Disclaimer: I do not own Transformers. All recognizable characters are the property of HasTak. All unrecognizable ones are the intellectual property of yours truly; their theft is punishable by severe voodoo-induced pain in any and all sensitive organs of the body, followed by eternal damnation.
Because, you know, stealing is wrong.
Summary: Sparkbearer Saga: Part II. Alien invasions, possessed vehicles, language barriers, government conspiracies, family drama, supermarket tabloids, and tomato wars... Welcome to Earth.
Warnings: mild cursing, mild gore
Author Notes: … Um… excuse time, I guess?
I wrote a book. And now I'm editing it. And if it passes muster with my family/friends/random-passing-strangers, I'll start the whole 'let's see if this isn't a monumental piece of crap to the editing world and hope an agent wants to read more than the opening paragraph' process. (If it is a monumental piece of crap, it'll be on to another project, but that's a worry for another time.)
So… it's not like I haven't been writing. I just haven't been writing here.
(Also? This chapter was really, really hard. And I'm still not happy with it. But it's over with now, so we can move on to other things. *insert Flutter-yay here*)
But I'm back! For now. We'll see. But I'm not giving up on this story. It's like an old car – lots of sputtering and stops and starts, but it'll get you where you want to go in the end. ;3
(Seriously. The Sparkbearer Saga will be finished… Cafei knows where I live.)
She calls out to the man on the street.
He can see she's been crying.
She's got blisters on the soles of her feet,
Can't walk but she's trying.
-Another Day in Paradise, Phil Collins
She had been exiled to the far corner of the warehouse. Jazz and Prowl and Hound and the others stood in a loose huddle at the other end of the building, all except Mirage. Mirage had vanished without a word, and Evelyn could not blame him. Occasionally, a low mutter of voices echoed across the distance to her, but she did not care enough to try and decipher any words.
She could still smell the smoke.
Fire and flame all around, the crackle and roar, like an angry beast, and the world blurring past...
She clenched her hands on her lap. They trembled no matter how hard she tried to still them.
She barely remembered the trip back. There had been a blurred impression of speed and colors swirling past. She remembered blue and red flashing lights, red and yellow on either side, and a distant sense of safe.
But safe had been lost beneath guilt and horror and nausea welling up from deep within, and as soon as Mirage had let her out inside the warehouse, she had stumbled to the side and retched miserably onto the oil-stained cement.
Even Bluestreak hadn't said anything.
Jazz had looked into her eyes briefly, and she had a sense that he was seeing more than just her outer appearance – maybe he had scanners like Ratchet, or maybe his visor had more capabilities than she knew. Her thoughts had swirled around that idea, disjointed, like a flurry of snowflakes. The Porsche had declared her bruised but otherwise unharmed and said something about "acute stress reaction," whatever that meant.
Shock? she had wondered. I think that means shock.
A blanket was produced from somewhere, and she had been bundled up, lifted to the top of one of the shipping crates, given a bottle of water, and left to herself.
She blinked, looking up from the dirt-encrusted crescents of her fingernails. Prowl was looking at her.
She did not say anything. Her throat felt too tight, her mouth too dry, even after trying to drink some water. Even if she had tried to respond, she was uncertain whether any sound would emerge. She nodded.
"We need to speak about this."
She clenched her eyes shut. A tremor swept through her entire body. She still felt that chill, that sensation of being lost in the shadow of massive dark wings.
Her chest ached, and when she breathed in, it came as a trembling gasp. Prowl had stepped over to the crate, Jazz flanking him on one side, the others arrayed behind them. Sunstreaker and Sideswipe stood nearest the back, their expressions unreadable.
That spike of sorrow, that sudden longing for her Sideswipe, swept into the mix of confusing emotions already swamping her. Her Sideswipe wouldn't have looked so grim.
She dragged her attention back to Prowl. The tactician's doorwings stood stiffly upright, flared wide.
"Do you understand what you've done?"
Prowl didn't yell. Somehow, that made it all the worse.
She drew in a shaking breath. When she spoke, it was barely more than a whisper.
"I didn't …"
Her throat closed around the rest of her words.
I didn't know they could do that.
I didn't mean for that to happen.
I didn't think anyone would get hurt.
… I didn't know what else to do.
"Evelyn, you've put us in a position of extreme jeopardy. While the Seekers were so far distant, the chances of them picking up clues of our whereabouts were extremely low. But you've drawn them into scanning range of us and put them on the hunt."
She closed her eyes and nodded. "I know."
"Honestly, I'm not sure how to handle this. Were you a mech, I'd have you placed in confinement until such a time as I felt you were no longer a liability. It's obviously not a viable choice here, no matter how tempting I find it."
She forced herself to open her eyes and look up at the mech. There was no emotion on the tactician's face, but she could hear the elevated hum of his systems, see the pale flickering of his optics. He was furious.
"I had to do something," she said.
"You had to endanger us all? You had to draw enemy units within optic-range? You had to place an unsuspecting mech directly in the line of fire and… what? Hope for the best?"
A tiny spark of defiance flared.
"Nobody mentioned teleporting," she said.
"It wasn't relevant until you decided to set yourself out like some sort of sacrificial offering to invite an elite Trine to set up camp on top of our base. When exactly did that seem like a viable plan?"
"You weren't going to do anything."
"We were doing plenty. We were gathering intel. We were biding our time. We were following orders."
The spark burst outward into flame.
"I had to do something!"
Her voice broke, the shout echoing through the warehouse. Her vision wavered, blurred by tears, and she swiped them away angrily.
"People were dying anyway." Fire and smoke and purple and black, oh, god, no. She clenched her hands into fists, ignoring the burn as her fingernails cut into her palms. "They were dying anyway. And humans can't fight them! We can't. No one else even knows what they are – they think it's the US if it's anybody. Should I have waited until World War III broke out and then done something? Google that! Would that have been any better?"
"Evelyn, we are meant to keep you hidden and safe. We are not a strike team."
The anger flared within her anew, bright and sharp and painful.
"I am not going to hide away while Earth is being blown to bits by your war." The words came fast and ugly. "If all I can do is play bait and get them within shooting range, then that's what I'll do, but you don't get to sit back and say 'too bad' when you're the only ones that can make a difference! You can't do that to us! You do not get to make that call!"
"And you do?" Prowl's tone grew even colder, if that were possible. "You have no idea what we're facing. You don't know their capabilities, their intelligence, their tactics, or even their purpose, but you know enough to plant a target beacon in the middle of this region and think that's a good idea?"
"They were killing people!"
"You may well have killed people today."
That hit like a punch to the gut. If she had not been sitting already, she would have fallen.
Sideswipe broke in, voice sharp. "That's not fair."
"This conversation doesn't include you, Sideswipe."
"Oh, the frag it doesn't, sir."
She barely heard the argument. Those words tumbled around her, sharp-edged, like an avalanche of glass. You may well have killed people today.
"Is that so?"
"Look, why the slag would Prime send me and Sunny if he didn't think someone's plating was going to get dented? It's kind of what we do."
You killed people.
"Now is not the time."
"How much better of a setup do you need? They don't have a clue we're here. You've got two chassis-wrecking powerhouses ready and willing to kick some Seeker aft, a superspy that turns invisible at will, a crack-shot sniper, and… whatever the frag you want to call Jazz. I'd go with 'slagging terrifying', but that's just me."
Air moved. A shadow swept over her, blocking out the world. Pale blue light gleamed off of sleek white and black metal, and a hand wrapped over her shoulders, sheltering her. The warmth seemed to burn into her.
"Evy. Breathe. Ya need t' calm down, okay?"
Breathe. She had not realized she had stopped. Just breathe.
"That's the most ridiculous, half-sparked idea I've ever—"
"Hey, I know this is a novel concept, but sometimes crazy works."
"In an' out, Evy. Just in an' out." The mech's modulated voice seemed to roll over her like a warm tide.
She blinked, looking up at the black and white mech.
"Jazz. Jazz, how many…?"
"We don't know yet."
She did not know if that made it better… or even worse.
She barely recognized her own voice. "Yet."
"They're still fighting the fires. At least three homes were destroyed, but no one has been reported missing yet."
Yet. Not yet.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. She did not know if it was meant for the mechs around her or the faceless people suffering now because of her. "I'm so sorry."
"Is… is Mirage okay?"
"He's fine. A bit scraped and dented, but it ain't nothin' t' glitch over."
She remembered her last glimpse of the blue and white mech before he had vanished. His eyes had been lightning-flash white.
"He must be furious."
"Raj'll cool down. So will Prowl. You jus'… kinda blindsided us. Wish you woulda' talked it over with us first."
"You would have stopped me."
"Maybe so. But that's oil long spilled, so I'm not gonna be th' one t' fritz at ya." He grinned, small and tense and yet somehow reassuring. "We got this. Okay? Whatever happens. No matter how much Prowl growls, or Raj sulks, or Blue does that puppy-dog eyes o' doom thing he does… It's gonna be okay."
She leaned into the warmth of his palm.
In the background, Prowl and Sideswipe were squabbling like a pair of hens over a worm, and Bluestreak and Hound were chiming in on points of interest. Jazz's systems rumbled gently, the vibration travelling through his palm and into her body.
"Thank you," she whispered.
End Chapter Twelve
A/N: I've also been renovating my corner of the web. My blog Scriptophrenia has been changed to the much more spellcheck-friendly Going Verbal (goingverbal-dot-wordpress-dot-com) and will be centered more around original writing, writing resources, and reviews of various books. It's still in mid-metamorphosis, so bear with me. Like I said, most of my attention is on editing my original fiction, but I'm going to be around more often now. We're going to be trying for a steadier once a week update, so you guys won't have to suffer a drought like this again. (Knock on wood.)