Author's Note: Okay, so class has been a little rough on me and I've only just gotten back to this. Anyone who's followed my writing before will know that my updates are pretty sporadic. I apologize. Anyways, we're pretty much picking up where we left off last chapter. Enjoy!
Warnings: Plot and development ahead.
Disclaimer: There's a world out there where I do own these guys, but I'm too afraid of my basement to go there.
"Where have you been, bro?" Fassbinder asked as Leo stepped into the dorm room.
Over the few days that Leo and Sam had been gone, the room had been cleaned up; there was little evidence that anything had been out of the ordinary. The only indication that something odd might have happened was the television was smashed, Sam's Cybertronian symbols were still painted everywhere and Leo's posters had been torn down. The broken door had been replaced with a heavy curtain to keep things out of sight, but otherwise the room was looking alright.
"I've been out of town," Leo replied.
"Dude, I saw that broadcast when they were looking for Sam!" Sharsky called from his place at his computer. "What happened to you guys?"
Leo flopped down on his bed, not answering. He was still tired, despite the sleep he'd caught on the flight, at the base and on the ride to Brooklyn. Now that he was back at the dorm, he wanted to sleep for the next three days.
"You were in the middle of it, weren't you?" Fassbinder demanded. "We've got footage of Alice's rampage, man! You gotta tell us what happened after you escaped!"
"The government's doing everything they can to cover up the aliens," Sharsky added. "But we know the truth and that's what people want! We've already posted a copy of the alien message on Real Effin' Deal and our hits have gone through the roof!"
Leo sat up, remembering what Freja had said earlier. "Have you checked out GFR?"
Sharsky and Fassbinder exchanged glances before they both turned to Sharsky's computer to check their rival site. Fingers dancing across the keyboard, Sharsky pulled up the other site and, with a bit of navigation, found the latest update.
"Video stream," he called to Leo. As Leo came into the room to take a look, Sharsky continued. "It's shot from Cairo."
On the monitor, Leo watched again as the Decepticon behemoth tore the pyramid to pieces. The video wasn't the best quality, obviously shot by an amateur, but just seeing it was enough to make Leo remember what he'd seen in vivid detail. Simmons had been climbing that pyramid when the Decepticon had started shredding it. That crazy old man had thrown himself into what had obviously been a stupid stunt, leaving Leo freaking out about whether he'd see the older man alive again.
"That's enough," Leo told Sharsky, voice dull.
"Shit," Fassbinder groaned leaning back against the wall. "How are we supposed to top that?"
Sharsky turned in his chair to his partner, raising a hand to snap his fingers. "We could put up the footage from the library!" He paused to look at Leo. "You were there, so you could write up what happened!"
Leo stared at Sharsky for a moment before shaking his head. "No."
The other two gaped at him. "Why not?"
Leo was silent for a moment as he thought. Over the last several days, he'd been carried off by evil alien robots, shot at, hunted, tasered and thrown across the world through a space bridge. His life, so boring and average until the moment Sam Witwicky stepped into his dorm room, had been thrown suddenly into danger and extraordinary. He'd survived each encounter with the Decepticons. He knew the secret of the Cybertronians living on Earth. He knew the truth that he, Sharsky and Fassbinder had been working for the last two years to expose.
Knowing the truth and the metallic beings that had been kept such a secret by the government, Leo found himself at an impasse. Simmons, his biggest rival in the cyber world of alien conspiracy, had told him that it was their job to expose the truth. However, with everything that had happened to him, Leo couldn't bring himself to expose the Autobots any further. He'd been right alongside three of them (four, if you counted the little spaz, Wheelie), as they traveled to New York and D.C., then across the desert sands of Egypt. Bumblebee, Mudflap and Skids had all put up with him, the twins a little crass and obnoxious and Bumblebee mostly silent, but strong in his duty of protecting Sam, and Mikaela and Leo, by affiliation.
Leo couldn't release his experiences with the Autobots to cyberspace. "Until further notice," he began, "the Real Effin' Deal is on hiatus."
"What?!" Fassbinder exclaimed, a look of shock and dismay over his face. "You can't do that!"
Sharsky, just as upset as his partner, stood up from his computer. "Leo, RFD can't go on hiatus!" he argued. "There are too many people hungry for the truth! We can't let them down!"
Leo stood his ground. "I suggest both of you find some real work to do until I decide it's time to bring RFD back."
"No!" Sharsky told him, angry that Leo would just brush off two years worth of work. "You're not giving this up! I'm not going to back down; the truth has to come out!"
Fassbinder stood by his friend and colleague. "Sharsky's right, man! We've worked too long and too hard to just quit!"
"Then you're both fired," Leo informed them. "RFD is done with until I say otherwise."
Sharsky kicked his chair against the wall behind him in anger and stormed out of the dorm without another word. Fassbinder picked up both his and Sharsky's backpacks and shoved his way past Leo. As he approached the door, he turned to Leo, eyebrows furrowed in his own anger.
"You're sucking the sack, Leo," he said. "Just like all those other idiots out there. We don't need you; Sharsky and me, we'll start our own site and show up both you and RoboWarrior. Better watch your back, man."
That said, the brunet turned his back on Leo and left, pushing his way past Sam, who'd just arrived back to the dorm. Sam came in, throwing his jacket onto his bed. He looked into the other room, where Leo and his minions had worked so diligently on their website before Sam and Leo had gone on the run. He caught the attention of his roommate.
"Hey," he said. "Just dropped Mikaela and my parents off at the airport. What's up?"
"Oh," Leo shrugged. "The usual. Just fired my only two employees."
Sam frowned. "You fired Sharsky and Fassbinder?" He paused, arching a brow as he thought briefly. "That explains why Sharsky told me you'd, in his words, 'gone and fucked him over.'"
The other teen stayed silent, going over to each of the computers in the room and shutting them down. Sam came over and stood in the doorway, watching his roommate. For a few minutes, neither of them spoke, an awkward silence filling the room.
"So, how come you fired them?" Sam asked.
"Don't need them," Leo replied. He shut off the last computer and went about picking up the chair that Sharsky had kicked aside. "The Real Effin' Deal is on indefinite hiatus."
That didn't sound like the Leo he'd come to know, Sam thought. "Wait, not that it's any of my business, but I thought you said you wanted to be involved."
Leo shrugged again. "I do. Just…not like this." He gestured to the computers. "RFD? It's an amateur blog with Game Boy level security, just like Simmons said. The guys and I threw it together one weekend after meeting up at a convention." He frowned at the computers, as if he was disgusted. "No, this isn't how I want to be involved."
Sam blinked in confusion. When he'd first met Leo, the other teen was an egomaniacal geek with delusions of grandeur, an in-your-face and annoying kid. The teen standing across the room from Sam now was different, changed inexplicitly by the events since they'd first been chased out of their dorm by the Pretender, Alice.
"So, what are you going to do now?" Sam posed the usual post-lifestyle-change question.
Leo shrugged. "First off, I'm going to sleep. Tomorrow, I'm going back to class as usual, which I'm betting you're doing, too."
Sam nodded. "Already talked to the Dean. The N.E.S.T commander's already got us a cover story, something about kidnappings and terrorists. We're both set to go back to class in the morning."
Leo crossed the room to the door, herding Sam out and closing the door behind him. "I guess you'll go back to your normal life. As normal as your life gets. Me, I'll figure something out."
"You'll be sticking around, though, right?"
"Yeah," Leo replied. He kicked off his shoes and pulled off his jeans, throwing them into a corner on his side of the room. He flopped down onto his bed without another word.
Sam figured he might as well do the same. His first class was early, so he'd better get some sleep. He flicked off the lights and, without bothering to do more than slip off his own shoes, crawled into bed.
"What have I told you about using my computers for your online games?"
Freja, sitting cross-legged in an armed, green swivel chair, waved Simmons off. "Not now, Reggie, I've got Klingon war birds ready to take my ship out of commission."
Simmons grumbled as he sorted through the files he'd left scattered over the table when he and the kids left for D.C. nearly a week ago. He had told Freja numerous times that his computers, equipment salvaged from Sector Seven, were not to be used for anything but their work. If the girl wanted to play games, she could do that in her measly little apartment. He'd hired her to work on GFR.
"Ms. Kelley, I don't pay you to pretend you're a Starfleet commander," he told her firmly.
"You don't pay me period," Freja replied.
"You get plenty working at that mockery of a deli," Simmons informed her, a tone of disgust in his voice. Subway, he mentally sneered. Those morons wouldn't know a sandwich artist if they waved a gourmet pastrami on rye with mustard -- mustard, not mayo, like the idiot businessman that insisted on that monstrosity of a combination.
Freja snorted. "I left a job back home in Oregon that paid me thrice what those penny-pinchers are paying me. You promised me a salary, buster."
"You'll get it when I get Sector Seven back up and running."
Freja rolled her eyes. "No one's gonna let you bring that back, Reg."
"You'll see, Kelley," Simmons said. "They'll be begging me to bring Sector Seven back, especially after the incident in Egypt."
The short brunette shook her head, but otherwise said nothing to argue with her boss. She turned back to her game; there was generally nothing else to do on any given day. Over the last few days, she'd been updating GFR almost constantly, with all the videos and testimonials from across the world since the Decepticons made the announcement of their presence on Earth. She felt she deserved a couple hours in a fantasy world.
Simmons stood and walked over, reaching over his assistant and exiting her out of her game. Freja gave a shout of protest, but one look from the man quieted her down and had her going back to her job. Simmons left her to her work and returned to his files. He'd been sorting everything since the deli closed up for the night. It was a task he'd been meaning to get to for a lot time and after returning to New York, had decided it was high time he actually got to it.
A few minutes into his sorting, Freja called for his attention.
"Reggie, check this out," the brunette called.
Standing up and coming over, Simmons looked at the large monitor that Freja sat in front of. "Real Effin' Deal?"
"Yeah," Freja said. She had a frown over her face as she pointed to a notice posted in the blog. "'Real Effin' Deal is, until further notice, shut down.'"
Simmons couldn't believe it. After the talk he'd had with Spitz back in Aberdeen, about how it was their job to reveal the truth, the kid was giving up? "That stupid little…"
Freja crossed her arms, leaning back in her chair and blowing her lime green bangs out of her face. "He's backing down. On one hand, it's great for us; more hits on GFR if RFD is gone. On the other hand, I kind of liked having the competition. It made this more fun and worth not getting paid."
"We'll talk about your salary, or lack thereof, later, Freja," Simmons told her. He looked over the screen, reading the announcement again. "Why would he give up now?"
Freja shrugged. "You know him better than I do, Reg. You tell me."
"I don't know," Simmons responded. He stepped away. "Find out, Shortstuff."
The brunette cringed at the nickname. "Stop that, Reggie."
"Stop playing online games when you're supposed to be working. Now find out why Spitz gave up."
"And how do you propose I do that?" Freja asked. "He doesn't give a reason on the blog."
Simmons shrugged. "Get his email address, find him on instant messenger. I don't care. Just find out."
Freja waited. "Why do you care so much that he's given up?"
Simmons was silent for a long minute, seemingly ignoring Freja as he went back to his files, going over all the information he held in his hands. After a while, he spoke up again. "A kid like him? They don't just give up."
"There's something else."
"Get to work, Shorty," Simmons told her. "It's only ten; you're on shift until eleven."
Freja rolled her eyes, but went back to work. She searched RealEffinDeal for any contact information. After a few minutes, she found an email address and wrote up a note. Though she didn't really understand why knowing was such a big deal, she found herself wanting to know why Leo had given up as well. She'd been honest when she'd said she liked having competition. Losing RFD was kind of a disappointment.
After an hour and a half with no response from Leo, Freja logged off her own email and stretched. "I'm going home," she announced. "Maybe we'll get an answer tomorrow."
Simmons didn't even look up from his desk, where he'd been reviewing his notes from his travels to Egypt. He'd logged everything into a journal, though nothing he experienced was anything he was likely to forget any time soon. He gave a grunt of acknowledgment when Freja mentioned she was leaving.
"Be careful on your way," he told her. It was something he'd gotten used to telling her ever since the first day she'd come to New York from Oregon.
"Uh-huh," Freja replied. She picked up her jacket, slipping it over her shoulders and zipping it. After grabbing her bookbag, she heading for the door to the stairwell she took to the basement and to the street. "I'll be in late tomorrow. Joe's got me on shift until five."
"Don't let the cheese get you."
Freja made a gagging sound. She was lactose-intolerant and she and Simmons had a long-running joke about Subway's cheese gaining life of its own in order to take her out. Without another word, she opened the door and headed up the stairs to the streets.
Once Freja was gone, Simmons glanced over to the computer she'd abandoned. She'd left RFD up on the monitor. Simmons looked at the blog where the announcement of RFD's indefinite hiatus was typed in large font. Surely, there were hundreds of comments on the blog, protesting the shut down, but Simmons didn't care about those. He just wanted to know why.
Author's Note: Slightly shorter chapter than last time. But it's nearing midnight as I'm typing this and I'm tired. This is also a good stopping place. Review and let me know how you like this chapter! I might just be coerced into writing the next chapter faster.