Title: Property Of

Rating: T (might be occasional cussing or other 'T' situations; if you disagree about the rating for some reason, just tell me so)

Summary: During Cybertronian 'peace,' ex-Cons hide the sentience of and sell humans as pets to secure Earth. Sam and Mikaela might just be the first to grasp the reality of the situation alongside their new owner.

Chapter: At Least


'Transformers' belongs wholly and entirely to Hasbro, and all extended licenses to Paramount, etc. I do not claim any ownership beyond my own collection and the purely non-profit fanfiction that I write and, most of the time, do not even consider posting online.

Early A.N.s

This is NOT a spinoff of some other similar fics I've read, considering that I've had the idea long before I read any of them, and there are key variations that suggest as much (or so I feel). However, since I do like those other fics – and am glad to suggest further reading just in case you somehow missed them – I will give the ones I find relatable mention: Contra Mundum (Cafei), Domestic Liberation (Lnzy1) come to mind, and – more for 'further reading' than anything, and because it involves at least one 'pet' human – A Pet Squishy (Fire Redhead).

*Further, since I did not borrow ideas from these authors, I did not request permission to mention their fanfics – thought that the mention was a positive, not a negative. If you are one of these authors, however, and do not want to be mentioned here for whatever reason, PM me and I'll remove the reference.

If you see what you think are typos/grammatical errors/ etc., I would really appreciate you pointing them out to me via review, PM, or even e-mail. I will take any and all of those messages into account and fix the errors.

ALSO, if you only want to start reading from where 'our' mechs join the picture, you can skip to the end of chapter 2 or start at chapter 3. I wouldn't recommend it (there's subtle and not-so-subtle background info in here), but someone asked, so now I provide.

"This will probably be the last time you hear your native language spoken to you. It would be to your benefit to listen closely," warned a green and blue mech. His words were met with the silence of his captive audience.

"You are to be shipped to one of our colonies where you will be sold into captivity. Mark that there is nothing, Earthlings, that will prevent this from happening. The quicker you come to terms with your fate, the better.

"You will start to be processed aboard this ship over the couple of your days that it takes to reach the establishment. You will be treated for any immediate damages incurred during your repossession, refitted with manageable garments, begin the process of weaning from your earthly attachments and habits, and be given a primary assessment of value. Once the destination is reached, you will be processed further, be given a final assessment, and held until you're lucky enough to catch a mech's optic. The more trouble you cause, the more you will receive, and we are not above euthanizing those who prove themselves unprofitable or unruly."

The mech's optics glowed a hard red as he scanned the organics. The two smaller mechs (possibly drones) next to him stared straight ahead blankly, uninterested.

"You will do your best to maintain value, and to maintain order, or you won't have even the slightest chance of seeing the outside of the vessel a second time."

A nod to the sentries signaled the mech's departure. In moments more the two drones followed and the room was left solely to its cargo.

Eleven pairs of eyes shared looks of disbelief, sorrow, anger, and confusion.

Samuel Witwicky wondered, briefly, how they had gotten here.

Not here in this room, to be precise. No – Sam would always remember in blurry, adrenaline-crazed detail how he, Miles Lancaster, and Mikaela Banes wound up inside this barren cell of a place with no natural light, smooth and dull walls, and scarcely any furnishings… This unnerving place with eight strangers – none of whom looked any older than twenty-five – and an unsettling amount of empty room that allowed the yellowish ceiling lights to play tricks with the darkened metallic floor.

No. Sam wondered how he and his friends had reached a place in life where it was completely sane to suggest that aliens were real, invading, and taking prisoners. As far as he was concerned, any place like that sure as hell had no right existing to begin with.

Some young black man, farthest from Sam, laughed nervously into the silence. "At least we know why they take us alive," he said weakly.

"That's no 'at least!'" cried a crazed girl. She looked younger than the previous speaker, but maybe that was just his imagination. Sam followed the exchange with his eyes; Miles did the same. Mikaela, on the other hand, had her face buried in her left palm, her other hand making a mess of her hair as her whole upper body heaved with the strength of the 'deep breaths' she was trying to take.

Sam wished she wouldn't do that. He always thought she had the prettiest hair.

"How can you see anything redeemable about this?" the girl was continuing.

Another boy, with skin tanned deeply and built remarkably jock-like, jumped in, "Hey, he was just trying to lighten the mood."

"This can't be lightened!" she adamantly shrieked. "I'd rather they kill us! I want to leave! There's nothing good about being here! I want to go home!"

"Shut up!" Mikaela screamed. Sam and Miles flinched, and all eyes darted to her as her shrill echo died off. Her face was lifted, its irritation on display for all. Her makeup had smudged even more since the last Sam had seen it, but no one found the strength to care. "We all want to go home, but freaking out isn't going to help. Nothing is going to help. If anything, you keep making noise, and they might just kill you."

The eighteen year-old glared coldly at the girl, who was now quiet but seeming to drip in frustration, before tucking her head away and retreating into her mind once again.

No one spoke up after that.

Nothing is going to help…

Sam glanced between his two silent friends. He thought about how it was that, in the end, the three of them had wound up here.

The Witwicky and Lancaster families waited outside of the neighborhood 7-Eleven together in the mercifully mild late-summer air. It was very humid, and only just barely below the threshold of what Sam would call 'unbearable.' If it had been even one degree hotter - or if the cooling breeze that was also helping calm his nerves wasn't there - Sam probably would've been complaining about more than the fact that they were being forced out of their homes.

"I wonder why they're moving north?" Mr. Lancaster was asking.

Judy Witwicky frowned. "Well, I don't care why they're doing it, but if we come back and everything's been blown to bits, I swear I'm gonna rip them a new one."

"A new what?" her husband asked loudly, announcing his return from the convenience store. The whole group turned towards Ron and Miles and the two bags of treats they shared. "Exhaust pipe? Judy, no one's ripping any of these things a new anything. Just let the armed forces keep trying to deal with it. If anyone can do something, it's them."

Miles snorted quietly as he sidled up next to his best friend. "Yeah, it's seemed to work so far," he muttered so that just Sam could hear him. "Which is why we're leaving our lives behind."

Faintly, Sam nodded. He fished around in the plastic bag Miles carried until he found his bottle of green tea. Offering a, "thanks, man," he opened it and had a fourth of its contents gone in about two seconds.

Ron turned to his son, eyes squinted just a little, suggesting impatience. "Sam, where's that girlfriend of yours? We can't wait forever – too much longer, and there won't be a chance that we'll get through all the traffic and out of here before the mechs arrive."

"I already told you, you guys can go ahead. I'm not leaving without Mikaela," Sam plainly stated. Ever since the day he'd given her a lift home in his junker of a car, he'd decided he wasn't going to give up on the girl of his dreams. She'd opened up to him on that ride, and – despite his fears of being forgotten – Mikaela Banes hadn't stopped talking to him, even in school where there were other people to see it.

It was only a matter of weeks before they had actually started to hang out, and only another matter of weeks before they'd started going out.

That'd been almost seven months ago. No matter what the odds, the pair had grown pretty close over that time. Something about Sam's sincerity – and the fact that he found her knowledge of mechanics totally hot – kept her coming back for more. Miles could barely remember the time when Mikaela used to never give either one of them the time of day.

Ron sighed emphatically, and Judy started scolding him about wanting to crush young love and her prospects for grandchildren. Sam rolled his eyes and looked away, long since given up getting bothered by that.

For the next thirteen minutes, they all munched on snacks and discussed the theories behind the aliens' tactics.

"Hey, look, there they are!" Mrs. Lancaster pointed energetically, and out of nowhere. The group followed her gesture and, sure enough, Mikaela, her grandmother, and her not-quite-aunt were walking towards them in a group. Mikaela broke away when she spotted Sam and Miles.

Sam moved forward to meet her halfway, hugging her tightly in greeting.

"Hey," Mikaela said, hugging him back. She waved at Miles as she and Sam stepped away from each other. "Sorry we're late; Sandra kept holding us up."

"It doesn't matter," Ron waved to the side. "Just, let's go before we get trapped here, huh? You're coming with us, right?"

"Right," answered Mikaela's grandmother. "But Mickey is going with Sam."

"Yeah, so is Miles," agreed Mr. Lancaster. "I'm with Ron. Let's pile in and pull out."

The hurried greeting ended on that note, and the people split into three smaller groups on the spot. Sam, Miles, and Mikaela waved their families brief goodbyes, promising to keep in touch on cell-phones if they got split up at any point, and then headed for Sam's car (not before Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster could smother their son in hugs and kisses for 'luck').

No more than twenty seconds later – that had to be a record or something, Miles pointed out – all three vehicles were started, out of the parking lot, and filed up one behind the other on the street. The Lancasters led in their blue Kia, the Witwicky-Banes combo took middle in their green Porsche, and the teens took the rear in Sam's beat-up, faded red Camaro.

"So – what about those aliens, huh?" Miles asked, leaning forward from the backseat.

"Those mechanical bastards can go right back home," Mikaela said hotly, turning to look at him. "I mean, what's in Tranquility that any of them could want? I didn't like them before, but now…"

They had only gone several feet since the light at the intersection had just changed, and not one of the three cars was going to turn without knowing the others would be right behind them. Sam gave Miles and Mikaela his full attention. "I wonder if those rumors about using people as fuel have any merit. They do keep taking people everywhere they go."

Mikaela looked nauseous.

"I wouldn't bet on it. Unless they're Matrix-ing it, they'd probably just release chemicals to kill us first, then gather the dead bodies to throw them into the furnaces without all the kicking and screaming. We've been over this before," said Miles disappointedly. "They're using us as housemaids. It's a sad truth. Why else would they take everyone alive? If there's one thing the witnesses all say, it's that no one gets more than broken limbs before they're dragged off!"

Sam rolled his eyes and pulled forward – another few slow feet were gained as the Lancasters weighed whether or not all three cars could make it, and then they all started driving in earnest.

Mikaela also rolled her eyes. "We've all heard it, Miles. My question remains – how do we know if they're right? What if the captives are being killed right afterwards? No one knows, and no one is going to know, because no one…"

"… one ever comes back after they're taken, uh huh," Sam cut her off and beat her to the punch with a grin. "Something tells me we've had this conversation at least fifty-two times before."

"No way. No way it's been less than fifty-six," said an amazed Miles. Then, he started laughing.

The two boys began to playfully argue over how many times they had discussed the motives behind the abductions. Mikaela started to fiddle with the radio. She turned through static to settle the knob on a local news station, where a repeated, improvised emergency broadcast was being issued.

"…and leave, in as orderly a fashion as possible. Follow the traffic directors. Evacuate calmly and respectfully. All people are urged to gather precious belongings and leave…"

Mikaela switched stations. Sam and Miles moved on to debating whether or not humans would even make good sources of fuel for alien machines. "All the biochemical processes we go through? Miles, we could be like batteries if they kept us alive – all our ATP going to power their gimungo alien MP27 players," Sam was saying.

"… leave their homes! The traffic copters show that all highways out of the district are being flooded. The train stations have ceased stopping the incoming trains at any of the stations. All trains are outbound, and every single one has been packed, according to Rachel.

"And, it's a sad sight looking over at the airport – all planes, of course, having been grounded since last month's attack on three passenger jets carrying evacuees. Thousands more could be leaving on those airliners as we speak…

"Sorry to interrupt," a new voice broke in, managing to grab Miles and Sam's attentions as well, "but we're getting updates from the alert department. The most recent aerial scans of the approaching mechs have come back, although two of their recon machines have been shot down. They confirm an ETA of two and a half hours. They're urging that if you aren't already on one of the highways by now that congestion is bad enough that going on foot to a safezone might be a better option. They're also suggesting that no one head straight to one of the restricted Guards until after they've reached a major city or township. Otherwise, the Guards will be flooded, and they'll lose their safety, and people will be turned away."

The teens blinked at one another. They weren't on a highway just yet, but they were pretty close to one. Mikaela immediately fished out her cell phone and dialed her aunt.

"… Sandra? Yeah, did you guys just hear the announcement? … and Mrs. Witwicky is talking to Miles's parents? … yeah, we were just… okay. Sticking with the plan, got it." The conversation was quick, and Mikaela flipped her phone closed, although she left it nearby.

"She says we're sticking with the original plan, because we're just a couple minutes from the interstate now," the girl relayed.

Sam nodded the affirmative.

The roadways got progressively worse towards the on-ramps and after, but that was to be expected. The trio of cars, amazingly, managed not to get separated once. Once they eased into the crawl of the highway, Sam turned down the volume of the radio until it was only a dull buzz in the background to provide them with updates just in case they became important.

Even though they were inching their way through a mass of people fleeing their homes in order to save their lives from an alien menace, the drive was extremely boring. Sam suggested they play I-spy, but after every car within eyesight had been named at least twice, Miles called the game off.

That only took ten minutes, and maybe a hundred fifty feet. Which Mikaela said wasn't that bad, considering they could have been completely immobilized.

And then, the radio buzz gave a screech and shut off entirely. Miles, Mikaela, and Sam all stared at the thing as if it was about to start oozing blood.

"… Shit," Sam said.

Miles wildly reached forward and started to twist the knobs in every direction. "Crap! Sam, Mick, does this mean they hacked the un-hackable channels too?"

Sam remembered the first time all radio and digital signals went dead. Two years ago, now. March the 12th. It was only a few days later that the government had issued stations to use their forgotten frequencies to spread the word that – no prank, seriously! – alien robots were starting to attack the planet! It centered in the Americas, mostly, though written communications from Europe suggested that there were some attacks there and in mid-Asia.

A few more days after that, TV signals were all completely lost, and they hadn't come back since. Every once and a while, new radio frequencies were developed, each one more advanced and desperate in firewalls than the last (because the aliens were uber-hackers, and kept tearing down communications).

The latest attempts were said to have firewalls and encrypted access ways hundreds of thousands of characters long – thank you, secret government experimental technology groups from around the world – with more tricks in them than… a trick book, Sam supposed. They were supposed to be impossible to break – a defense that the aliens couldn't take down. Thus, radios had been running for the past few weeks.

But, as Mikaela and Miles started to curse the car radio vehemently, it sunk in that they wouldn't be working again.


Sam's eyes widened. "Wait. If those signals are down, what about the phones?"

They exchanged glances. Miles dived for the cell phone Mikaela had left out. He stared at it for a moment, rather like he was holding a dead mouse, and then announced, "No signal. Blackness, my friends. Once again, communicational blackness."

"Hey, hey, let's calm down for a second," advised Mikaela. "We've been through this before, and we've pulled through before. As long as we keep following them, there's no problem. We're going to the same place. It's not that big a deal."

Which was true, Sam and Miles agreed. Although, Sam thought about how much had changed during the couple years when most communications were down, the internet had been prone to seizures that lasted months at a time, and even complete comas for the same duration.

True, not all cities had been disastrously affected. Tranquility was a pretty good example. Life went on as usually as it could given the circumstances. Many cities had changed to deal with the new adversities, and people the world over had, surely, commended the human race for its adaptability - not that they could know for certain, since it was awfully difficult communicating within country borders let alone globally.

There were some towns, though, that had been decimated, and others had changed beyond recognition. Complete sections of the United States had ceased city-living, and multiple 'bases' had been constructed as safe havens for army groups, resistance fighters, and refugees. These had come to be known as 'guards' in the popular imagination of those who'd only heard rumors about them. Entire lives had morphed into unrecognizable forms in some cases, while others remained mostly untouched. Unwitting prophets of the past had been absolutely right, in all cases, when they said that if electronics and the internet were suddenly to stop working, life as everyone knew it would change. Just… some places more than others.

"Traffic is moving, so it's all good. We'll be a state over by the time they reach our district," Miles said.

"Yeah, of course," Sam agreed in earnest.

So, instead of worrying, the teens started talking about the last school year (which had centered more on practical skills than anything academic), and what their plans for the future had been.

Miles, at one point, steered the conversation into one revolving around 'Mojo's perspective,' in which each teen posited how Mojo would see and react to a situation that one of the others came up with. The yappy Chihuahua in the vehicle ahead provided much needed entertainment spanning almost an hour.

"What's that?" Mikaela interrupted right as Sam was describing what Mojo would do if he were robotic. She pointed.

There were people in the road – the traffic directors mentioned earlier – splitting cars up, directing them to exits, median-crossings and beyond.

The further the three cars pulled forward, the more and more it looked like they were going to be directed to take different routes. Right as the first car of their trio reached the traffic men and fear spiked, however…

It happened.

Sam could see his dad rolling down the window and leaning out, shouting ahead to the man talking with Mr. Lancaster. He was insisting that the three cars needed to stay together, when the ground gave an ominous boom!

All conversations died, and people began rolling down windows and looking around.

"The heck?" Miles breathed out, clambering over to a backseat window and pressing his face against the glass. "This is a weird time for an earthquake…"

The world seemed to stand still.

Now, Sam thought back on all this with a hesitant memory. Up until that point, everything he recalled – from the first time he heard they had to evacuate until the booming on the highway – was very surreal. When he remembered it, he had a feeling that he was skipping parts, because there was no way that the hour long drive had been that short or uneventful.

Or, it might've all been wishful thinking… because everything that happened after occurred in a matter of minutes, yet seemed to be set at the same pace.

Just as Sam started to stick his head out of his window, muttering the same 'what the heck' as Miles, something pushed aside the trees on the left side of the highway.

A mech with dark red optics and a mostly maroon colored paint scheme stepped out, surveying the lineup of cars. A couple steps to his right, a smaller, red mech appeared, grinning madly.

The teens drew backwards in the car.

"ETA was way wrong," Mikaela managed as she absentmindedly started to fumble with her door in preparation to flee, literally for her life.

Then the larger of the two mechs spoke, breaking many a reserve when he said, "Look's like we got a nice pick now. Go for the young adults."

The moment the words left its 'mouth,' car doors all over flew open and people poured out, running in every direction save for where the mechs stood. Sam and Miles and Mikaela all raced from the car, darting to join up with their families on the way.

"I got a pair!" one of the mech's said – the red one, Sam noted in the very, very back of his mind – and then the robot began to move. The Witwicky, Lancaster and Banes families all seemed to grab onto one another before making the silent agreement that they should run for the trees on their side of the road.

Judy grabbed her son by the arm, refusing to be separated from him at a time like this; Mojo was held haphazardly in her other arm. Mikaela's not-quite-aunt pushed her in front of them all, while the girl's grandmother – although relatively young – fell slightly behind.

"I think I've got my targets," said the other mech, and he too jumped into action.

In the mess of people and cars and vegetation that was wet from a recent rain, everything was a blur. The three families ran into the shelter of the trees, flanked widely by other fleeing people, ducking and weaving and hoping to lose the interest of the attackers.

"We gotta hide somewhere!" Mikaela cried out desperately. "There's no way we outrun one of them!"

"There's nothing but tall grass and trees – they'll find us anyway!" Mrs. Lancaster yelled back over the rising voices and, to everyone's fright, the muffled sound of gunfire from what had to be the red mech, given the distance of it.

Judy gave a mighty shriek as something whizzed over her head, and then the entire top half of the man-made forest in front of them was leveled in an explosion of leaves, bark, and pine needles. Sam glanced about frantically, trying to differentiate things. He wanted to look back so badly, but didn't dare.

Mikaela dared, however, when a mess of metal mesh whisked right by her. It made her stumble, thus causing Sandra and then Sam (who was slightly behind the woman) to stumble as well.

When the three families turned collectively, their hearts skipped beats.

The maroon mech was leveling a weapon of some sort directly at them. Even worse, it said darkly, "Three for one."

Ron suddenly shook his son, and then the lot of them were running again, darting to the side. The man shouted over the ruckus, "It's after you kids. There's gotta be tree debris you can hide under now!"

Mikaela looked at him wildly.

"We need to get you all concealed," Mrs. Lancaster agreed, fishing Miles out and pushing him before her. "Go left!" she cried out.

Like sheep, they all listened without question.

"There," Mikaela's grandmother pointed at a pine tree whose top half had collapsed about fifty feet ahead and to the right. "We run past that, you all dive under."

"That's not going to work!" Sam shouted back.

"It's all we have," his dad informed, and Sam realized with a start – a sickening, heart breaking, horrible start – that the man was crying. Sam didn't know when it started, but his father had water in his eyes. And, the more Sam looked at the other adults, he realized that they, too, were crying.

This could not be happening! No way this was happening. It was all way too fast, too fast! Sam and Mikaela and Miles looked between themselves. Too fast. Three days ago they'd been walking around Tranquility like it was any other day. That morning, the report had come in. They'd been driving, nothing too serious. Two minutes ago they had been safe and sound in a car.

Now they were sprinting through a ravaged wood, apparently the hunting prospects of one of the giant mechs.

This had to be a dream because, Sam reasoned, if this was really happening, it wouldn't be happening so quickly. It was too fake to be real.

Even as his parents and friends shoved them into and under the branches of the fallen tree, he didn't believe it.

He was Sam Witwicky, a 'geek.' He was pretty wimpy, liked games and computers, got okay grades, nothing special. It was Miles Lancaster – a boy in the same boat as him, but more free-spirited. It was Mikaela Banes. Sam praised the powers that were for her looks and her skills with cars, that she eventually noticed him, and that they were three good friends now, but that was it. They were just three kids, no more special than any others.

This wasn't right.

The three crawled beneath the branches, hoping beyond hope that the mech couldn't see them. Sam and Miles stared after their family with stony looks as the adults scattered, leaving them behind with barely a word. Mikaela – tears free on her face – watched as they disappeared from sight and then lowered her gaze to the ground in an attempt to keep from sobbing and giving away their position.

From generally relaxing in a car to sobbing beneath a pine tree in minutes. Another record, Miles might have noted.

The irritating scent of real pine filled the teens' noses, their eyes all cast downward and guarded against the bristling needles that fell all around and above them. Sam sought out Mikaela's hand, and she touched fingers with him softly, conveying all her confusion and incredulity.

What felt like hours passed under those thick, pointy branches, though all three teenagers knew that wasn't the case. The duration of time that did expire, however, left the clearing quiet, and they began to wonder if anyone – alien or not – was still there at all.

A whistling of air was the only warning they had before the tree-cover was yanked up entirely and dropped to the side. The three scrabbled to their feet, pausing only long enough to be assured that the maroon mech was above them.

They made to scatter for themselves.

The moment Sam managed to turn and start to gain momentum, a force collided with his back. Suddenly, Sam found the edges of a net whipping past his face and causing him to spill forward, tripping over splintered branches and trunks, landing face-first in another nest of pine needles. Not even thinking, he cried "run!" to his friends as loud as he could, spitting out needles and looking up and thankfully finding that they were doing just that.

Even as Sam resorted to thrashing and trying to crawl out, earning multiple cuts and bruises from the pricking tree-remnants, he heard Mikaela yelp. Sam's gaze shot to her, and he saw her trapped in the same sort of net, tumbling head over foot, crashing into a frayed tree trunk as she did so.

Sam just managed to look up to glare at the mech before it discharged another net at Miles. Sam didn't see his best friend go down, but the rustling of leaves and grunting that followed after the shot could only be the blonde teen.

"Three for one," the mech repeated, annoyingly smug. "I've got mine, Redirect. We can call down the transport."

Sam didn't know who the mech was talking to, and he didn't exactly care at this point.

Mikaela struggled against the thinly weaved netting so that she could turn to see her boyfriend. She finally met his eye as their captor stepped over to her and grabbed both her and the net. "Sam!" she exhaled roughly as her sides were squeezed and she was lifted into the air. The mech fumbled around with the girl and the net. He set them back down a moment later, but it was apparent that the 'net' had been closed into more of a bag. The mech stepped over to Miles and did the same, then approached Sam.

He cringed at the large fingers that were none too gentle in flipping and rolling him about. The metal wiring that made up the mesh stung sharply for a split second. After that, the ends of it snapped towards one another like a magnet, and Sam found himself bagged just like his friends.

In the same unrealistic manner as everything else, the sky seemed to quiver then faded to reveal a large, black craft over in the direction of the highway. It lowered below Sam's line of sight, but a great crunch of metal pointed to the craft being dropped on top of the lines of cars.

"The trading post should be happy with this lot. All in fair shape, young, and even an extra item," Maroon continued talking to the air. The mech walked back around and snatched up Mikaela and Miles. The careless mech held Sam and Miles with the same hand by tightening his fingers around the spare bits of mesh. The boys were left dangling, frightfully so, and knocking against one another. Mikaela was held more firmly in the other of the monster's hands. The mech started walking.

"Where are you taking us?" Mikaela demanded.

Maroon glanced down at her. "Shush yourself, female. The fewer questions, the better." And that was all the answer any of them got.

"You better be wrong about that stupid fuel," Miles hissed at Sam. Sam deftly nodded and tried to keep from grabbing at the net too much.

As their captor stepped back into the cleared highway, the red mech became visible. The mech held two humans, one in either hand. A screaming young woman inhabited one, a deathly still young teen boy in the other.

"Injuries?" the red mech asked instead of greeted.

"Bruises, lacerations, and scrapes at the worst. You?" answered Maroon.

"Eh," Red shrugged. "Mostly those, but she put up such a fight, I think she fractured a limb. Nothing that can't be fixed, though, so the value is retained."

Value? The three teens couldn't figure out the application of that word.

The two mechs abruptly switched to speaking in what had to be their native tongue. Red led the way onto the ship. Maroon stepped up after him, and the ramp closed shortly after that with a whooshing of air.

From what Sam could make of it, the ship was definitely as huge on the inside as it was on the outside. The small range of vision provided to him because of the net revealed completely metallic surroundings. The two mechs walked down several hallways and past multiple doors. Doors, all teens noted, that were larger than their captors by a great deal. It reminded them that this was the first time they had been in contact with one of the robots, and they were much larger in person than simple printed numbers could convey.

"Alien abduction added to my list of life experiences," Sam breathed out shakily. On his back in the dangled bag and not able to rotate his neck, there wasn't much for him to see.

The pair of mechs found the door they were looking for. It opened with the same air-locking sound the last entrance closed with, and both aliens stepped into the room. Sam, Mikaela, and Miles all inhaled in fright as they seemed to go falling to the ground, only to realize that they were simply being lowered to it. Another stinging jolt ran through the net – this one much more potent than the first and causing Miles to yelp in shock – and then they fell open.

Red's captives ran past Sam before the teen had even managed to crawl to his feet. He and his friends slipped away from their netting and also scrabbled back without even looking where they were going.

To Mikaela's surprise, she ran right into another person. The teens spun about, and realized that they were not alone in the room.

Eight other people (including the two who had been tossed in at the same time as them) were already there, and each looked frightened by the presence of the two mechs.

"We've reached quota. Get Shutdown in here and we can fire up the engines," said Red. He and Maroon gathered the now-empty nets and exited.

"Quota?" some girl or another whispered. Miles looked around to discover that it was the girl that Red had just brought in.

Sam could tell from the way she cradled her arm that the limb was definitely broken. Dried tears ran down her face and she looked ready to resume crying at any second.

The room wasn't cramped in the least. It was very spacious given that only eleven humans were in it. There were several box-looking structures at the base of one wall. Like the rest of the ship that he had seen, Sam saw that everything was made of metal, and it didn't seem like any other substance existed in the room save for the people held in it. Four lights with a yellow tint lined the ceiling in parallel rows, but no one could discern any switches from the rest of the wall.

Worst of all, there were no windows.

"Just where are we?" Mikaela asked.

Sam hesitated in actually looking his girlfriend over. All three had been preoccupied with scanning their new surroundings to give one another much heed. When Sam did look, he felt himself shudder.

Mikaela's face had been scraped by the trunk she had tripped into, albeit thinly, and not enough to draw blood. Her left arm had several bleeding cuts on it, as did her left leg. Her right leg was pale from peeled but uncut skin, and her clothes were stained with grass, leaves and pine needles sticking up from her hair. Not to mention her makeup, which had started to run about her eyes.

Miles didn't look much the worse for wear, save for a long scrape down his right arm that would surely bruise beautifully if given the time.

Sam didn't know just how he looked, but from the burning of his skin, he suspected that the bed of needles he had fallen right into had left his face red and irritated and quite possibly cut up. He knew that beyond bruising from being knocked around, his legs were fine beneath his jeans. His arms tingled from the electrified net and being slammed into trees and prickly debris, but there were only several tiny gashes on them, and nothing that would take more than a few days to heal well enough.

"No one knows," said a muscular young man. "The first of us were thrown in here earlier today. All trapped in a hunt or something."

"Have any other aliens been in here?" Sam asked quietly, not quite realizing he had spoken.

"Just the ones that caught us," the same man answered.

Sam glanced at Mikaela. The girl was staring straight ahead into a wall. She looked hesitantly to Sam and then Miles.

"We didn't get to say goodbye," she said. "We just broke off – they ran off, they won't know until they don't find us." The teen was eerily calm as she stated the facts. "We're never going to see our families again."

As true as it was, and as heartbreaking as it should have been, not one of the trio could do anything but stare blankly. They couldn't cry, couldn't scream… it simply didn't feel real, and so they didn't feel a need to react.

Sam couldn't begin to comprehend never seeing his crazy parents again.

"At least we're all here together," Miles pointed out in an uncharacteristically timid voice.

So they all sat down together, staying quiet, trying to come to terms with themselves and using their friends' presences as solace.

It had been about five minutes when a green and blue mech entered the room flanked by two smaller, blackish robots. The people had scurried back, but the imposing alien had merely clasped his hands behind his back and started to talk, leveling them with a solid red stare.

They had no other choice but to listen in silence as it was confirmed that after this day, they wouldn't even be thought of as people anymore.

Sam sighed deeply. Yeah. It had all happened way too quickly to be given merit to. If he hadn't personally experienced it, he would've assumed it never happened. Geek-like as he was, he had never imagined being able to go from driving to alien-abducted and family-less within thirty minutes. Neither had Mikaela or Miles, it seemed.

"Here's an 'at least,'" he said with a faulty grin in the direction of his friends. Miles tilted his head questioningly. "We're not going to be used for fuel or as cell phone batteries."

Despite it all, Mikaela snorted; Miles gave a grin that looked halfway forced and halfway genuine. The girl shamelessly lifted part of her shirt and made a point of wiping away the makeup from her face. She had to spit on her hand and rub the skin to help work off the cosmetics, but in the end the smudges and stains were removed from her.

"I'm glad you're here, you guys," she said at length, eyes watery but no tears.

Miles agreed with a very serious nod. "I wouldn't want to get captured and sold into captivity - whatever that means - with anyone else by my side. Our folks would at least be happy that we have each other right now."

"So right," said Sam. "So right. While we're leaving the atmosphere, then… who's up for a game of I-spy?" he asked.

Mikaela gave a laugh-hiccup and promptly smacked Sam on the side of the head.

Even though their worlds had been flipped over, turned inside out, and washed away…

… at least they weren't going through it alone.


The only thing I can think to comment on is the pacing here. You may think it fast or jumpy, but – for this opening chapter at least – that's done intentionally. It is, after all, supposed to convey how Sam remembers the events, and it all seemed more than rushed to him. A heads up: the jumpy style will NOT be maintained throughout the entire story and (like other techniques) will only be appearing if it's to make a point.

Also, updates on this one might be a while in between... I'm going through the college application/scholarship application process, as well as juggling a Full IB senior year. I simply CANNOT guarantee an update schedule. I immensely apologize for that (as its one of my peeves), but I can't control it.