WHEEEEEEE. It's a bit later than usual, so I'm sorry for that, but... Phantom of the Opera dragged me away. Literally! I forgot to keep my hand at the level of my eyes, so he took the opportunity to lasso me round the neck and drag me off to his lair and force me to write about him... and rent his book from the liberry...

BUT ANYWAY. You can also blame Davy Jones. *points to him and his damned crew* HIS STUPID HATE ROMANCE WITH CALYPSO DRAGGED ME AWAY TO START A NEW VIDEO. DAVY, YOU JUST STFU, I AM BUSY WITH TRANSFORMERS. Plus, she didn't deserve you anyway so... yeah. Leave me alone.

Hehe yeah well... mild writer's block, what can I say? Besides, when I open this document on my word program, it's taken to going veeeeery slow. Probably because this is one of my longest stories now. Oh yeah, changed my font... so it's actually like 103 pages. XD

Shout out to LittleEnglishLass! She and I were messaging, somehow got to talking about Invader Zim... and we decided that Stacie was a fan. Lol. We also decided that Megatron was Zim, Starscream was Dib, Knock Out was Professor Membrane, Slipstream was either Gaz or Tak, and Soundwave was Keef!

... I said Sunstorm was GIR, but who do you IZ fans think is Decepticon GIR, if Megatron is Zim?

LOL, yeah, I'm weird.

A bit of shameless self-promotion here: if you like Knock Out and Soundwave (wait, no, I-I didn't mean TOGETHER!), be sure to check out my story "Not As We". It starts during the tail end of "Triage" (the ep where Sounders' faceplate gets broken and KO's paint job takes some major damage) and diverges from there. It features my OC's, Alanna Wilson and Jess Burne. And flashbacks of my other OC, Lisa James, with Breakdown. And even though its initials read NAW, I promise you it's very serious and depressing! (Y'know, for those of you who are into angst and hurt/comfort...)

Well, I hope y'all like this chapter! I think it's a little longer than Aspen's... happy dance! :D


Well, the next month wasn't as totally, completely awkward as I thought it would be. We all basically learned to live with each other, and even though Knock Out annoyed me... well, he had his moments. Life was pretty much the same as it had been before, with the exception of I now had a guardian and we had another medic. It was actually kind of nice... having more people around.

Hiding on an out-of-the-way riverbank, we didn't exactly have a medical bay right then, but Knock Out marked his territory. Well, more like set up a little wall, because he was loath to think of someone invading his space. He'd claimed the other side of the bank under the bridge as his personal med bay, as he could step over the water. He wouldn't have to change clothes or, in his case, worry about rust. The other side of the bank where I'd set up my little makeshift playpen, he acknowledged that as my nursery for Controller, and didn't impose upon it.

Knock Out was mostly a blessing when he was helping me and Scalpel with repairs. He'd told me before that he was better at taking things apart than putting them back together, but he was actually very good at helping me. The only thing that happened when we were put in the same area was... arguments. I didn't want to fight with him, I really didn't. I'm not the kind of person who likes confrontation. Just something about us... we got along for a little while, and then we started fighting.

With him, it took the form of looking over my shoulder while I was working. Sure, he'd pretend he was "combing" my hair with his claw, or he'd pick up Controller and feed him while he was looking. He'd be humming some song he'd heard on the radio one second, and then the next he'd make some offhanded comment about exactly how what I was doing was wrong. I was attaching the wrong part to the wrong place, I was using the wrong technique, I was doing totally fine except that there was a more efficient way to do it.

Honestly, it drove me crazy. I don't get upset easily, because letting people get to me had never worked out well. I tried to just let it go, count to ten and take deep breaths. I would give him an insanely fake smile and apologize for my mistake in the sweetest voice I could manage without giving myself a cavity. I'd continue doing it, replacing what I'd been doing with the right way, his way. If I'd been particularly offended, I would pick up my things and move my operation to my hiding place behind Megatron. (He didn't mind, though, as long as I kept working. Surprisingly, I actually worked at a better, faster pace when I was angry.)

I knew he didn't mean to be so inconsiderate all the time. The Decepticons may have been pretty social creatures by nature, but they didn't get a lot of practice dealing with people like me, whose feelings were easily hurt. He never really apologized to me or anything, but there was a certain, kind of ashamed look in his optics that I saw when he realized he'd gone too far. I think it was his way of silently owning up to his really bad mistakes. That was good enough for me; as long as he made sure I saw that look before I climbed into Barricade's servo at night, I forgave him for everything he did.

I'll admit, I made the same mistakes too. Not in the same obvious, careless way he did, but I said just about the same things. I tend to get sarcastic and kind of emotionless when I'm very mad at someone - sometimes I don't even realize what I've said until I get away from the person. If I was mad at him, my voice would drop and I'd say something that was probably awful, and the worst part was the tone I used. I would talk in this cold, biting tone, and try as I might to keep myself from showing it, I think my emanations gave away how much of a seething boil I was reaching. (At least to them.)

But as soon as I was calmed down enough to deal with that person again, I ran over and stumbled my way through an apology that was likely too copious and maybe even a little unintelligible. I would say "I'm sorry" probably at least a hundred times during the apology, and I connected the situation with other things in my mind. It was probably hilarious to watch though, with me going on about things that didn't make sense, and the other person having no idea what I was talking about, trying to stammer their way through my jumble of "sorry"s.

Knock Out always forgave me. Since I didn't hold things over him, he probably figured he shouldn't hold things over me or I'd get annoyed. Which I would, of course.

Slipstream and I hadn't exactly gotten any closer, though she did stop trying to pick fights with me every time she saw me. One of the reasons was probably because she figured out I wasn't going to fight back. She was looking for fights, and if I didn't do anything back, then what was she wasting effort for? Also, I was hoping it was a sign that maybe she trusted me more and was willing to perhaps, just perhaps, try to form some kind of weird friendship. After all, as Megatron had said, she hadn't seen another girl in quite a while.

I hoped she was warming up to me even a little bit, because it would be nice to be able to talk to another woman, even if she wasn't human. Plus I could talk to her about the things I couldn't talk to Sheila about; life with these guys, for instance. It wasn't always easy to work for the Decepticons, as "glamorous" as I make it seem. If I wanted to take a shower, I couldn't just go home and do it, since my parents thought I was still with my friends, so I had to go to the gym and take a shower. Half the time someone (usually Knock Out or Megatron) was breathing down my neck, either to berate my work or intimidate me to work faster. The other half, I was taking care of Controller.

I loved taking care of Controller, but... as much as I'd wanted a baby, it was harder than I'd expected. I'd studied, watched all the parenting videos, read everything about infant care I could get my hands on - I guess there's really nothing that can prepare you for the actual experience, no matter how much you think you're prepared.

In the first month before, after Starscream had found him, the thing that frustrated me the most was the feeding schedule. Babies weren't hungry at the same times I was - which, with Controller, was probably a blessing because I couldn't very well take him into town. I thought I'd understood that, but it was a little groan-worthy when I was working and he needed to be fed. (Sometimes Starscream would give me a break, but it was obvious he'd never had to deal with hatchlings before. I thought it was just better that I usually do it, because he could get really nervous if he had to handle Controller.)

This month, it was the crying. It hadn't been often that Controller cried, and the others called it "audial distress". (Knock Out, especially, had a habit of adding "accompanied by an optical fluid leak" to the end of that.) But trust me, it was crying. It was almost unbearable sometimes; I swore he would scream and shriek just because he wanted to see what he could make us do. "Hey! I'm crying over here! I'm gonna blow out my audial processors! Whatcha gonna do about it?"

There were times it made me want to scream too, but the clear problem with that was the fact that it wouldn't get either of us anywhere. It was lucky I had watched all those videos and read all that stuff about Shaken Baby Syndrome, so I knew what to do if I felt frustrated enough that I wanted to hit something. (I'm an introverted, mostly submissive person, but believe me when I say it definitely happens.) Whenever I felt like I was going to just scream, I gave Controller to someone else - I didn't care who, as long as I got away - and sat under the bridge until I calmed down.

Thankfully, he seemed to settle down toward the end of the month, and Starscream got a little excited about that. He wasn't very good with actually handling hatchlings, but he did like them, and he told me that the crying episodes tapering down was indicative that Controller was going to be maturing into a sparkling very, very soon. That excited me too, because for one there wouldn't be the constant wailing (that by now usually just meant he wanted attention), and... I was eager to hear him talk.

I think we were all a little on edge about it, because we were curious as to whether his first words would be in Cybertronian, which Skywarp had been trying to teach him (and, admittedly, not doing so well since he kept getting distracted and wanting to play with Controller instead), or in English, which was my language. They only wondered about English because I had been his primary caretaker, and I didn't speak Cybertronian.

I'd asked Megatron to teach me, since he'd been good at teaching me times, but he wouldn't even try. He said I could write it, but I couldn't speak it because it was too fast of a language for my brain to process. If I tried speaking, the bot listening wouldn't know what I was trying to say since I'd be saying it too slow. If I tried to translate, I wouldn't be able to understand any of the sounds, which I could only interpret as beeping and other mechanical noises. (So, basically, trying to teach me to speak it and not write it would be a waste of time. But oh well, win some, lose some.)

Another Decepticon had found his way to Earth. His name was Breakdown, and he was Knock Out's assistant. At first I thought he and I weren't going to get along, because for some reason I thought anyone working with Knock Out either had to be just like him... or a freaking saint. But actually, he wasn't anything like Knock Out; he wasn't a whole lot like me either, though I doubt any 'Cons besides Skywarp were.

Breakdown was a fairly nice mech, if a little cautious of me at first. Just because I was a human, and he hadn't really dealt with humans all too much, so he didn't know what we were like. We were a bit alike, I suppose - we both didn't like crowds and worked better alone. Though, I'd gotten somewhat better since I'd met them. I didn't object to spending time with them, though of course neither did he. But when we were working, we'd much rather be alone. Well, we worked alright together though; it was just that crowds made Breakdown nervous.

We actually got along pretty great. It was a relief for me, to know that I had another friend with the Decepticons. Plus, he was a big help in teaching me about Cybertronian anatomy. Knock Out had refused to do it long ago when I asked him - said trial and error was a better method for me.

I'd also shown my friends one of my favorite shows ever, which I had on my iPod. It had been years since it'd been on the air, and it was kind of a childish thing to be interested in, but they seemed to like it anyway. They didn't make fun of me for liking it, in any case. It was called Invader Zim, and was something Nickelodean had aired for a while. I watched it in high school, and my favorite part had been the rivalry between Zim and Dib because it was just so funny. They were both so paranoid.

Now that I'd met these guys, I was starting to embrace another part of the show: its comedic sociopathy. That, of course, was what Barricade liked best about it; he was always one to chuckle when something unfortunate happened to anyone. Except me, because he'd feel it over the bond and when it was him, it wasn't funny. Starscream and I, especially, liked to quote the show's various random... quotes. It was a lot of fun singing The Doom Song with him and Sunstorm.

I'd assigned the role of Zim to Megatron, much to his optic-rolling chagrin. Starscream raised an eye ridge at my casting, but he just ran with his niche of being Dib. The thing that scared me the most was that... I-I think Knock Out was waaaaaay more happy about being dubbed Professor Membrane than he should have been.

Surprisingly, Megatron and I were alone again several times. The Seekers left every day for a while, to scout out energon, since our "stockpile" was beginning to run out. Breakdown liked to look for other Decepticons, wanting to see if he could find anyone else to help the cause. And Knock Out... well, Knock Out liked to go street racing. I made the mistake of going with him one time, and I almost ended up being pitched from his Aston Martin alt mode. After that I decided I'd be safer staying with Megatron at the riverbank when the others were gone instead of going with Knock Out.

It wasn't awful, actually. With the rebuilding and taking care of Controller, there was never a dull moment. I'd apologized for the "kiss", and said I didn't know what I'd been doing till Barricade explained it to me, and would he please forgive me? He did, however annoyed he sounded about it and however much he growled at me. (He wasn't always serious though... I discovered that he just liked to growl, no matter what the situation.)

I was so close to being done with rebuilding his legs. I just had to finish soldering a few plates onto the pedes, and then I could attach them. Then at long last he'd be able to walk again. He was getting really anxious, waiting for the final touches to be put on, but at the same time he'd calmed down a little, realizing that I could only work so fast. I was gradually teaching him more about humans - namely, the fact that I needed breaks once in a while or I would go crazy. So he didn't usually mind when I said I needed a break. I think he was a little afraid I would go literally crazy and start screaming or something.

Believe it or not, it wasn't all that bad when we were alone, even when I took breaks. There were a few times when I was working that I told him stories about what my life had been like before. I casually mentioned once that when I was a sophomore, I had been on my high school gymnastics team and gotten silver for one competition. When he asked me what that was, I grinned and gave a demonstration. Honestly, I was a little glad that I had something to remember my previous years, before everything went downhill.

I started with a cartwheel, which turned into two cartwheels, then three, then four and five. I had to laugh when he was stunned by the way I moved; I hardly stopped for the transition of one into another. Though after five, I got a little winded and had to switch to something else. So I did a few flips, bending over backward and planting my palms in the grass before flipping over and landing on my feet, then doing it again. He said the gymnastics resembled a sport back on Cybertron, but I wasn't even going to attempt to pronounce it.

He did tell me, though, that the athletes who practiced the sport were considered the most graceful and agile of all bots. (And they were usually femmes, which gave me the suspicion that it was something remarkably similar to gymnastics.)

I think his favorite part was when I walked on my hands. "Can all humans do that?!" It was my opinion that he thought if all of us could do things like that, he might as well abandon his quest now! Why, I have no idea, because what's walking on your hands compared to a bunch of guns, but... well, his processor worked in very strange ways.

While I was walking on my hands, I wandered a little too close to the river, lost my balance, and fell in. I was a little shocked, and hoped I hadn't hit my head on a stone, but the biggest blessing was that I thankfully hadn't fallen facedown. So I'd escaped a possible drowning, because I read somewhere that you can drown in an inch of water. I pushed myself up, and saw that he was looking at me with an expression that could only be holding back laughter.

He was probably surprised by the fact that I started laughing too. I thought it was funny, that usually I wasn't clumsy around anyone but him. Most of the time I was pretty balanced and aware of my surroundings, but when I was talking to him or looking at him or... just... my face would always get hot if I focused on him for more than five seconds.

I'd be the first to admit that working for the 'Cons wasn't the ideal life for anyone, but... it wasn't all bad all the time. I knew Megatron probably didn't feel the same way, but the feeling I had with him was... amazing. Save for the one time we had sex, I... I'd never felt like that with Ricky before.

Based on the last month I'd had, well... I wouldn't object if they wanted to keep me.


By this time, Megatron had told all the others my story, so they all knew what had happened to me. Their processors couldn't comprehend why someone would deliberately do that... apparently, that sort of thing didn't exist where they came from, as Megatron had implied. But for the most part, they didn't pester me about it or worry about me. I was starting to get over it, and... even if it was a slow process, I hid my feelings extremely well. (Perhaps I was starting to integrate deception into my personality...)

So, there was always just a little bit of panic when I let my vulnerability show through. Most of the time, I was either upbeat, trying to keep order, or nonchalant. If I complained that I was tired or that I was in pain, Barricade or Starscream would be there in a nanoklik to make sure it wasn't anything serious.

Typically, the 'Cons let me have my breaks to myself, to just lie around and rest for a minute. But sometimes, they wanted to see my gymnastics, which Megatron had told them about. In particular, Knock Out and Skywarp liked my mini-routines; they'd shout out different things for me to do. Skywarp loved it when I did one-handed stands, especially if I switched from one hand to the other, while Knock Out's personal favorite was having me set up a log over the river and do balance beam tricks.

Which was precisely what I was doing. I hadn't felt that great since I'd woken up that morning, and I knew Barricade could sense it. But I guess since I didn't complain about anything other than being excessively tired and my stomach feeling weird, and he couldn't really feel anything except that, he figured I'd be okay if I didn't strain myself. I was kind of warm for some reason, which didn't happen often. I opted to ignore it, because I was probably just having a bit of an off day.

I'd walked all the way to one end of the log, onto the other side of the river. I did flips all the way over, and was contemplating what kinds of things I should do on the way back. I prepared to step onto the log, but the moment I lifted my foot, I felt a horrible, sharp pain in my right side. It was low, near my hip, and wasn't just on my front; it extended all the way around to my back too.

My head swam, and I couldn't do anything but collapse into a heap right there. I screamed as I did, wrapping my arms tightly around my middle. I heard several of the 'Cons shout my name, and in the middle of this weird, fuzzy feeling in my head, I could hear Knock Out musing about something. Something... about how he'd read on the internet about humans being overworked and having "these odd things called anxiety attacks... I've never understood why they call it being attacked, but it fits how she looks..."

But it wasn't. I'd had anxiety attacks, and they didn't really cause physical pain. Sweating and a little nausea, maybe, but not pain. I didn't have too much time to concentrate on the thought before my stomach began roiling. I quickly leaned over the river, and I couldn't stop myself from throwing up. I managed to wipe my mouth off, and I started crying.

I felt someone scoop me up in their servo, and the emanation of worry that was sent over my bond confirmed it as Barricade. "She's extremely hot," I could hear him say. "Hotter than a human should be, I think... and I can feel it, she's in a lot of pain." It didn't show in his voice, but he was really concerned for me. "Knock Out... what do I do? Can you fix her?"

"I don't know..." Someone else's claw touched my head, and Knock Out whistled lowly. "I think she's got what humans call a 'fever'. She's overheating, and she doesn't look good... I don't think her body can take the extra heat. As for the pain..." He paused, seeming to consider something. "She may be very sick. I don't know much about human disease..."

"Well, can you try to fix her?" Barricade hissed, bringing his other servo underneath me too. "You're supposed to be a medic!"

"Calm down, Barricade." He vented. "Look, I can't tell how ill she is. If she's sick enough to require some kind of surgery... well, she's too small for me to 'get in there', so to speak."

"Then tell me," I was surprised to hear Megatron entering the conversation, "what are we supposed to do about her condition... Doctor?"

Knock Out cleared his intakes. "Er, well... I would advise taking her to one of these human 'hospitals' I seem to read so much about. I'm not sure where the nearest is, but..."

"T-Tranquility General," I spoke up, turning over onto my back and trying to catch my breath from having just emptied my stomach. "Left from here... five miles..."

"Put on your siren," Knock Out added. "I hear the human police can go as fast as they want if it's urgent."

"Urgent, my sine function." Barricade transformed around me, and for a brief moment I was in the air, before I fell back down onto the backseat. "She needs help."

His sirens began to blare, and I fumbled to reach into my pocket for my phone. It wasn't totally charged, but I hoped it'd be enough. I lamely pressed speed dial one, and tried to hold it up to my ear.

"What are you doing?!" I heard Barricade screech through the radio. "You could be - it's - this is no time for phone calls, femme!"

There was a beep, and I barely was able to get out, "Mom? Dad?"

"Stacie? Hi honey! Are you on your way home? Did you have a nice trip?"

My eyes closed. "Mom, my... my friend's driving me to the hospital. The one by that factory." I felt like I was going to black out... oh God... "C-Can... Can you and Dad meet me there?"

"What happened? Did you get hurt or-"

Everything around me went black, like someone had put a bag over my head. My arm lolled down, and I dropped my phone onto the floor.

"Stacie? Are you there? Stacie! STACIE?!"


OH TEH NOES! NOT ANOTHER CLIFFHANGER!

But don't worry, because Aspen's cliffie will be answered next chapter, and Stacie's will be resolved in chapter 19.

... Who else is super excited for Chapter 20? 8D *insert stupid grin face here* I love getting to C20, 'cause it feels like a major accomplishment that I've stuck with a story that long. So, expect to be thanked again when we get to Chapter 20, lol.

Hope you guys liked! Remember to review, and thankies for reading! ^^