A/N- This is a bit of fun and meant to be read on its own, although the characters of Starscream and Alexis are from my previous stories "An Uneasy Partnership" and "An Uneasy Alliance." If you haven't read them, why not give them a go?
Just to clarify: this is not a sequel to "An Uneasy Alliance." Just an idea I had that made me smile. The character of Thomas may or may not appear in any sequel I might write. Comments, as ever, are deeply appreciated. Merry Christmas.
An Uneasy Interview
Thomas Wikins yawned and arched his back in his chair, reaching his arms behind his head he stretched, feeling his spine click. Outside, the winter sky was darkening. Somebody brushed past his chair, and when he turned his head he saw the office cleaning lady, carrying a black sack for the days rubbish. "Sorry deary," she chirped as she stooped to empty his wastepaper basket.
He smiled and turned his gaze back to his computer screen. The spread was finished. Now all he had to do was update the network, send that email, and he was free for a whole week. At home his bags were packed, ready for the all-inclusive skiing trip he was taking with his best friend. They were flying to Italy the next day.
He rubbed a hand over his chin, excitement coursing through him. He had been looking forward to this for weeks. As he shut down his computer, one hand hovered over his desk phone, debating… he probably ought to leave her in peace to sleep. But eventually the desire to hear her voice won out and he dialled her number.
The phone rang a few times, and he was on the verge of hanging up when a sleepy, hoarse voice answered him.
"Hi babe, he said in a hushed voice. "How are you feeling?"
He heard the rustle of cotton sheets as Alexis rolled over in bed. "Awful," she groaned. "My head feels like it's going to split open. Still got a sore throat and I ache all over. I'm bored of being ill…"
"Oh, hon," he crooned, shifting position in his chair. "Shall I come over? Do you need anything?"
"No no no, I'm fine, you need to get to the airport anyway."
"I'll get you lots of souvenirs befitting such a poorly princess," he said grandly, spinning lazily in his chair, the cord becoming tangled round him as he spun. "And when I get back and you're better, we'll go out. I've got something to show you."
"Sounds great," croaked Alexis with a smile, snuggling back into bed with a hot water bottle hugged to her chest.
"Listen, I'd better go. Got to rush home and get my things then I'm going to Gavin's to catch a few hours sleep. We're leaving for the airport early tomorrow. You sure you'll be alright?"
"Mm hm," she replied sleepily. "Completely sure. Emma's coming over later to check on my supplies of Lemsips. I'll survive. Have fun. I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too. I might not get a signal on the slopes, so I'll call you when I get back. Feel better babe!"
He hung up the phone, and opened his desk drawer. Inside, amongst the papers and stationery, a velvet box sat snuggled between the stapler and sellotape. He pulled it out, and opened it for the twentieth time that day. Nestled inside was the white gold engagement ring, winking in the light. He stared at it for half a minute, eyes shining. Then he carefully snapped the lid shut, and slipped it into his pocket.
Thomas stepped out into the cold night air, tugging his coat collar up. His breath made fog as he exhaled, his long legs striding across the tarmac to his car, parked over the other side of the street.
As he approached he stopped short, cursing in disbelief. His car passenger door was wide open, the interior light spilling from the car!
Thomas ran to the car, angry and nonplussed. Someone had broken into his car! But… the stereo was still there… he never left anything on the seats, and whoever had done it clearly hadn't stolen the car… he just couldn't understand it…
He looked all around the quiet street. There was no traffic this time of evening, his office being tucked into a quiet corner of the city. No sounds of anyone nearby. Frowning in bewilderment, he leant forward through the open passenger door, peering inside the car.
What happened next unfolded so quickly he barely had time to register it at all. The passenger door flew inwards, knocking him forwards. He was pitched onto the back seats with a yell of surprise. The door knocked him again, trapping his feet, and he howled in pain, curling his legs into the car. He heard the slam of the door followed by the synchronised 'clunk' of all the locks clicking down.
Then, with a menacing growl, the engine started. Thomas's head jerked up in shock… there was no one in the driver's seat… what the…? He scrambled upright, tugging at the handles as the car began to move, speeding down the street. A thrill of horror shot down his spine and he pounded on the windows. "Wha… hey, HEY! Someone help me!"
"Quiet, puny human!" The deep voice boomed all around Thomas and he let go of the handles as if he'd been stung, slumping back onto the passenger seat. Facts were starting to click into place in his head. "You're a decepticon," he said weakly.
"Ten out of ten," boomed the voice.
"But… I thought you'd all gone! You mean I've been driving a actual decepticon around for god knows how many…"
"Stupid little man!" The voice interrupted. "I took on your ridiculous vehicle's form this very solar cycle. Your real vehicle has been disposed of. Now, sit back like a good fleshie. My boss wants a word with you."
Thomas mouthed wordlessly for a few moments. Finally he found his voice, cold sweat prickling his brow.
"Look… I don't know why you're here… but you have to have the wrong guy. I'm just a graphic designer from Coventry, I'm no one special!"
"No one is for one moment assuming you are special," sneered the voice. "You are merely significant by association."
Thomas's heart was pounding. Realisation starting to creep through his veins like a virus. There was only one reason the decepticons would be interested in someone like him. He had been seeing Alexis for a year now, and knew his fair share about her involvement with these monsters in the past. Swallowing hard he said:
"Is it… something to do with... Alexis?"
A low chuckle rumbled throughout the car. They were speeding out into open country, through the window Thomas could see only darkness. "Well, well, well. You may not be as stupid as you look. It took a while for some of the others."
Others? Summoning his courage, Thomas persisted. "But…"
"Enough!" boomed the voice. "Stop your snivelling! I think a little something to preserve your energy for what lies ahead is in order…"
Thomas heard a hissing noise, and immediately clamped his hands to his mouth as a pale mist filled the car… but it was too late. His eyelids fluttered and the last sound he heard was a rumbling chuckle as the world slipped sideways…
His eyes flew open and he convulsed and gasped, as if waking from a nightmare…
His wrists hurt. Coughing and blinking, her looked down blearily to see they were cuffed with heavy bands, made of some dull metal. He turned them this way and that, making out bizarre symbols carved into the hard surfaces. The cuffs were not chained together so he could technically move his arms freely, although the dead weight of them was restrictive…
He shivered, and looked up. Immediately he shrank back.
In front of him was a colossal empty throne, at least 25 feet high. It was made of a black onyx-like stone, the huge armrests rearing above him. The back of the chair arched out widely to either side.
Thomas staggered to his feet. This was not good. This was really not good. Fumbling, he felt in his coat pocket for his phone. He pulled it out, with some difficulty owing to the cuffs.
No signal. "Shit!"
The curse echoed high above him and he looked up, tilting his head way back. The ceiling was an impossibly long way off, he couldn't even begin to calculate how tall. To either side, high above, huge windows reared. He couldn't see out. The whole place was dimly lit with pale lights twinkling high above. He spun round on the spot, staring at the glyphs making grooves in the dark floor, whorls and swirls leading away into the gloom. He appeared to be on his own.
Thomas shivered. He'd never seen a building like this on earth. Which must mean…
No. No no no, no way! He began to run, first in one direction, then another. But where was he to go? Even the air felt oppressive, each breath felt heavy, as if he wasn't getting quite enough of it. And there was a funny taste on the tip of his tongue, as if the atmosphere was tainted with strange minerals.
Suddenly he saw movement… there was a person, way over in the distance, they'd just walked behind that pillar! He began to run towards them as fast as he could. "Hey! Heeeey! Over here!"
The figure turned its head, and as Thomas drew nearer his heart sank. Not another person… a decepticon! It was approximately his height, with red eyes that glowed at him through the dark. It seemed very surprised to see him. Then to his amazement, its face split into a broad grin.
"Oh great, you must be the vet! I keep asking him to bring a fleshie vet back for me, but he usually just kicks me across the hall, I never thought he would really do it! This is great! You are a vet, right? Yeah? You an Earth Animal Medic, yeah?"
Thomas found himself being pulled along by one arm, stunned. The robot was still chattering happily, seemingly oblivious to its new companion's fear and confusion.
"Uh…. I… I'm not a vet…"
"What?" the robot stopped, then suddenly its shoulders sagged. "I shoulda known," it said despondently. "No one ever listens to what Frenzy wants…"
It looked up, its red optics narrowed in a frown.
"Well, if you're not a vet, then who are ya?"
Thomas shook his head, his frantic brain struggling to make sense of all this. This has to be some sort of weird dream, he thought. "Uh... I'm Tom… Tom Wilkins."
The robot tilted its head. "You one of Alexis's boyfriends?"
"Oh…" the little robot stepped back, one metal hand patting Thomas's shoulder. "I'm sorry mister, I really am. Still, whilst you're still ali– uh… whilst you're here, maybe you can take a look at my pet?"
The robot known as Frenzy hustled Thomas into a dark corner. Squinting, he could just make out a small huddled shape. Frenzy nudged it forward with a foot. "Come on Snuf! Say hello to the human!"
Frenzy turned to Thomas. "He's been looking a little peaky lately. Just take a look, flesh man, and see if you can make him move again. I'll be right back!" he chirped cheerfully, and scuttled off down a narrow passage.
Shaking his head at this surreal turn of events, Thomas found himself crouching down to examine the lump of fur, the robot's footsteps receding into the distance. He reached out one finger tentatively, then withdrew it again in disgust.
The thing was basically a skeleton, with scraps of fur still clinging to its frame. It had been dead for some time, all trace of flesh gone save the fur and some mummified skin. It looked as though it may have been a guinea pig, once. Thomas sat back on his haunches, shaking his head as though trying to get rid of a wasp. This was getting weirder and weirder!
The robot returned, carrying a small basket, presumably for the animal. "Well?"
"Well what?" Thomas stood back up. "It's dead!"
"What?" the robot's mouth formed an 'O' of shock. "But… but I was only gone less than a klik… what happened?"
Thomas rolled his eyes and gestured wildly to the sad, slumped cadaver. "It's been dead for ages, you metal cretin! Just look at it!"
Frenzy stared at it. "I.. I thought it was…" he searched his processor for the right word. "…hibernating…" he mumbled.
Thomas gaped at him. "This is a madhouse," he finally said. "You have to let me leave! I'm leaving! Right now!"
"Whoa whoa, wait there, I mean, where would you go, exactly?"
Frenzy jogged alongside Thomas's strides, eventually throwing out an arm to stop him. "Starscream hasn't seen you yet!"
Thomas stopped dead. "S… Starscream?" he whispered. "Isn't that... the... the big one... the plane?"
"Yup, he's at the arena, there's a big gladiator match on. But he should be here soon. I'm guessing he, uh, wants to talk to you..."
Both of them suddenly wheeled round as a massive pair of doors down the far end rumbled open, the sound reverberating up through the soles of the young man's tattered converse. Thomas peered through the gloom… then his eyes widened in fear as not one, but three enormous monsters strode in, with slow, assured strides. Their heads were held up proudly, plane wings arching from each one's back. Thomas stared, mesmerised, at the light glinting off their joints as they moved, and felt the tremor of each booming footstep. He recognised the first one, slightly ahead of the other two as the infamous Starscream, a smile playing on his cruel mouth. The jet had not noticed the small human some distance down the throne room. Yet.
Just as Thomas was struggling to deal with the presence of these three menacing creatures, the ground shook some more, and decepticons emerged from huge archways to his left, right, and behind him. He spun wildly on the spot, gasping as all around him, huge metal monsters crowded in, barging each other, jeering laughing and roaring. The hall became filled with a deafening clamour. He covered his ears and felt his knees buckle, but not quite give away, as he stood frozen to the spot like a rabbit before a juggernaut. Before a hundred juggernauts.
Down the far end, Starscream had seated himself on the huge black chair, the other two jets bellowing enthusiastically.
"That was so amazing the way you smashed that bolthead's face clean off, Starscream!"
"Or what about when you exploded that other guy into dust, just like that!"
The purple and black jet guffawed at the memory, smacking the top of the backrest. "You're the best fighter in the galaxy Starscream!"
Thomas watched the decepticon leader's chest swell visibly with an arrogant pride. "Perhaps I ought to merely watch from now on, stop the odds from being so predictable," he purred. One hand reached out lazily and Thomas saw a smaller mech- something about it told him it was female- rush forward and place an energon cube into it.
"All hail Starscream!" The purple and black jet boomed, and with a roar the entire throne room joined in. "All hail Starscream!"
At that moment the glowing red otics caught sight of the petrified human standing rooted to the spot down the hall. An evil smile spread slowly across the angular face. "And to top it all off," he crowed, gesturing to the young man (all heads swivelled down to him) "…My special visitor has arrived!" He leaned forward. "Thomm…masss….. Wil….kin….sss…" he hissed, tasting every syllable. "Come here." One imperious metal finger extended, and beckoned.
Thomas, in the years that followed, never failed to feel a deep flush of shame and embarrassment at what came next. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a strangled gasping noise. Above him the raucous chatter had stopped abruptly when Starscream had spotted him. Now a low chuckle began to ripple through the assembled decepticons, rising to a roar of delighted laughter. With a cry of fear he stumbled back… only to feel his back bump against a hard metal leg. Still laughing, the mech he had touched ushered him forward with mock gentleness. He had no choice but to stumble on, his back pushed by strong fingers, until he was in front of the throne. He stared up at the monstrous jet, words slipping from his mouth at speed.
"I think there might be a mistake, I'm not sure I'm supposed to be here, in fact, I'm certain I'm not..."
"Thomas, Thomas..." said the jet affably. "Relax..." He leant down, throwing the young man into shadow. Metal fingers clasped him under the arms and he was lifted into the air. The grinning jet set him down on the arm rest, and with a casual wave, dismissed the assembled mechs. They began to file out, chattering to each other in deep gruff voices that echoed through the hall. Gradually it emptied, save for the other two jets, who were watching him with deep interest, and Frenzy, who peeked out from behind a pillar.
"Now, Thomas, you must be hungry," said Starscream. A huge finger and thumb lowered, offering him a slightly squashed sandwich in a cardboard and cellophane box. The use-by date read 2 days ago. Thomas had never felt less hungry in his life, sheer terror had turned his stomach into a lump of lead. He hesitated, clutching the sandwich, wondering what to do with it. Then he looked up to see the jet glaring at him. He began to shovel the sandwich into his mouth as fast as he could.
The jet sat back, seemingly satisfied. "Excellent," he said. "I am a most gracious host, you see. I would not want your visit to Cybertron to be a… negative experience."
Although Thomas had figured out, deep down, that he must be on an alien planet, to hear it stated out loud sent his knees buckling again and he sank into a sitting position. He swallowed a mouthful of the tasteless sandwich and it stuck in his throat, making him choke. The jet waitied for him to stop coughing, the glowing red optics never wavering from him as he spluttered and banged his chest with his fist.
"I expect you know what I have brought you here for, human. The small matter of you wishing to befriend a certain Alexis Garner."
He looked up, panicked. "I… don't know her that well," he lied desperately. "More an acquaintance than anything else."
A dangerous growl rumbled from between the jets parted lips and he leaned down, causing the human to shrink back fearfully.
"I am an excellent liar," he whispered. "You, I am sorry to report, human, are not. Do not think of trying to deceive me again. It will be the very last thing you will ever do."
"S…sorry.." he stuttered.
The jet sat back. "Now. I have here information that you met Miss Garner at a house party in the Earth city of London, on the third day of the Earth month November, last Orbital Cycle. Whereafter you contacted her via the virtual interaction platform known as…" He hesitated, and Thundercracker held out a data pad in front of him. "…Facebook. Since then you have communicated with her extensively, and gone with her to numerous locations throughout the city. On the eleventh day of the Earth month February, you purchased a bunch of scented spores classified as Roses, via the internet site Interflora, bearing the message: "To Alexis, my hot little Valentine." Starscream's expression was inscrutable. "Most touching. From what I understand of human behavior this was a romantic endeavour to win her affection. Hm?"
Thomas gaped up at him, shaking his head in amazement. "How do you… you spied on me! How can you do that? Does Alexis know about any of this?"
Starscream ignored him. "I feel there are some things you ought to understand, human," he said smoothly. "I, Starscream, leader of the Decepticons and Ruler of the planet Cybertron, happen to take a special interest in this human girl's well-being. I feel it my duty to ensure anyone who expresses an interest in her in this way, is a worthy candidate.
Thomas continued to stare up at the huge transformer, stunned. What is he, her dad? Indignation nudged his terror to one side for a moment and he sat forward. "How is it any of your business who Alexis dates? Shouldn't she be able to decide for herself?"
"Oh dear," replied the jet silkily. Faster than a snake, he lunged, his fingers snagging one foot and lifting Thomas into the air. He yelped as he was yanked upside down, arms flailing, fringe falling over his eyes. Far, far below was the floor. He shouted out in fear and squeezed his eyes shut. Red light illuminated the insides of his eyelids. He felt the contents of his pockets slip out and heard them clatter to the floor…
"Aaaaaaaarrgh put me down put me down put me down!"
"Now then Thomas," said Starscream, swinging the screaming young man back and forth casually between thumb and forefinger. "Alexis is a special human. One in a million, wouldn't you say?"
"Yes, yes! Yes she is!" Thomas yelled in desperation, feeling sick. His ankle hurt where the massive fingers were holding it… but if they were to let go… a fresh wave of nausea hit him at the thought.
"I would hate for her to be hurt in any way," Starscream continued, still swinging the helpless Thomas. "It would be such a tragedy for her spark to be wounded by a reckless, thoughtless individual…"
"Look, I've no intention of hurting her, alright? I love her!"
The swinging stopped. Thomas felt himself lifted to meet the two burning optics, still dangling upside down.
"You love her?"
Thomas nodded fervently, his head feeling tight and hot. "I think she's the most wonderful girl I've ever met," he said hoarsely. "I swear it. I've loved her since I first saw her!" Starscream said nothing, so he continued. "Maybe that's not the answer you want, but it is the truth! That's what you wanted from me!"
The optics narrowed. "Your terror makes your words unconvincing." The grip on his ankle slackened slightly and Thomas felt himself slip. He moaned in fear, sweat trickling down his back and his face, stinging his eyes.
"Look in the box… on the floor…" he gasped, eyes still squeezed shut.
Starscream gestured curtly to Frenzy, who ran forward, scooping up the velvet box. At a nod from his master, the small decepticon popped open the lid, holding up the tiny gleaming ring.
There was a long silence, punctuated only by the gasps of the human still dangling from Starscream's fingertips, feeling sure he would pass out any second.
"What is this?" he heard the rasping voice demand.
"A ring," he wheezed. "An engagement ring!"
"You wish to… bond with her?"
"Marry her, yes," he whispered. "Please… put me down now…"
Very slowly, he was lowered back to the armrest and let go. He lay on his back, head spinning, gulping in air and waiting to recover before he thought about sitting up.
"You really love her?"
He nodded again, opening one eye.
Starscream sat back, steepling his fingers.
"Does she love you?"
Thomas gave a short laugh. "Wouldn't have spent four hundred quid on a ring if I wasn't sure, sir."
Starscream snapped his fingers imperiously, and Thundercracker leaned forward. "We're finished, Thundercracker. Ready the shuttle for return. You know the coordinates."
Thundercracker nodded and withdrew. Starscream stayed still, watching the human as he sat up, rubbing his face and readjusting his rumpled t-shirt. A huge forefinger extended. On top of it, tiny looking, was perched the velvet box, the ring safely back inside. Thomas stared at it, then tentatively reached out, and took it. He looked up as the jet spoke.
"In that case, you may marry her."
Thomas managed a grin. "Very decent of you."
"I'm going to be watching you, Thomas Wilkins. Very, very carefully."
He nodded, swallowing hard. "I understand."
"If you fail in your duties as a husband to Alexis, or act in a way that displeases her or myself, I will know."
He was still shaking all over. The fingers clasped him, but merely set him back on the floor this time. He hastily gathered all his possessions back into his pockets. In one of the doorways the blue jet appeared to be waiting for him. Starscream leant back, optics glowing.
"Now, get out of my sight."
Thomas fled, happy to oblige. He looked back once over his shoulder to see the huge decepticon leader watching him all the way, lounging back in his throne. On the floor the small decepticon was waving farewell and grinning inanely. Ahead of him in a side chamber, was a small craft, which he deduced he had arrived in. As he left the throne room, Starscream called after him, stopping him in his tracks.
"One more thing, human."
Thomas turned slowly, heart hammering.
The jet grinned evilly. "I eagerly anticipate my invitation."