs or lawyers or snakes would give if they had the capability; know-it-alls in superior positions gave such an expression when they wished to humor those they thought below them. He got that kind of expression a lot and knew how to throw it right back in return.

"Sure kid; you could say that."

"Kid?" he laughed. "Man, I'm old enough to die for this country. That doesn't make me a kid anymore."

"Heh, yeah. Right."

Frowning, by the time he had determined whether that was sarcasm or not, there came a ding announcing their arrival to the street-level floor. The three occupants exited without further comment, two going straight for the revolving doors and he towards the front desk. Another guy was waiting there already, and at the sight of him the guy cheered, waving at him.

"Trent, buddy!"

Coming closer, he reached out and tapped the other's knuckles with his own in greeting.

"Michael; long time no see! How's the college league treating you?"

"Brutally," the other said good-naturedly. "And I can see that you're still soft from high school."

As soon as he said that, he put Trent into a mock headlock, swinging him low and giving him a noogie right there in public.

"Hey! Not the hair!"

"You've got enough gel in there to protect it from a jackhammer. I don't think mussing is a problem." Despite his words, he did relent, lowering his arm to leave it around the other's shoulders instead. "So where's that sweet ride of yours you've been telling me about, huh? I've been dying to see it!"

"And you'll die at the sight of it, too," Trent stated confidently, leading the way.

He had paid extra to have an underground parking space, not wanting to risk his pride and joy getting broken into, stolen, or rammed by some crazy taxi driver. Having heard all the horror stories of such instances, he had brought it upon himself to ensure that nothing would be left to chance. Too much money, effort, and begging had gone into this to test the streets of New York.

Parked nearest to the door, the vehicle glowed with a light of its own, and when he bestowed it before Michael's eyes, they opened to about twice their size, an appreciative whistle given out and drool practically dripping at both corners of his mouth. It was just the reaction he was going for, taking into account his blue Hummer H3, with its glimmering 42's, which were showing off even in the dim lighting of the garage. The leather interior looked gorgeous as well, appearing as new as the day he had bought it.

"Holy shit."

"Did I tell you or did I tell you?" Trent took the chance to gloat, a smirk accompanying his smug expression.

"Dude, this is better than you described it to me!" Sidling up next to it, his friend felt along its frame and looked tempted to hug the exterior. "Oh yeah. What did you call this baby? Stacy? Laurie? Come on; tell me you named this piece of heaven Laurie."

"Try Carol."

"Carol…ah, what a glorious name."

Michael reached for the driver's side door, but Trent pushed it firmly closed, going so far as to lean against it to make his point.

"No way, man. My car, my skills."

"Alright, alright, it's cool," Michael sighed, raising both hands up in surrender, trying to placate him. "I'll be a backseat driver and tell you where to go from here, then."

Rolling his eyes, he responded with, "I think that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Where are we going to, anyway?"

Entering the vehicle, Michael went on to say that they weren't going to one, but several clubs and bars. Making a name for himself here had given him free access to a load of big-name locations and entrance to even larger secluded or selective joints. There were a few within walking distance and they had both planned on hitting them up soon, but getting familiar with the area had taught his friend that it was more beneficial to drive out to the farthest point – if not to beat some of the centered locals to getting inside first, then to get them out of the way so when you were so drunk you couldn't keep on the road you could resort to your feet.

"You're going to love this place, let me tell you! It takes over an entire building, so the party spans all the floors, and each of them are themed. It's so well-known, reservations are a must, but since I knew you were coming I already booked us in," Trent was informed. "Oh, and take a right here. We'll want to cut across town."

"How'd you even hear about this place? If you ask me, it sounds out of your way."

Shrugging, Michael started fiddling with the radio, to the younger jock's chagrin, before deigning to comment, "You're popular, so you know how it goes. When you're invited somewhere respectable like that, you don't say no! Especially not when the girl requesting your presence is the mayor's daughter."

"Pfft, you dog."

"Don't I know it!"

Stopping on some rock channel, the music carried on for a while, blaring and screaming out of his massive speakers to shake the windows. In unison, they bobbed their heads to the tune, then together bemoaned as it ended to cut right into a news reel. Convinced there had to be something else on that rivaled a monotone voice listing off the week's events, Trent reached to switch to another channel.

"Now hold on, that one sounds interesting," the other started.

Pausing, Trent let his hand linger close to the dial, absorbing what was being said.

"And in light of today being the anniversary of the attack on Mission City, further investigations have been brought against the United States government concerning-"

"Oh please, not this bullshit again!" he snapped, already predicting what was going to be said and swiftly changing stations to something hip-hop orientated.

"I was trying to listen to that! That weird invasion went down near where you live, didn't it? You'd think it would have more interest for you. Also, turn left at the next light."

"It's exactly for that reason I want nothing to do with that sort of stuff! All I've heard is 'giant alien robots' this and 'computer experiments gone wrong' that. For over a year people have been flocking my town with crazy stories. This left?"

"Yeah, then take the road to the very end. And are you trying to tell me that you don't believe any of that happened? Mission City was toasted! Not to mention there are those reports from the Middle East."

"Yeah, I'm saying it isn't real. If you ask me, there's not enough proof. That stuff in Mission looked staged; probably some Hollywood movie production under tight wraps, or maybe it was just a publicity stunt. As for those photos from – oh, was I supposed to turn there? – Qatar are so grainy the blobs in them could be anything."

Michael made a sound of disbelief, motioning him to the left. "Nah, you can take that turn coming up, though. We're almost there. But just consider the evidence! Something must have happened. I'm a reasonable guy myself, but I can't ignore the possibility that something that could blow my mind is waiting out there."

"You've been watching too much Cloverfield," Trent remarked, trying to deviate from the subject.

"First of all, I've only seen that movie seven times, and secondly, iRobot would give me better conspiracy material."

Growing testier, he tossed back with, "Stop being such a dork and talk about sports; you're hurting your image."

"Okay, I'll drop, but I'm still convinced we're not alone on this planet. Take this side street here, it'll lead you behind the building where there's parking."

Following the other's instructions, he passed by a bunch of cars docked to the side. The place was cramped by regular standards, but his H3 was able to squeeze past. He also took in the line as they drove past the entrance – which didn't exist. People could judge a place by the length of those, and the smaller a line was, the swankier, more expensive the place was.

"You noticed that too, huh?" his friend chuckled. "We're still early. It doesn't open until around past midnight unless you're a golden card member, and this place is pure invite. At least one person per group has to join, and it so happens that I have. Well, and you need to be twenty-one, but I trust that won't be an issue?"

"Not in the slightest. I got it covered."

"Yeah, I figured as much."

The parking space out back was secluded and surrounded by buildings on every side. It was deceptive though, it being a multi-level parking garage, so there was no lack of space. It was also heavily protected with barbed wire fencing and a check-in booth with an actual person. Michael flashed a shiny bit of plastic at the guy that got them in and a ticket that designated their parking spot; number seventeen on the second floor.

"You ready for round one?"

"Heh, I was born ready."

"Then let's get this party started, shall we? The night isn't getting any younger!"

Making their way to the front, there was a bit of a line by the time they got there, but it consisted of three groups. A wave of golden cards and I.D.s had them being ushered inside, and when it was their turn, the same swift process was done, save for a single, miniscule detail… His driver's license wasn't on him. Er…his real card was, but his fake copy had been forgotten back in the car, or so he hoped as he found all his pockets empty and his wallet just as lacking.

"No identification, no entrance," boomed Mr. Guard, the bouncer appearing more and more like a hitman than a doorman. His hands were even flexing, forming fists that had his leather gloves creaking.

"I must have left it behind by mistake. I'll go and get it, so hold on a second."

Apologizing to the both of them, he about-faced and jogged back to his vehicle, showing the access ticket in passing so as to re-enter. At least it was a comfort to return and see his ride in the same condition as he'd left it. Unlocking it remotely, he wrenched open the door and searched from top to bottom, stumbling across it on the floor by the pedals. Victorious, he restored the interior to how he'd found it and locked it with the intent of heading back to the club.

That was, until his ears picked up a sound that gave him pause. Whatever it was, the noise was gaining in volume, indicating that the source was coming closer. Yet, when he inclined his head to inspect the area, there was nothing out of the ordinary to be spotted. There had to be though…Trent was picking up a high-pitched whistle from…up above?

No, it was more like a freight train.

A bright freight train on fire, he discovered, as something bright white and orange came crashing through the ceiling. There was so much force behind the impact it sent his two-hundred-pound muscle-bound self flying off his feet and over the edge of the lot, metal debris, cement and other materials joining his descent. There came some screaming from him, too, but over the noise of everything else that was happening none could have picked up on it.

After that, he awoke blurry and sluggish at best, due to what had to have been multiple factors playing harshly against him. Disorientated, he tried focusing on one thing at a time, none of it making any sense. His five senses were going haywire – the smell of burnt things permeated the air, he felt energized and numb at the same time, a ringing in his ears was accompanied by cracking, his mouth tasted of copper…and strangest of all, he couldn't see the ground.

Lips twitching into a frown, he strained to sit up and found such a task impossible. Wherever he put his hands, the earth would unexpectedly move away from him. An intense staring contest revealed the reasoning behind that to be because he was sitting on a mound of trash. A couple of bags seemed to have exploded with his extra weight, covering him in leftovers and unmentionables he would later appreciate not remembering. He still didn't have enough sense about him to know that that refuse had more than likely saved his life.

Giving the task of checking out his surroundings one more try, another staring competition revealed that the ground wasn't necessarily missing, but in fact, it was a crater sitting there several feet in front of him.

A crater that had a giant hand coming out of it. Claw-like fingers grappled with the edges of its containment, and then a thick appendage looped over to rest horizontally from it. A silver body was crawling its way out of the hole, another arm seeking purchase and then…two glowing, blue orbs like eyes peeked at him. The newcomer appeared equally surprised to see him as he was to see it, the creature losing its grip before righting itself.

Trent could only lay there and watch in an absentminded sort of horror as some… bizarre creature pulled itself closer to his prone form. Not a creature, he realized, but…a machine! There was no other way to interpret the frayed wires sticking out at various angles or the metallic creaking that was made as it shifted. A robot, he corrected himself again.

So they do exist…

Successfully making its way out of the sizzling, gaping hole, its fully-revealed form looked as banged up as he felt. Black scorch marks blemished some parts of it, and sparks would go flying from a joint. At its total height – a judgment he had to greatly estimate, since he was flat on his back – it must have reached a good sixteen feet. What made him nervous, despite all that, was the mere fact that it was purposely coming towards him. In his poor state there were the predictable amounts of apprehension and fear, but also anger. He might be ten seconds away from dying and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it – not even scream; his mouth wasn't working enough for such a task.

Gazing into those shining bulbs, he saw his life flashing in front of him. But not like how it had been described to him in the past. The experience was out of his mind and beyond the body, a phrase summing up his ambitions, desires, truths, and life into a single, understandable thought: I'm not ready to fucking die today. Simple, sweet, and to the point, it wasn't so much a summary of his existence as it was proof that he still had so much to do and no more time to do it in. Never mind his brain wasn't in the condition to remember all the loves lost, the parties left unattended, and that football scholarship he was never going to get to use.

He also really, really, really wanted his mom.

The bipedal machine from space, or government malfunction, or whatever it was, approached and leaned down to peer at him, seeming…fascinated was the closest word. Not that he could say for sure, because as far as body language or facial expressions were concerned, there was no such thing, accounting for the fact that it wasn't human.

It blinked. For his already overloaded mind, comprehension was slow in coming. Like the shutter on a camera, contraptions like windshield wipers flashed across its eyes, bringing to light tiny gears and other moving parts inside that contracted and twisted like an iris. There wasn't much else to do but blink back.

A pitched whine filtered through the air, rapidly attracting their attention away from their unexpected meeting. Initially, Trent presumed it was a result of the monster moving around, but some consideration had him rethinking that theory. It hadn't been doing that a moment prior and the sound echoed off the surrounding buildings to carry down. That noise reminded him a lot of a bridge starting to fall over…or a parking garage about to collapse because the steel beams are bending due to the strain of supporting weight that was no longer evenly distributed.

By the pitching and swaying the structure was doing, his second guess was right. In a way, it reminded him of the hula.

Alarmed, the robot twisted to be able to behold the sight, the swift decision to flee enacted as it chose at that very moment to nab Trent around the middle and make a mad scramble out of there. His stomach roiled and threatened to spill its contents at being forced to watch land move away so abruptly and from having his weight redistributed to his feet; not that he was about to tell the tin can that he was going cross-eyed and close to blowing chunks in fear of being dropped. From this height, his body wouldn't thank either of them for such treatment.

To his knowledge, the robot was scaling the wall, its sharp fingers digging into the brick as its legs propelled them upwards. Conceivably, it could have ran for the alley where Trent had come in if it weren't for the fact that path was on the opposite side of their current location and there was no time to spare for a marathon of that magnitude.

Halfway to the roof, the structure made a dramatic change for the worst by swaying straight in their direction. The machine lingered long enough to glance over its shoulder calculatingly, clutching him protectively close, and then it let go of its perch, pushing away from the wall to leap towards – what Trent was convinced was – their inevitable demise. With its free hand it took hold of a beam sticking out of the crumbling building and achieved enough momentum to swing them over to second protruding object, and then a final pivot brought them to the top.

Maintaining its descent, the garage forced the robot to continue making a run for it. They were dead even, each step the alien took was one big roll for the building. When it hit the club and broke up into pieces, at the last second the robot somersaulted into the air, rolled across the roof of a nearby building and landed in a crouch.

Despite witnessing that spectacular scene up close and personal, Trent could not comprehend that it had happened.

Not stopping there, but at a far less desperate pace, it crossed to the end of the building with the intent of getting to the steady streets below. In the distance, he could ascertain some crashing and screaming back from where they'd come, and smoke was starting to billow overhead. A fire must have started somewhere.

Such observations blended into the background or were stuffed aside in his subconscious in face of the pressing matter of being handled by the creation that continued to lug him around. Surprisingly gentle for a machine comprised of stiff, metal parts, it laid him out on the sidewalk, the mindful claws still nicking his clothes. He hacked and coughed, already sensing the added bruises to his body that would be showing up come tomorrow - if he survived to see tomorrow.

"N'ayez pas peur, je ne vous ferez pas mal." (1)

Was it his imagination, or was it talking to him? Babble akin to words was coming from it, though it was difficult to tell. Its voice was kind of high pitched and electric, like those droning voices that a computer could be programmed to spit out, precise and limited. There wasn't a single bit of it he recognized. His grasp of the English language was measured and in high school he'd taken two years of Spanish, during which he had earned a D in both cases.

"Tout ira bien, petit terrien. Reposez-vous." (2)

Yeah, okay, blah, blah, blaaaah…he opened his mouth to inform it that he didn't understand a thing that was coming out of its…God, he didn't know what. Speakers? Mouth? Regardless of where it was coming from, he hadn't a clue what it wanted to do or what it was telling him. Turned out he wasn't any easier to comprehend, blood gushing past his lips as he tried to talk and garbling his own speech.

Sirens could be picked up joining the entire ruckus continuing on in the city, fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars finally making it to the scene. Catching on to the arrival of their approaching company, the monster moved out of the field of his vision. There came a white flash, his eyes wincing closed at the strain and refusing to re-open, and the rev of a six-hundred-eighty horsepower engine drowning out the rest of the world.

And after that, he wasn't awake to hear anything else.


To Be Continued…

Translations: (1) "Do not fear, I shall not harm you." (2) "Everything will be all right, little Earth creature. Rest now."

Credits: Thanks to Jyuu for inspiring and humoring me on this project, as well as being my personal Tracks judge. To my dedicated, long time beta reader of six plus years, Cassandra Cassidy, for tolerating my springing this monster on her and taking the time out of her busy schedule to go over every word and characterization of movie verse aspects. Big, huge, mega props to Nri for doing English to French translations for this.