Chapter One: Belated Impressions
A light breeze blew through the window, only slightly disturbing the sheer curtains covering the paned glass. Dotted along the marble counter were blotches of flour and vegetable oil, some smeared, some whole clumps. Fresh apples sat in a cluster near to the farmhouse sink, another pile of them chopped and ready for use in a semi-traditional apple pie.
Samantha hummed softly as she carefully spread a decadent pie crust, her grandmother's recipe, onto the bottom of the glass pie dish. The tune wasn't necessarily familiar, but it was a pleasing melody.
The apartment she lived in was a rather large duplex retrofitted into a singleplex. It wasn't a word, she knew, but she liked the sound of it. The lowest level of the three-story building was a massive garage with high ceilings. There were vaulted ceilings in the upper levels as well, but they were interrupted on either side by the loft bedrooms. The larger one with a wrought-iron spiral staircase leading up to the roof was hers. She'd renovated most of the apartment herself, even going so far as tearing down the partitioning walls herself. The whole space was widely open now and her balconies were littered with colorful plants and a small wrought-iron table with matching sling-back chairs.
The interior was a mixture of eclectic and chic. The hardwood floors she'd beaten to within an inch of their lives to give them the well-worn look she desired. She had older furniture which she had reupholstered and painted to suit her purposes mixed in with higher brands of technology. Some of those technologies were ones that the people of Earth could yet only dream of. Some, such as the floating fiber-optic lights that made the airy expanse of her apartment look caught in an eternal star-shower, were items she herself had designed and marketed.
She received a regular stipend from the government when she did not have an 'active' role in the highly confidential and all-too-important N.E.S.T. division. According to some of the planetary leaders she was foolish for brushing off the impressive salary offered to her, but she paid them no mind. While she did take a salary when she was 'on duty', roughly one week out of every month, she settled for the stipend when she wasn't immersed in day-to-day life as Cybertronian Ambassador and Liaison.
She had made more than enough money on her own in the past six years to live off quite frivolously without fret of bankruptcy.
The Star-Shower, as it had come to be known, was one of her most popular inventions. It wasn't difficult to engineer, aided by the Allspark's knowledge as she was, and didn't tap into anything that the human population shouldn't yet know about. It was strictly human-level technology that no one had thought to create yet. It was most popular in use for children's bedrooms, but had also been used at galas and weddings across the globe. The granular fiber-optics were designed in such a way that they needed only to be drawn back into their housing, a box scantly larger than a tissue box, via magnetic attraction and recharged by the Sun's rays once every three weeks for a four-hour period if they were used twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They could be recharged using the refractive glow of the moon, as well, but the charge took much longer.
Her generators were a close second in popularity, though the profits from them were easily greater. The generators utilized the same properties as the Star-Shower did when it came to recharging, but the output was far greater. She was in the process of negotiations with various power companies across the world who wished to use the technology to give more consistent and clean power to their consumer-base. She was holding out until the tight-purses realized that she wasn't going to hand over designs until they'd agreed to making the service more affordable to the general public.
Beyond those inventions were a handful of others, less successful, but still desirable amongst the masses.
The designs she was working on now, however? She wouldn't just top the charts of richest woman on Earth. Bill Gates, bless his genius soul, would lose the standing as richest person in the bat of a single eye.
Not that she was money-hungry. She wasn't. Her family had always been comfortable in higher-middle-income and she had never wanted for anything growing up. There was something to be said about financial security. No, she didn't desire more money. She didn't need all that she had now and was a regular donator to various charities around the world. She only sought to help her fellow humans – even if she didn't entirely belong of their race any longer.
Though her humming never ceased, she turned her head so that she could see Wheelie coasting into the kitchen from the balcony where he'd been basking in the bright sunshine. She smiled at him, the pull in her lip and cheek almost unnoticeable now that she'd had a few years to get used to the feeling of the damaged skin. It was not being able to see anything but shadows and bursts of light through her right eye that saddened her a little.
The scarring she now bore across her face as well as on her right hand and forearm from the severe burn she'd obtained through Jetfire's warp wasn't bothersome to her way of thinking. Human skin could not, despite the additional extraterrestrial and biomechanical assistance, entirely heal to appear as it had once been. She'd received skin-graphs to help with the scarring, but she likened her healing to recreating a classic oil painting. She could make the new and the old look very similar to each other, but never would she manage an exact copy.
Besides; the scar gave her character and reminded her on a daily basis what she had survived. It reminded her physically of what she fought for.
Her eyesight would never fully return, though.
Somewhere between the Fallen's strike against her, her death, and subsequent resurrection she had undergone a trauma to her eye that triggered degeneration. The nanites in her blood fought against the complete deterioration of the eye, but the degeneration was constant. Without the nanites she would have been completely blind in that eye instead of seeing shades and highlights. Her pupil was a shock of white inside of a lavender iris instead of traditional black.
She wore a colored contact in that eye so that she wouldn't frighten people.
"It's a beautiful day, isn't it?" She asked Wheelie, a primarily blue ex-Decepticon drone. He rolled on wheeled peds to stand beside her barefoot leg and peered up at her with his red optics. He smiled at her, his faceplates more articulate than that of many of his kind. His fanged teeth didn't intimidate her in the least.
"It is. This fresh air does wonders for your health." He whirled around to watch one of his compatriots stumble inside with far less enthusiasm. "Yo, Brains! Get your gears moving, tinman!"
Samantha chuckled, abandoning her pie-making to kneel down in front of the two diminutive 'Cons. These two were her near-constant companions and good friends despite their eccentricities. The others also felt immensely better with her having them by her side when they could not be. She had regular Cybertronian visitors to her apartment, hence the high ceilings in her oversized garage and the elevator lift sized just right for a sedan-sized mech or femme, but Wheelie and Brains were sized perfectly to be her 'roommates'. Their only mission was to protect her.
Brains grumbled unintelligently, appearing as though he'd had a night of hitting the High-Grade, an infrequent affair for any Cybertronian since they harvested primarily low and mid-grade Energon from the Earth's Sun.
"Cheer up, Brains. It's going to be a good day!" She reached up and slid open one of the miscellaneous drawers. She pulled a box of screws from the drawer and handed them to the suddenly ecstatic 'Con. "Got'chu a present."
"Yeh!" For being so small, he had a startling deep voice. He also sounded like he hit the pipe one too many times in his life with the smokiness of it. "Mmmhmmm. That's my girl."
She didn't know why he liked to eat screws or nails. She'd never seen any other 'Bot or 'Con do it, but she saw no harm in it. He wasn't adversely affected by the intake and he didn't do it all the time, though he sometimes got the sudden urge to munch on metal. He'd eaten the insides of a large-screen TV from the 80s when left unattended once. She jokingly called him her portable scrapper.
"You're cookin' early," Wheelie pronounced, using an overturned fruit crate to elevate himself closer to the kitchen counter. His spindly digits hung onto the marble lip as he surveyed her workspace. "I almost wish I could consume human food."
"It'd gum up your works even if you could taste it," she laughed, swinging her head a little to maneuver her braid back over her shoulder. It was a tight skull-braid, one a girlfriend from college had taught her when she'd seen how long and heavy her hair was. It was her preferred style now as it kept the calf-length strands under control and the weight more manageable. She'd all but given up on cutting it. It just kept growing at an exponential rate until it touched down to her calf again where it seemed to stutter to a halt.
"Why are you applying for a menial job, Sam?" the blue 'Con inquired of her, his red optics curious, but friendly. Brains hopped up beside his cohort before using the other's body as leverage to pull himself more easily to the countertop. "If you wanted to work couldn't you just work with the Autobots more? They'd keep you busy, anyway. Even the 'Cons didn't run around that much!"
"'Course they did," Brains retorted to his friend easily. "You was just on the bottom of the Energon-board. Mmmhmm." Unfazed by the organic mess he was making on himself, Brains stuck his tiny servos into the bowl of seasoned apple slices she'd prepared and began to mix them more.
"Take that back!" Wheelie demanded, bounding up onto the counter himself. Instead of fighting, as anyone else would have expected of him, he grabbed a towel, wetted it, and set out to scrub down the countertops where she had finished working.
Sam reached over once she'd rolled out the top of her pastry and took the bowl of apples away from Brains. The little 'Con, mostly silver with tones of electric blue on the edges of some of his armor and glowing fiber-optic strands for 'hair', backed docilely away from the bowl. The whole of his arms were now coated in butter, cinnamon, and various other toppings and spices. He was smaller than Wheelie in height, but he was also wider.
Brains had come into her keeping not soon after the incident with the Fallen in Egypt. Wheelie had spoken to her and implored her to bond with another drone that he had worked alongside for over three-hundred years. He wanted his friend to join him and get away from the harshness of Decepticon life. Drones were oftentimes heavily abused by the larger 'Cons. With Optimus's permission they had met with the little mech in a sparsely populated area in the Appalachian Mountains. Wheelie had commed him. It hadn't even taken bonding the little drone to draw him to the side of the Autobots, though it ensured his loyalty indefinitely.
"I need something…mundane right now," she told the two as she began to fill the dish. Her brows furrowed. "I've got one of those feelings. Like it's where I'm supposed to go."
"You told Prime, yet?" Wheelie huffed through his intakes, crossing his arms over his chassis. He was giving her his patented 'stern' look.
"Oh, no, I've just kept this all to myself," she rolled her eyes heavenward, the sarcastic tone unmistakable. "I wouldn't keep that from him or any of them. There haven't been any abnormalities in the Energon Sensors and the Decepticons have been lying low. Before they left to Iran and Ukraine he told me to keep him informed. Some of the others will still be around in case anything does arise."
"Why a mailroom, though?" Wheelie sounded offended on her account. "You graduated valedictorian at Princeton! That is a great feat for humans. You majored in Social Sciences with a minor in Political Affairs."
"An' you got a Bachelor's in Medical Sciences." Brains interjected as he kicked the faucet on and began to wash his arms clean.
She'd taken enough classes to give high-schoolers fits. In actuality, she'd taken enough classes to give her counselor a conniption. She had three full-time studies and she'd completed all of them in record time with sublime results. She'd graduated with a four-point-oh despite missing days of classes in her first semester. She hadn't even flinched at the heavy workload.
That had been six years ago.
She sighed, carefully setting the pastry-top over the now filled dish. She didn't know how to explain it to the 'Cons. They wouldn't understand. Not fully, anyway.
She'd given up on a 'normal' life six years ago after dying in Egypt. She'd thrown herself into her studies to better help the Autobots, mainly in relation to her own human species. Over the years she'd taken a more prominent role in the government working with her people to make allowances and privileges available to the Cybertronians. She had diplomatic immunity for the rest of her life and asylum in most countries.
She had more clout within any given government than anyone else but she and the current leaders knew about.
Twenty-four years old and she felt a hundred some days.
"I just – I feel like I have to go there. Call it a sixth-sense." She started pinching the sides closed. "I was walking by a few of the buildings after I went grocery shopping and I just stopped in front of that one. It wasn't the Allspark triggering like it did back in college. It was just an urge I had. Brains looked in on their site. They needed a mailroom intern. I applied for the job. If there is something going on it's usually the grunts that can sneak through without notice, anyway. Bigwigs are always watched."
"Every time you get a feeling something bad happens," Wheelie complained as she scored lines into the pie before popping it into the preheated oven. She smirked at her friend.
"I would have never met you, then." His peevishness dropped a level at that. He would never, ever regret meeting her. She would never regret meeting any of them.
They were all hers.
She didn't need to set the timer for the oven to know intrinsically when it was finished. She took her time in moving up the stairs to her bedroom. Her bare feet made no sound against the antiquated stairwell. The two 'Cons followed after her dutifully.
"Stay out of my underwear drawer, Brains," she pointed a French-tip at the little mech. He didn't bother to look away from her in shame. He wasn't sorry for perving on her unmentionables. He couldn't be a pervert, technically, anyway. He was of another species and incompatible with humans. There was no way to 'interface' as they called it. There would never be a desire to do so, either.
"I don' understand why you need so much anyway," he grumbled in his raspy voice.
"Think of it like me having an alt. You guys change them enough."
"Not hardly," Brains denied her statement with a guffaw. He was right, of course, but it was the closest she could come to explaining herself and the human want for multiple sets of clothing. Despite no longer entirely belonging to the human race she would never rid herself of her engraved sensibilities.
"Why don't you guys go watch something on TV while I get ready? What new movie's out that you can hijack?" Immediately the two rushed to beat each other to the flat-screen downstairs. The two had combatting desires when it came to movies. While Wheelie loved action and sci-fi – no surprise there – Brains enjoyed romantic comedies. That had been a surprise.
The two argued noisily downstairs as she gathered her wardrobe for the day and made her way towards the en-suite bathroom. She had a quick shower to grab before her pie would be done and she had her interview.
Part of her wondered why she was even putting effort into this. She was a shoo-in for the job. With her credentials, the unclassified ones, she was the perfect fit for any company. If any problem arose it would be because she was 'under reaching' as her mother often complained.
Judith Witwicky, as proud as she was of her Princeton graduate daughter, was also entirely disappointed that she hadn't pursued a more predominant position in society. She'd fully expected her daughter to steamroll her way through the corporate ladder and become CEO of some monumental company. Her mother had all but been staged over the phone ready to brag to her friends about the great achievements of her fabulous daughter.
It had been one of the hardest things in her life telling her parents that after a time, somewhere in her mid-thirties, she would physically stop aging and she would remain in that form for hundreds of thousands of years. She wouldn't age. She wouldn't grow old and die. She would exist for longer than any of them would ever care to think of.
Her mother had cried and her father, Ron, had shut down.
They didn't talk to her for a whole year.
That separation had torn her apart. It had made her feel unloved and unwanted, though she knew the complete opposite was true. It had been necessary, though. She couldn't leave them in the dark. Not to mention that that year had given her a taste of her future. One day she wouldn't have them any longer. One day she would be without them, still 'young' and thriving, and she wouldn't see them again on the other side, if there was one, until her own time came a long time from their deaths.
It had been both a relief and a burden when they'd opened the door to her again.
She slid into the shower stall with many jets, a conversion she'd hired a company to make for her, and allowed the excessive heat to attack her tensed muscles. It was still early and yet her whole body was as taut as a bow string. Side-effects of thinking about matters that were too depressing to contemplate in depth.
Her shower was quick and when she exited she immediately began reworking her braid. She was an old-hat at it by that time.
As she braided her hair, she stared unseeingly at the long red trousers and pleated black shirt she'd chosen for her interview. She was only half aware of the braiding she was doing. Her reflection in the mirror, if she cared to look, would have shown the expression of deep rumination on her face.
She was having the 'dreams' again.
The Night Before:
"You meddle in my affairs once more, fleshling."
Samantha groaned and dropped her head into her folded arms. She was in the white void again, the one she'd shared with Sentinel Prime and not the bright plane she'd shared with the Other, but there was no 'window'. She felt as though she sat on a solid surface, but if she looked down she knew that she would see nothing.
Her present company, however…
"You seek to ignore me. Why?" The tremor-deep voice rattled in the air around her. She grumbled incoherently to herself. She just didn't understand why she had to be subjected to these little get-togethers with him. Why couldn't she go back to dreaming about her dreamland loverboy or even Sentinel Prime? At least that mech had something to teach her.
"Speak, Pet, before I am forced to rethink your position at my side."
Sam snarled bravely and glared balefully at the automaton standing ramrod straight before her. She would have flung him the proverbial bird if she were in a better mood to do so. She wondered idly how he'd react to that.
"I will never be by your side, Megatron," she snapped, coming to stand on her two feet. She turned her back to him and was rewarded with an angry burst of emotion. He couldn't do anything about her show of disrespect, though. Not here. He'd tried snatching her up into his claw the first time only to have his servo glide right through her. It seemed that, unlike with Sentinel, she was incorporeal to the Decepticon Lord.
Tough cookies for him.
"You were mine from the first I set eyes on you, Pet." She didn't dare reflect on the tint of affection she heard in his tone. It didn't warrant thinking about too closely. "You have only to accept the truth of my words."
"Oh, stuff-it you oversized vacuum cleaner!" She whirled around and gave him a dark look. They never had an encounter that didn't involve at least one argument on this matter. "I'm human as you so arrogantly try to lord over me and hence I am raised knowing that I am my own person. Nothing and no-one can control me. Especially not some egotistical bastard like you!"
He chuckled at her, the sound pleasing to her ears.
"I do enjoy your fire, little one." He ticked a claw at her patronizingly; a human gesture. "We must work on how you direct that fire. In the face of a great wall of water, your fire will do no more good than a mouse against a lion."
"David beat Goliath and I can beat you, pompous windbag," she griped, clenching her teeth at the way he tried to belittle her.
In truth, had this not been a 'dream', she would have been scared to death. She wouldn't have dared to spout off at the mouth like she did. She wouldn't be able to rub his nose in his inadequacies because in the waking world she would have been crushed like fly under a rolled up newspaper.
Being here gave her courage and strength that she didn't think she had in the outside world.
The dreams had been coming with more frequency lately. She didn't know if they were shared with the silver titan or if it was all a figment of her own imagination, but she supposed it didn't much matter in the long run of things. Her first dream with Megatron playing a starring role had been scantily a week after Egypt, the first time she imagined he'd managed to snag a recharge since the fall of his Master.
Megatron had been livid.
Without anything in the white void to destroy and with her body so untouchable to him, he'd resorted to exhausting himself by firing off every weapon he had into the nothingness that surrounded them. Several blasts shuddered through her. She even felt the imminence of heat, though it was a feeling brought on by her own imaginings. Just like with any other normal dream, things could not hurt her here.
The shot, however, had done wonders to spark memories so fresh in her mind to the fore. The window had lit up out of nowhere and Megatron had stopped in startlement to see it that first time. Inside of its translucent pane her death at the Fallen's clawed servo's played. It had been him, not Megatron, who had fired on her. Killing her had been his plan all along.
Megatron turned his faceplates and optics towards her several times as her death played on a morbid loop before them. She shook, remembering the feeling of pain and helplessness. She could still feel the encroaching cold and numbness. She could feel the life leave her body still.
"I did not wish for this to happen," Megatron spoke so softly she was surprised and then baffled. She snuck a peek at him from under her lashes as she had turned to stare at the floor in preference to watching herself die over and over again. The mech's crimson optics had looked at her with regret and sorrow in their depths. She felt sympathy, even empathy, emanate from him. "I did not – I wished to keep you."
There was an apology in there. She could sense it. She narrowly tasted it on her own tongue, but the being before her was infinitely proud. He would not apologize to her. He would explain himself to no-one.
"I believe you," she'd whispered quietly, looking back down to her feet.
Hence the dreams started. For six years, intermittently, she'd had these dreams with Megatron. They were never with another and she wondered why. Why him? Why now? The Allspark gave her no answers when she sought them from its well of knowledge. The blasted thing gave her everything she ever asked for at any other time, but in the one instance that she called on it most fervently it had no response to give her.
She didn't think she dreamed with him every time he recharged. They had too few dreams for that to be so. He had to have recharged – slept – more than fifteen times in six years. Ratchet himself had confirmed when she asked that Cybertronians tended to recharge for a several-hour period once every month or so, even if they spread it out over the course of that time-span. Even if pushed to their limits, a Cybertronian needed to recharge for at least one hour in the span of three months or their frames would shut-down and make the recharge mandatory instead of compulsory.
"You are in your own mind again, Pet." She was drawn from her musings by his voice right before her. She hadn't even felt his approach. Hadn't heard him. His faceplates, jagged and frightening, were mere feet from her.
The left side of his helm and face, a good third of his orbital cavity, was missing. The edges closest to the gaping maw were burnt and broken. Energon dripped down his face and wires sparked hazardously. Other parts of his body were damaged as well, but none so severely as his face. In that first dream his arm had been missing, shorn off by Optimus she'd learned, but by their second dream it had been reattached and repaired.
His face looked as gruesome now as it had six years ago.
"You're in my mind, too," she countered slowly as she turned her face away from his. She hated looking at the obviously painful wound. She wanted to fix it. She had an inexplicable, hard-to-fight urge to make his pain go away and restore him to his former glory.
Megatron tutted. "This is not your mind, little one. Never would your mind be so blank. I suspect that peering into your mind would be like looking into an erupting Sun from a great distance. Your thoughts would fly across your consciousness like fiery debris, their colors igniting across whole galaxies with the brilliance of them."
"You have a knack for poetry," she mumbled in praise. He did that sometimes. He surprised her with his charming wit. Was this the Megatron that Optimus had come to know and respect? Was this the mech he called brother? She could believe it.
"I speak only truth."
"Very prettily you speak truth," she smirked as she met his optics once more. When he was like this…she didn't know how to handle him. She wanted to hate him. Very badly she wanted to shut him out and keep him far away from her, but she couldn't. Had he focused himself differently and acted accordingly she felt deep down in her gut that he had all the makings of a true Prime.
The titan raised one of his claws, very slowly, towards her. He curled it so that the smooth back was all that faced her. She didn't flinch when he brought it within a hairsbreadth of her. She shivered to feel it float hazily through her a second later.
"I wish to touch. Can this place not allow me to do so?" He stood up and away from her, frustration leaking off of him like the Energon from his helm. His optics scanned her bodily. "I ask you again, Pet; why have you never healed?"
It was her turn to emit an exclamation of frustration. They had this argument frequently as well. It always ended the same and she had assumed he would be exhausted with the same question by this time.
"My human body won't allow for complete regeneration. The nanites focus most of their healing on my eye to keep it from going blind. If they redirected their attention elsewhere to superficial things, then more vital systems would fail." Out of habit she fingered the hard bit of scar tissue that stretched from her temple to her chin. Her smile was almost crooked now due to the immobility of the tissues orbiting the once deep wound.
"Besides; I'm working on something."
"Explain," Megatron ordered her, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. His full focus was on her.
She rolled her eyes. "I've got designs drawn up that may be able to help mankind. I'm currently working on the prototypes and if they are viable I will be submitting myself for the human trials seat." She got the impression of an eyebrow quirk from the Decepticon leader, but didn't expand more than she was willing to give. "My dilemma is creating what I must with the materials available to us here on Earth and using technology that isn't at risk of advancing my species more than they can handle."
"You speak as though you are still one with them. You are not." He tsked her again, though no sound of such was made. "You are better than the species you were born into. You are high above them. This is why you belong at my side. You are to be exalted for who and what you are. I will see this come to pass."
"Keep on dreaming, Sparky." She giggled when another wire sticking from his helm fritzed as though on queue to her jab. It wasn't funny due to his pain, but it was due his own stupidity in attaining such an injury. One did not stand against Optimus Prime and expect to come out as the victor.
"I will not need to dream, Pet, and neither will you." The whiteness began to grow dim around them and she knew she was close to waking. Megatron beamed at her, though his fanged 'lips' did not show it outwardly. She felt it in her soul. "Very soon, my little Pet, you will be where you belong."
Absently she noted as he faded away and she began to wake that his endearment for her had begun to sound nice coming from his vocalizers.
…Not that she'd tell him that.
"Sam! Come downstairs!" Wheelie's exuberant call dragged her from her memories with the force of a Category Three hurricane. She jolted where she sat on the vanity stool in the bathroom. Her hair was already plaited and she'd been sitting there staring at her torn face in the mirror for several minutes already. "Brains uploaded 'The Martian' onto the BluRay."
With a final look at herself in the mirror she shook last night's dream from her mind and dressed quickly.
She had a pie to get out of the oven and an interview that she couldn't be late for.
If there's one thing that Mom taught me, it's that first impressions are very important.