The Proper Etiquette
Pairings: Mentions of Trent/Mikaela, Sam/Mikaela
Warning(s): Cussing, violence, spoilerish for the 2007 movie
Status: Continuation, 5/?
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: Been awhile, hasn't it? I've had this chapter sitting in my documents folder, gazing at me whenever I ventured into it, much like a homeless kitten would through a bedroom window during a rainy night in fall. For the longest, most ridiculous time it was stuck at ten pages, with me unable to figure out how to finish this section and move on.
I'm pleased that I was able to finally gather the time to jot down what was needed, and I hope the extensive wait was worth it! Thank you for your tolerance, everyone, as I gradually make my way through this story. I continue to appreciate all the comments!
I went back and edited some inconsistencies with the formatting, because apparently I couldn't make up my mind on how I wanted to organize things and I missed the fact I had tried different methods. I have also added violence to the warnings, something I thought I'd done already, and I just want everyone to be aware of it in case it wasn't clear already that there's going to be some beat downs. Nothing in the previous chapters have been changed as far as plot is concerned, so please do not feel you must go back and re-read anything! I apologize if these two instances have caused readers problems, and hopefully it clears up any confusion.
Disclaimer: I don't own Transformers; wish I did like everybody else. They should put TF in stock, then I'd buy it all!
Chapter Five –
Leaving the state of Illinois
It was sprinkling out. At the beginning of the storm it had showered, the rain coming down too hard to see. Like a picture of an old-fashioned curtain, the water had poured in sheets. Back then, which was maybe around thirty-forty minutes ago, Trent had understood pulling over. If he'd been in control of the vehicle, he wouldn't have taken the risk, but when the clouds were spitting at the ground, he'd have charged onward like a trooper. He wasn't afraid of getting wet.
Tracks, on the other hand, abhorred the rain. The car hated it to a degree that Trent hadn't realized a living being or metal invader could, the blue car complaining nonstop about the different reasons precipitation was a hindrance, an annoyance and an altogether awful, horrible, despicable thing to put up with. Something about acid content and cold temperatures and he didn't know what anymore, because he'd stopped listening.
He rested his arm along the protrusion of door under the window that sometimes served as an armrest and squished his face against the glass, eyes practically rolling back in his skull as he wondered how hard he could slam his head against it and knock himself out to spare himself from the other's stream of reasoning – preferably without causing permanent trauma. Trent's other hand habitually rested on the gear shift, not that he could have used it to encourage the other to get going, since it was always the one in such a hurry; of course, in the one instance Trent was prepared to get going, Tracks had no interest in budging.
Irony could suck it.
"How can you creatures stand such conditions?" Tracks said for what must have been the one-hundredth and second time that day, in a mixture of awe and utter repugnance. "How often does this occur? Is it common in your region? I was unable to access weather reports in the time I was allotted to do so, thus I'm unsure."
"I guess not. I mean, sort of. Not really."
"…Is that a no?" the corvette asked.
Trent had lost interest in talking, and was making it clear. Not that he had ever been interested, but he was never good at feigning how he felt or what he was thinking. He reminded himself of those little tree frogs he loved at the zoo; the ones that pimped themselves out with bright colors to give predators a warning – Do Not Eat Me, Or You"ll Die Of Poisoning! Those ones. Like them, his body language was a good indication for people to either cater to his whims or get out of his way. Right now, Trent was silently requesting the other to shut its proverbial trap, since outright snapping at it was a risk he wasn't willing to take. Not just yet.
To his relief, Tracks, while not going quiet, took the path of least resistance and changed topics. The radio swished a bit, kind of like someone clearing their throat, and accompanied the soft pitter-patter of water hitting the pavement in front and in back of them. They had taken refuge beneath an underpass and rested on the side of the road, closer to the grass. No one had passed them for miles, meaning the vehicle's whining had been their only source of noise.
"Would it be far too forward of me to ask you something?"
Such a dumb question tempted Trent to retaliate by pointing out that the other owed him a new truck, had essentially kidnapped him, and was forcefully dragging him across the country, so what was a little interrogation? He quelled it before he could contemplate how to add the necessary, biting sarcasm to make it work.
Instead, he said, "Shoot."
"It means you can go ahead and ask me."
"Ah, I see. It's about this phenomenon your people call 'music'. I was curious whether you could detail its purpose to me."
Trent perked up with interest. No matter how old someone got, or how the times changed, or wherever someone went, there was a pretty common factor that everyone could relate to, and that was music. He didn't know what the world thought, but in the one culture he did know, young adults and US citizens specifically, this was a topic he could endlessly discuss.
His mom had told him all the stories about what kinds of classical tunes she'd played when he was a baby, her parenting books detailing how a child listening to it at an early age would become smarter. Once he was old enough to figure out his own tastes, he'd gone and changed them to accommodate what was 'in' and what wasn't.
"Well, you see…," he hesitated, at first having been excited to let loose, but unsure where to start. Music was such common knowledge that to outline it to an individual who had little, or no experience with it whatsoever, was hard for him to detail.
"I'm no expert on why or how the whole…tradition started, but it's usually described as a way to express ourselves. Like painting or…uh, other expressive stuff."
The robot obviously didn't.
"I'd be able to explain it better if I had an example to work with", Trent scowled. "But my mp3 player isn't with me; probably toasted or lost by now."
"Oh! I may be able to help with that," Tracks said. The radio lit up more than before and buttons pushed themselves. Numbers ranging one to one-million flashed at random, before settling in the thousands. Then, classical music came out of all the speakers, a full orchestral piece with a harp in it and everything.
"How about this?"
"…Let's see what else you got," Trent ventured after a beat, the song already putting him halfway to sleep, and without the other's permission he fiddled with the controls until he happened upon a song he recognized. The Black Eyed Peas' My Humps blared through the interior of the car, rattling the windows and causing Trent to bob his head.
"Now that's what I call good music!"
"Why is that?" Tracks asked, toning it down to be heard over the singing. "I much prefer that previous piece to this."
"Don't you worry, you're new to this. I'll train you in the way of the non-tone deaf and have you recognizing the difference between rap and crap in no time. This particular song is amazing because…"
The rain was forgotten, and when it had ceased completely – the only indication of its presence the light gray clouds lingering overhead – neither of the two occupants on the road cared to take notice.
Close to Dighton, Kansas
Munching on some off-brand potato chips and Doritos, Trent mixed and matched the different types by forming tiny sandwiches with them. He enjoyed playing with his food, having never been broken of the habit, and in this particular instance, he was layering the different kinds. Doing so vastly improved their flavor, and got rid of the nasty aftertaste his medication left behind.
Tracks had finished taking a break to recharge his battery or soak up some sun juice – whatever it is alien robots did to get pumped up again when they were being too persnickety about what kind of fuel they would or would not ingest. They were making good progress still, since they'd been burning rubber ever since.
In a way, it was pleasant to be able to just sit back and let someone else handle the work of traveling. When Trent had done it by himself, he'd concentrated strictly on the road or finding specific stops to make, but this way allowed him to enjoy the scenery and take in the nearby sights with ease. It still felt weird, especially since he remained in the driver's seat and instinct told him his foot should be on that escalator or have at least one hand on the wheel, but it felt weirder to leave them there and feel the machine moving without his instruction.
So he feigned it, keeping his hands in his lap or occupied with food, and refrained from falling asleep to give away their cover. The windows had to remain un-tinted to allow more sunlight inside, Tracks taking every effort to gather as much as possible and limit what actions he took. It was finding that resting at night kept them on a similar schedule and used less energy.
On some backwater, country road made of dirt and other Earth-ground things that made Tracks take it slow (not wanting to ding his exterior or scratch his paint), they'd make it to Nevada in three years.
"I don't see why you're maintaining five miles per hour. You took bullets and came out unscratched; in fact, for as busted as you claim to be, you're pretty new looking," Trent said, finishing off his junk food.
"It's internal damage," Tracks quipped, and if he'd had a nose to stick up in the air, the robot surely would have. "Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir!" (1)
He didn't get to finish his thought, which worked in his favor, because he didn't have a comeback ready for a comment made in French, not knowing what the other had said. Police alarms had sounded back a ways and to the right side of the road, a black and white careened out of nowhere – kicking up grass and clods of soil as it barreled after them.
"Are you kidding me? What does that guy think he can ticket us for?" the jock groaned. This was bad, and thought on top of that – if those secret agents were still on his tail, having a cop write them up could get him dragged to jail. Trent refused to serve time in the slammer – he'd heard too many stories about what went on in there to risk getting sent.
"Fuck, seriously, where did this yahoo even come from?" Trent continued to grouse, and tried to correct his rumpled appearance to zero success. A hobo driving a sports car would be a little suspicious, he figured, but his clothes were wrinkled beyond his means of righting them and his smell couldn't be helped. Of all the cars to kidnap him, he had to be in the one without a single air freshener. He buckled his seat belt, hoping it'd lessen the reasons for him to get busted.
"Just take it easy and let me do the talk-"
Without preamble, Tracks was zooming off like his trunk was on fire. Grit flew out from under his tires before the treads caught on the loose road, and a cloud of dust surrounded them in a shroud before the car outshot it, the cloud now trailing behind them.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! What do you think you're doing? Avoiding the law is a stupid move!"
"That is no officer of any human law as you know it," Tracks said, and though Trent didn't believe it, he swore there was a thread of panic in the vehicle's voice. "Hang on!"
Trent's protests were interrupted as the other pulled an evasive maneuver, narrowly avoiding the police car as it shot out of the cover of dirt and tried to ram them. Trent had no alternative but to do as ordered, hands gripping the diagonal strap of the seat belt in a steely grip. It was the sole thing keeping him from becoming a smear inside the car as the corvette dove away from their pursuer. At one point, the two cars were side-by-side, and Trent looked over to see the person-less inside of the adjacent vehicle. His own fear mounted.
"Not another one of you guys…" he whimpered, considering the fact he had yet to get accustomed to the one.
Tracks swerved and the momentum carried them so far that for a couple minutes the blue corvette was going backwards, its front bumper facing the other car's, until it glided into a righted position to the side of the road and kept going. The move didn't throw their chaser off in the slightest, not keeping it from aiming to either force them off the road, slam into them or both.
"Putain de merde! (2)" Tracks gritted, the tone uncharacteristic to how the other normally sounded, and it gave Trent the feeling it was a colorful curse. If they survived the encounter, he might just ask what that phrase meant – he might not care much for an entire language, but learning how to insult someone anywhere had its merits. Who knew if someday he might need it?
"Ah, pardon the slip with my tongue back there. Also, this is going to hurt."
That warning – if it could be called that, since Trent was unsure if it was directed at him or at itself, soon became clear, because the driver's side door opened and his restraint retracted, allowing him to be flung out. He had a split second to tuck and roll, hands covering his head for protection and the grass marginally (very marginally) stopped his tumble. A rock or piece of discarded glass cut into the length of one arm, but he didn't even notice. He landed flat on his back, facing the road, and just in time to see the most bizarre sight he'd seen to date (or maybe the second, or the third, or…the sight was weird, definitely in his top ten).
Tracks…changed, for lack of a descriptive way of putting it, blue paneling peeling back to reveal wiring and metal components that shifted in unpredictable ways. A torso became apparent, then arms and legs sprouted, and lastly, a head, whose face was so black that he could only make out the eyes, their brightness making them stand out.
Oh, and guns. All over its body. Tracks was packing.
The corvette, which no longer resembled one at all, got off two shots from a shoulder mounted cannon. The police car evaded both attacks and leapt, transforming in midair and tackling the other straight to the ground. The fight escalated at an alarming rate, Trent unable to follow half of it, even when the giant robots started arguing, since they were talking in techno. For awhile, he wasn't aware they were talking, the beeps, screeches and vibrations mixed in with the sounds of combat.
The Evil Robot, as Trent dubbed it, who had hunted them, looked to be winning. It was ripping the blue sports car apart with long, silver claws whose size almost reached Trent's height in length. Parts went flying as it swiped and took a chunk out of Tracks' side, causing a shower of sparks to erupt. His ride attempted to retaliate with a set of his own; molten red nails sprouted from both its hands and raked across the police car's face in the perfect execution of a bitch slap.
Deciding that lying around while this was happening was a bad idea, Trent forced himself up and limped closer to the line of trees; the same direction the battle eventually went in, but his only other option was a ditch. He'd take his chances with the forest. His body slumped against a tree just as Tracks was bodily thrown against the tree line, leaving a deep trail in its wake.
Tracks wasn't getting back up.
A foot slammed down on its midsection, ensuring that it stayed in place. The Evil Robot's hand morphed into some kind of ball of death, oddly shaped spikes and pointy, sharp protrusions sprouting. The weapon was attached to a chain as the police car pulled it free and swung it above its head in a threatening circle. It said something to Tracks, demanding and cruel, to which the corvette coolly informed it of something that had the mustang's posture imply un-amusement.
While they were fighting, Trent climbed a tree. This tree was of average height, about sixteen-some feet and matched the two struggling robots. An effort that wouldn't have taken his younger self more than a couple minutes to attempt took him the entirety of the battle up to this time to complete, body sagging against the branches once he'd reached a certain point.
And then he dared to be stupid.
"Hey, pig," Trent shouted, the action causing his chest to constrict, but his painkillers were holding and the adrenalin coursing through his body allowed him to forget about the pain for a solid minute. He braced his feet on the branch he stood on and pulled on another, leaning back and using gravity to his advantage.
The police car, to its credit, wasn't that deterred. It remained firmly in place, tool poised to strike, and two of its four red eyes shifted in his direction. Too late it realized his intentions, as Trent let his handle on the tree branch go as soon as he'd finished with his taunt. The wood struck the same side of its head that Tracks had struck earlier, and the force applied this time shattered both the wood and the entire side of the other's face.
It cried out in a mix of fury and pain, the leeway the distraction provided giving Tracks the chance to shoot the enemy in the midsection and send them stumbling back into a tree. Tracks got up and grabbed the spiky ball and threw it, the chain wrapping around the police car and the tree, with the pointy end embedding itself into the bark near the enemy's head, effectively trapping it. Struggling, the mustang was reduced to growling and half-mangled, death-threat sounding, metallic cries. Tracks ignored the tantrum, instead straightening as best it could (one hand clutching its side) and walking over to Trent, who was stuck. When he'd let the branch fly he'd tumbled and gotten wedged between some branches and their leaves.
"Where are you hurt?" Tracks demanded, intelligent enough to forgo the redundant question of whether or not he was injured. After a stunt like that, of course he was beaten up a tad. It retracted its claws and gingerly removed him from the tree.
"I'm cool, I'm fine," he replied automatically, to the contrary. "Never felt better."
"Then remain here, I'm going to scout around and make sure our guest came alone."
"As if I would require back up destroying a meek warrior such as you," the police car spat, speaking for the first time in English. Understanding what it had to say wasn't a comfort; no matter what it said, since its tone remained a constant promise of pain. Gone was its semblance of composure, instead replaced with unbridled rage.
Trent stared between the two, eyes lingering longer on the still struggling monstrosity tied up to a tree.
"You're not leaving me here alone with that thing, are you?"
"Yes. I won't be longer than a moment."
"You're wasting your time, Autobot."
Tracks continued to ignore the Evil Robot, pretending not to hear or see him, and set Trent on his feet.
"Stay," he said, and then was gone, not leaving Trent time to remark that he wasn't some dog to command. Furthermore, how a giant machine could blend in with the plants was beyond his understanding, and it happened so fast that he wasn't able to examine the process.
Gulping, he looked over to the seething police car, whose four red eyes were concentrating on him; like how a scientist might view a specimen they were considering dissecting. He didn't much like that look.
"So," Trent said, not finishing the thought since it hadn't been a complete one to begin with.
The thing had no reserves about giving a clear reply, hacking what seemed to be a robo-lugie at him. Trent dodged it, the liquid mess landing somewhere behind him, out of sight. He could hear the hiss of something sinking into the grass and dissolving whatever it touched.
"Don't think you have the right to speak to me, waste!" it snarled at him.
"Aww, pissed about the shiner I gave you, huh? Don't worry, I bet the ding can be welded out," he said, terrified from his hair to his toes, but bullying came second nature to him. "I'm sure no one will notice the whole missing-half-your-ugly-mug thing."
The tree the mustang was trapped against started to bend dangerously, a couple cracking sounds making Trent jump and scramble back. It held.
"Laugh while you are still able, boy, because once the Decepticons gather, there will be no hope for you left! Extermination is in your near future."
"If the rest of your buds fight as shitty as you do, I think me and Tracks could take you all on ourselves."
"Hah! You're foolish enough to think the Autobots care about what you flesh creatures think? It's a wonder your species has reached the top of the food chain with such a poor sense of self-preservation."
"I'm plenty smart – and definitely smart enough not to believe anything you have to say."
The car laughed then, a deep, dark cackle that caused the skin along his arms and the back of his neck to crawl. A sound like that was better suited to a horror movie or video game than real life.
"And that's why you'll be defeated. Even if we lose to the Autobots, there's no hope for you. What use do we superior creations have for you? I'm positive that once Tracks has achieved what he needs from you, you'll have little to worry about save for keeping alive."
He wanted to argue that the other was wrong and a liar, to yell until his lungs gave out. The Evil Robot had tried to beat the carburetor out of Tracks, why should he believe him?
Because he'd doubted the corvette's sincerity, and hearing his deepest worries brought to light revitalized his hesitation and distrust.
"Let me give you some helpful advice," the police car droned on. "Get out, before Tracks' CPU catches up with his foolish notions of charity. You don't deserve to be with one of us. You might carry on to see the full extent of our war that way, if survival means anything to you to begin with."
"You're so full of yourself," Trent said, releasing the full extent of his dismissive manner, cocky attitude remaining as a front as he reached both hands into his pockets to hide his shaking hands. It hadn't occurred to him that maybe, being with his own people would be more advantageous than with an alien race he doesn't comprehend. Had he misunderstood? Were those agents trying to actually save him? But then, what was with the bullets? The threatening phone messages? Which was the lesser evil: government paid agents or Terminator?
Nothing was making any sense anymore.
Discretely, he turned his cellphone back on as he realized the police car had gone suspiciously silent, and Trent gave it critical glance. Whatever it was or wasn't attempting was pushed to the back of his mind because Tracks returned in a hurry, grabbing him around the middle and running full tilt without breaking its wide strides. In this form, it was able to step over tree stumps and rivers without breaking step, and the constant juggling made him nauseas.
"What's going on?" he shouted, his answer coming a moment later in the form of incoming police sirens and helicopters. Either clones of the Evil Robot were incoming, or those men and women from before were onto them.
"What did you do?" Trent rephrased, accusatory.
"Not now, Mr. DeMarco!"
Tracks stumbled then, partially because of a sudden dip in the terrain, and partially because they were being shot at. Trent could make out the pinging of bullets ricocheting off the metal parts of Tracks' frame, and he felt the collar of his shirt tear as a bullet connected.
"Wait, he's got the boy!" he heard someone cry in surprise, and then anguished uproars as the people shooting at them no doubt ran into the police car that had ambushed them. A tree collapsing in the distance and an electronic scream aided that assessment.
Tracks stopped, careening into a tree when it couldn't halt fast enough, and jostled Trent in the process. The robot gave off the impression that it was indecisive, and when Trent thought they were going to hightail it back the way they'd came, rapid gunfire lit up the dark forest with its fireworks display, and Tracks resumed their retreat. There was nothing left they could do here.
To Be Continued…
Translations: (1) "It's better to prevent than to cure." (2) "Fucking hell/shit", roughly.
Credits: To Jyuu, someone who continues to be patient and understanding with the pace at which I'm writing this story for her when a lesser person would have given up on expecting progress, Dreaming of Everything, who courteously volunteered to look this chapter over last minute, and Nri, who continues to guide me in the way of the French language, since I wouldn't know a hello from a goodbye without her assistance.