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: Hello, all! Long time no see, and I'm very sorry for that. I'm going to be trying a more stable updating schedule here, along with some bloggery and Tumblry, and we'll see how it goes. (Links can be found in my profile.) We're going to try for once a week, so fingers crossed, and on with the show!
Dr. Jackson: Well, I guess we'll have to hold up here awhile till things calm down.
Teal'c: Things will not calm down, Daniel Jackson. They will in fact calm up.
- Stargate: SG1
Evelyn had set up a sort of home office in one corner of her parents' dining room. It was barely more than a chair set beside the antique mahogany buffet with several piles of folders and CDs stacked on the floor in some slight semblance of an organization system. Her laptop clung to the small cleared area at one edge of the buffet, the power cord snaking along the wall until it met an orange industrial extension cord that led around to the nearest outlet. Classy, it was not, but her parents had been gracious about the eyesore.
"It's not like we have that much company anyway, dear," her mother had said. "It'll do for now."
Her laptop's battery had not held a charge even before she had left on her 'vacation', so she was tied to the outlet, and the dining room was the best place to concentrate. Her dad held court in front of the television every evening, and her mother lived in the kitchen - she seemed to have made it her life goal to make Martha Stewart look like first-year college student living off takeout and ramen. In Evelyn's opinion, she was succeeding.
Now Evelyn sat slumped on the hard-backed chair, chin braced upon her fist, as she watched a photo slideshow and remembered.
She did not know how Hound had managed to burn his image captures to a CD. For all she knew, all the mechs had CD/DVD/Blu-Ray burners tucked into their systems somewhere. But the Jeep had been sweet enough to save three CDs worth of memories and give them to her as mementos.
There was Bluestreak in the Metellus rec room, hunkered down as he spoke to Evelyn atop one of the tables. And here was Ratchet, glowering blackly as he tinkered at Wheeljack's newly repaired arm. And here were Optimus and Prowl looking over one of the silver datapads. Every mech from Metellus was represented at least once. Somehow, Hound had even reconstructed images of himself, often in the company of the big black mech Trailbreaker or the yellow minibot Bumblebee.
She stopped the slideshow on one of her favorite images - Bluestreak, his mouth stretched wide in a beaming grin, with Evelyn, dirty and disheveled, perched atop his shoulder. She had one hand raised in something between a wave and a salute.
She missed Metellus, and that was a cowardly thought. She missed it because she had not been responsible, there had been nothing for her to worry over.
People hadn't been dying.
Oh, Ratchet, she thought. You'd be so mad at me right now.
There was the distant clatter-bang of the screen door, followed by muffled voices. Evelyn pulled her attention away from the computer, recognizing her mother's voice and another that was familiar. Female.
Footsteps approached along the hall.
"—in here," said her mother, voice kept to a low murmur. Evelyn caught only a handful of the words spoken, but those words included things like 'depressed' and 'worried' and 'poor dear'.
I've been moping, she thought, and that just darkened her mood further.
"Not a problem, mom. I know just the thing."
The second voice spoke at regular volume, perky and bright and...
Mom? thought Evelyn. Then, Right.
And here she came, wine-purple jeans and stiletto heels and jangly jewelry and all, followed by a wafting cloud of perfume that hit Evelyn like a wet dishrag to the face.
"Vee! Hey, girl, how have you been?"
And Hurricane Janice swept in for the obligatory greeting hug, all before Evelyn could even get to her feet.
"Janice," she said. "Hi."
"Oh, don't you 'Janice' me. Call me Jan. We're practically sisters!"
"Right. Sorry." Evelyn plastered on the best smile she could muster. It felt stiff and plastic, but it didn't seem to bother Janice Reed in the slightest. "Jan."
"Up you get, now. Come on. I'm taking you out, and I'm not taking no for an answer. Just because it's the weekend doesn't mean you get to sit on your tuckus the whole time. You should be out and about, having some fun! And as my maid of honor, you have all sort of things to look over before the big day."
"Janice, I don't really—"
"Ah-ah-ah!" Janice had all of four inches on Evelyn, and that was before the heels even came into play. It was a good thing that Richard got his height from their dad's side of the family, or the pairing would have looked ridiculous. Janice leaned forward, one perfectly manicured nail prodding Evelyn in the chest. "Mom has been telling me how blue you've been. You need to get out, get some sun. We're going shopping, and that's the final word!"
Evelyn had met Janice only briefly before... everything. She'd had an impression of 'smart-perky-domineering', and once more, she found herself with proof that she was a pretty good judge of character. Hoo, boy.
From the kitchen, her mother called out, "I've laid out jeans and a sweater for you, dear! It's warmed up, but that wind is a bit chilly!"
Evelyn glanced from Janice to the doorway to the kitchen and back again. Resistance crumbled away in the face of the combined forces of Maternal Concern and Pitbull Perseverance.
"Right," she breathed. "Just... give me a minute, okay?"
Janice drove a zippy little coup, ruby red, with storage space that wouldn't carry much more than a lunchbox and a bottle of water. Currently, that space was dominated by Janice's collection of bridal magazines, fabric samples, and every business card, flyer, and brochure of every bakery, church, garden, spa, mansion, and historic site below the Mason-Dixon line. The wedding was only a month away. Evelyn had to scoop a pile of bridal paraphernalia out of the seat before she could sit down, and Janice laughed, helping her to clear away the debris.
"Just chuck it in the back, go on. I'll dig it out later." Janice cranked the engine, flipped down the visor for a quick makeup check, and grinned at Evelyn. "I was hoping we'd take one of your new cars for a spin. Rick said something about Lamborghinis? So mysterious!"
"No, just the Jeep this week."
Hound had camped out alongside the barn. He had no problem sitting in the outdoors, unlike the twins, who viewed it as a punishment straight from Primus. Janice pouted upon seeing the nondescript green vehicle instead of one of the flashier cars.
"Rick wants to borrow the yellow one, did you know? Just for cruising, but he's halfway in love with it. Good thing I've got the ring, or I might worry I've got competition."
Evelyn allowed herself a moment to ponder the possible meeting of Richard and Sunstreaker. There was no way it would end well.
She forced a chuckle. "Right."
Shopping with Janice was not unlike being dragged around the block by an overeager labradoodle. There was a lot of yipping over interesting things in windows and an overabundance of physical contact, hugs and shoulder-bumps and nudges. At least there was less drooling.
Evelyn mused that she may have been in a less-than-charitable mood.
Of course, by this point, they were in the sixth dress shop in a sixty-mile radius of Oak Grove, and Evelyn could feel her blood sugar plummeting to homicidal levels.
"Oh, and what about this one?" Janice held up an unholy creation of lace, sequins, and salmon-pink ruffles. Evelyn squinted at it.
"I hope you're joking."
Instead of being insulted, Janice merely laughed again and set off for another rack. Evelyn leaned against the wall beside the dressing rooms and massaged her temples.
Her phone buzzed. With a sense of resigned irritation, she fished it from her pocket. The caller ID showed a string of gibberish letters and numbers, but she was familiar enough now to recognize which number went with which mech. Sideswipe. Of course.
'HOW MUCH LONGER?'
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she replied.
'IT TAKES AS LONG AS IT TAKES. I THOUGHT HOUND WAS BABYSITTING ANYWAY.'
'CHANGING OF THE GUARD. ENTERTAIN ME.'
'BUT I'M BORED.'
'YOU HAVE THE INTERNET. STOP WHINING.'
'WHAT CAN I SAY? YOU'RE MORE FUN THAN NETFLIX.'
She snorted, a small tendril of amusement uncurling within her.
She wanted to ask about Mirage, about the new, more stringent patrol patterns demanded by Prowl, but she couldn't gather the courage. She hadn't seen anyone except the twins, Hound, and Bluestreak in over a week. She hadn't been invited to the warehouse for even longer, not since…
"Why so glum, chum?"
Evelyn startled, irrationally convinced that Janice had teleported from across the store. Then the thought of teleportation made her stomach clench with remembered horror, and she looked down, focusing on locking her phone.
"Nothing," she said. "Done already?" Then, after a pause, she added, frowning, "'Chum'?"
"Something my dad used to say when I was little." Janice tilted her head, mouth pursed in amusement. "It's almost two. And I can tell you're absolutely riveted."
A faint blush rose to her cheeks. Evelyn realized how she must look, hunched against the wall, attention on her phone like a sulky teenager.
"I'm sorry," she said, sincere. "It's been… a weird month."
"Oh, don't worry about it. At least you came. Mom's been thinking you were going to turn into some kind of pasty hermit, locked away indoors except for schooldays."
Evelyn rather doubted her mother had used the phrase pasty hermit in her life, much less to refer to her own daughter.
Janice's smile had grown into something wolfish.
"Well, you can make it up to me," she said, tone light and yet oddly terrifying. She held up one finger in a 'wait' gesture and walked to a nearby rack. She returned in a moment, holding a dress that would have been more at home in a Prohibition speakeasy than a bridal shop, all dangling beads and glitter and glitz. She pushed it toward Evelyn.
"In you get."
Evelyn accepted it, arms sagging under the unexpected weight of all the beads.
"Um." She hefted it, biting back the first several comments that came to mind, settling at last on a semi-casual, "I thought you wanted ruffles?"
"I just have to see you in something other than blue jeans, or today will have been a total waste. Come on, chop chop!"
"I look like a Golden Girl."
The dress was not designed for anyone burdened with a chest larger than an A-cup, and Evelyn breathed shallowly, very aware of the price tag and the stitches creaking around her ribcage. In the mirror, she could see Janice beaming.
"Oh, it's cute," she retorted. "Not really your style, but really, the whole point of dress shopping is getting to try stuff on. If you'd picked out some on your own, I wouldn't have had to do it for you. And look, you do have a waist!"
Janice poked at her sides as thought to say, 'See? Right here!'
A year spent tolerating Sideswipe had paid off. Evelyn smiled a tight, polite smile and said nothing.
"Oh, get that look off your face. I won't make you wear it to the wedding." Now she was reaching for Evelyn's hair, twisting it up off her neck and holding it high, flipping it this way and that and observing the effect in the mirror. "Definitely an up-do for you. Gives you some more height, a little oomph, you know?"
She could hear her phone buzzing from the pile of her discarded clothes, a long, repeating string of texts. Probably Sideswipe being his usual six-year-old-boy-in-a-thirty-foot-robot-body self. She longed to grab it and make a run for the outside. If she texted SOS, she wondered how long it would take her watch-bot to pick her up.
Janice released her hair, her hands trailing down. Evelyn twitched away as her soon-to-be sister-in-law brushed her fingers lightly over her shoulders, examining the metal bands adorning Evelyn's upper arms.
"Where ever did you get these?"
"A... gift," said Evelyn. "From a friend."
"Your new boyfriend?" The blonde smiled knowingly. "Right, your mysterious benefactor. Rick's told me all about him. Will he be at the wedding?"
"Probably not." Technically, he's in another galaxy right now. Once again, she found herself missing Ratchet and Wheeljack keenly. One hand rose to brush against the simple silver pendant. She was surely losing her mind if the idea of being screamed at by the infuriated medic made her feel nostalgic.
"Pity. The Frontier's always on the lookout for new investors." Janice laughed, but the sound was quieter, nothing like her usual boisterous cackle. "Dad'll pay for the wedding, but he's a little less blasé about bailing out a 'gossip rag', y'know?"
"I… didn't, actually. I'm sorry." Richard had never mentioned anything about money troubles, but then again, they had rarely spoken save for a few rounds of 'Witness protection? Really, Evelyn?'
"Yeah, well. Rick says we'll get our big break, just got to be patient. There's always another big story."
Evelyn did her best to smile, but it was a rather weak effort. She was in the process of thinking up some sympathetic response when:
"Holy hell," Janice yelped, jerking away and knocking against the dressing room wall. "What in the - is that your phone?"
Evelyn spat a curse even as she fumbled through the folds of her discarded clothing. A series of small but alarming pops sounded along her ribs, the death cries of stitches giving up the fight - she prayed the damage was mild. The alarm continued unabated, seeming almost to grow louder, far more so than she would have thought her phone's speaker capable of.
"I put it on silent!" she said, raising her voice over the din. I'm going to kill him. I'm going to shove the biggest potato I can find up his stupid shiny tailpipe, and I'm going to kill him.
"Doesn't sound like it!"
From outside the dressing room, a tentative female voice called out, "Is everything okay in there?"
"Fine! Just fine!" Evelyn snatched up her phone at last and stabbed at the receive button, ending the cacophony.
"What?" she snarled.
"You weren't answering your texts," said Sideswipe.
"Because I am busy, you rust-addled lunatic." Abruptly aware of Janice's wide-eyed stare, Evelyn modulated her voice to something a little less homicidal. "Can I help you?"
"Prowl wants you to head back home, ASAP… FYI. JSYK." A pause. "LOL."
"You are not as cute as you think you are."
"Please, I'm adorable. I'm also serious: you - home - now. Prowl's got his 'I am planning great and terrible things' face on."
"Prowl always looks like that," she muttered. "Fine. I'm in my way back. Just give me a minute to change."
"Into what?" asked Sideswipe, sounding intrigued and not a little disturbed.
"My clothes, you moron."
"Don't 'moron' me! That is a perfectly legitimate question for a Cybertronian-"
Evelyn hung up. For a moment, all was silent, then,
Evelyn held up one hand, not even looking at Janice.
"Don't," she said. "Just… don't." Then she sighed and turned, raising one arm and peering down at the side of the dress. "Help me out of this? And please tell me I didn't split the seams. I'm gonna take it out of his hide if I have to buy this thing."
"Your mysterious benefactor?"
"The only thing mysterious about him is how he's survived this long."
Evelyn stood in the doorway long enough to give the obligatory goodbye wave as Janice trundled off down the driveway. Then, with a sigh of sheer exhaustion, she closed the door behind her, hung her purse on the entryway coat rack, and shuffled into the house.
"Hey, I'm back."
A muffled, "Hello!" came from the kitchen, echoed by a "Glad you're home!" from the living room. Evelyn rolled her eyes, smiling.
All present and accounted for, she thought.
Passing into the living room, she leaned down long enough to kiss her father's cheek before pulling away to continue on to her bedroom, but her father caught her wrist.
"Have a look at this," he said.
She looked at the TV screen. Her stomach clenched at the familiar trio of jets featured on the screen.
"Again?" she said. "Where…?"
Her eyes trailed down to read the headline, and she couldn't breathe.
Phantom Jets spotted over Knoxville, Tennessee. Local power plant destroyed. Ten people killed.
Vanished without a trace.
End Chapter Thirteen