AUTHOR'S NOTE: Rated 'R' for emotional, physical violence and strong language. *Testament* is written for the grown-up Transformers fan with the intent of a more realistic setting and therefore, a bit more violent. Parents are encouraged to read *Testament* for themselves before reading it to their children. All comments and confusion can be aimed at T.L. Arens:




The (Im)perfect Family

The sweet spring air begged Rusti to come to the woods and play. Not far from where she lived, there stood a little grove leading to the outskirts of Central City's Southwestern region. The grove's thick pine trees served to protect a wonderful secret: an ancient oak, long forgotten by time. About it stood several younger white oaks and the remains of an abandoned fort. It was rare to find a tree in the Cascades that was anything but pine or fir. This old tree, far larger than all the other trees, provided branches low enough for Rusti to climb or dangle like a monkey. She stretched her arms, knowing her top was slowly sliding up (down?). She shook her head, her curly red hair bounced with every move. Her sea-grey eyes caught the world in an upside down picture. The girl giggled as cars passed not far from where she played. She imagined the drivers were catching glances between the trees in the grove, eyeing a hyper nine year-old who was playing hooky from school.

Three weeks of pure torment. School was such a drag, home wasn't much better. Everybody was always so serious. She missed the Dino-dingbats. She missed Roddi teasing her with his ridiculous ideas or softly singing her to sleep. She missed Optimus and the private times they shared-the Sunday drives and the silent games.

She climbed higher to get a really great view of the area. There was one branch in the tree that, while unstable, was strong enough to support her as she peeked northward, downhill and across Central City. It was a great view.

Rusti didn't like Central City as much as Fort Max. Central City was flat and suffered from too much traffic. She used to live at Fort Max until she hit school age. Then as the years progressed, she was not permitted to stay quite as often even during the summer. But she went 'Home' on the weekends and for that time, it was sufficient. Her parents tried to ween her of living with the Autobots. Each time, however, she became ill, suffering from headaches, bleeding noses, nausea . . . it all drove her mom nuts. Aunt Delphra, the family 'naturalist'. (Whatever that meant), insisted something must have contaminated the girl from birth, suggesting Rusti might have had been tampered with somehow.

Her theories were 'pure drivel' as Optimus would say.

The girl cherry-dropped from a lower branches and pulled her blouse down. Sometimes she'd tear her clothes and her mom would mutter something about little girls and EDC armor. Rusti ignored it, her own mind always on other things; pictures to draw or what she'd and Optimus would talk about on the way Home on Friday nights.

The girl swept up her back pack and made her way through the thicket to a great precipice overlooking the city from an even better view than the unsteady tree branches. The early April sun began to kiss the western horizon, thereby casting magnificent cold shadows over the city. Central City was huge, now one of Oregon's principal cities. Years ago, the Autobots built a great docking platform in Fort Max inviting space-faring travelers to come to Earth and exchanged trade agreements or cultures. The Human society embraced the new Space Age and forever changed the little-known city into an intergalactic metropolis. Central City now proudly bore its scars from the Autobot-Decepticon wars of the twentieth century.

Rusti sat on the ledge overlooking the city. From her backpack, she produced a well-used drawing pad and a small box of pencils. Sitting cross-legged, Rusti stared over the horizon and swiftly sketched the topmost buildings of the cityscape. She added the looming mountains behind them then many of the smaller buildings. It wasn't the prettiest picture, but at least she was drawing something. She compared the drawing to the landscape. Rusti frowned, finding her attempt a far cry from the real thing. Drawing was so frustrating. Just when she thought it looked good, Rusti later found it not good at all.

"Just do it because you enjoy it." Optimus once told her. "You'll improve as you work at it."

It was true. She found the more drawing she did, the better her work became. She didn't draw stick figures like many of her peers. She had even learned how to shade a little. People were really hard to draw and she couldn't do hands or feet. She traced a lot and colored in, rather proud that at least it looked better than if she had drawn it free-hand. Rusti supposed someday she'd be really good at drawing. She also liked to paint, but it was harder to paint than to draw.

Rusti gave her drawing a little more detail; the clouds in the sky, the mountain standing in the north-western part of Central City where the VR Park resided. She thought about trying to draw the Ribbon Passway, but she had run out of space at the bottom of the paper and decided to leave it out.

As she thought before, the real thing looked a great deal better than her attempt. Rusti shrugged and put her drawing materials away and zipped up her backpack. She just sat there for a few moments, watching the sun aim for the mountains.

She missed Optimus and Roddi. Sometimes the loneliness was a little too much. Rusti had no close friends her age. She knew a lot of people, but she didn't enjoy doing a lot of the things they did. Many kids knew she had connections to the Autobots and they'd always ask her about Cybertron. But Rusti had never been to Cybertron. Her parents had been to Cybertron many times. Dezi, her sister, had been there once when she was little.

Many of Rusti's peers had interests that didn't interest her at all and it was hard to relate to them.

<<I miss you.>> she mentally Whispered to one or the other Autobot leaders.

Sometimes she would get a verbal reply. Other times, like right now, Rusti received a mental picture or sensation to let her know she had been Heard by one or both the Autobot leaders, but both of them were too busy to really talk. As long as she could remember, the girl had an unusual relationship to the two leaders. Cynar, the resident senior doctor at Fort Max, could not explain the connection. As far as they could tell, it wasn't in her genes; her Grandfather Spike Witwicky did not have ESP or telepathic abilities. Neither did anyone on her mother's side of the family.

Rusti stood, knowing she would have to turn home now and face her mother. Today was actually the first day of beautiful spring weather and rather than waste it on a boring class, listening to a teacher drone on in monotone, Rusti decided to take the day off. She knew her parents weren't going to be very happy about it.

As she lifted her back pack, she noted a strange red fog fell over the city streets below. She kept watching, fearful and fascinated as it descended like a heavy mist, drawn to the warm ground. Then it sunk in and disappeared. She thought hard, wondering if it was just a trick of light and atmospheric optical aberrations.

An alien craft came in from the southwest, aiming toward the IG building, distracting her for the moment. Its rectangular shape sucked in all light, the negative spaces between its body and the wings gave it a more web-like design. Rusti thought it a bit on the creepy side.

Three EDC ships followed as the spacecraft zoomed toward Central City. Their white and light-blue design reflected the sunlight and Rusti swore she caught the sight of an Autobot symbol on one of them. That would be Aunt Missy's ship.

Rusti smiled. Marissa Fairborn wasn't her real aunt. But the EDC captain had been a friend of the family's for such a long time that the kids all knew her as Aunt Missy. And Rusti knew Marissa cherished the title. The captain never married herself, loving a career in the sky more than a house on the ground.


"Young lady, where the devil have you been?" They were words Rusti already anticipated hearing from her mother and true to form, Netty snarled as the nine year-old red head stepped through the door. Rusti was swatted twice as she made her way to her room, but she didn't cry. She knew what was coming. What was going to be worse was when her father would come home.


A little later, Rusti moved out of her room and into the kitchen, figuring her mother would want her out where she could be watched. Netty journeyed from one bedroom to the next picking up dirty laundry and adding it to a growing pile. Netty had a job as a medical receptionist. She didn't have to work; Daniel brought in more than enough money. But Netty didn't like to just stay home. Right now, she had the day off and went about the business of house keeping.

The front door opened and closed and Aunt Delphra stepped in. Rusti considered the woman akin to the White Witch. She wore a set of killer nine-inch spiked high-heeled shoes, accompanied by dark hair, cropped straight and neatly about neck with straight bangs covering her flat forehead. Delphra used a set of dark eyes to pierce through everyone, scrutinizing even the vaguest of details.

Delphra had to be the reincarnation of the White Witch; she was too good at it. That thought swept a smile across Rusti's face and she was hard put to suppress it as her aunt stepped into the kitchen where she was quietly coloring.

"Hello, Darling." Delphra greeted a bit coldly as she set a tiny purse on the table and smoothed her black mini skirt. "Is your mother in the wash room?"

"I think so."

"Good." She paused and accusingly pointed the color book with a set of long blood-red finger nails. "What are you coloring?" The tone meant it had better be something non-violent and educational.

Rusti withdrew her hands to show 'auntie' the Precious Moments page. Delphra nodded approving but her face remained stone-cold. Netty stepped into the kitchen from the garage, bearing a basket load of dried clothes. Rusti was grateful her mom came in before Delphra decided to entertain herself by asking the girl a string of questions.

"Hey, Sis." Netty greeted. "Whatcha up to?"

"Just got off work early. Didja hear? There was a bomb threat in the Mall."

"Ohmigod." Netty set the basket before the couch and began to fold her laundry. Rusti listened in, turning the page and colored another (dumb) 'safe' picture in the 'safe' color book.

Delphra remained silent a moment then: "What's the Kiddie doing home?"

"Oh, she's grounded."

"From school?"

"Nope. She didn't go to school today."

Rusti could feel her aunt's dark eyes stab her but pretended not to notice anything but the book. Nothing existed outside the book.

"Oh." Delphra's voice turned poisonous. "And how did she manage that little trick?"

Netty sighed either in weariness or frustration.

The room fell disturbingly silent for a very long moment. Rusti was hard-put not to turn and look; not to see what the two women were up to. She used a light blue crayon. Then she picked up a pink, then an orange, then a black.

"I . . . I got a letter back from Alec today."

Netty snapped a towel in the air and folded it. "Wow. That was fast. Is he going to allow you visitation rights yet?"

"No. He's still sore." Delphra sighed. "Netty, I know I made a mistake, okay? But dammit, how about a little leeway, here?"

"I know Hon, I know."

"No, seriously. They're as much my kids as they are his. I make one mistake and . . . I'm punished for the rest of my life? Where's the fairness in that?"

"Well . . . " Netty sighed. "I don't know. I don't know what to say."

"I miss my boys. I really do."

"Well . . . maybe in a few more months he might let you around them."

"Oh, come on, Netty! He's being a jerk about it, okay?"

Rusti's mom didn't answer. Rusti knew what it was; the same old story: Delphra's ex-husband was the owner of a very large trucking firm. While he was away on business, she brought a strange man into their house. Then they took off for California leaving Rusti's cousins, Stephen and Dallas, alone for three weeks.

The court judged Delphra unfit as a parent, awarding her husband full custody of both boys and denying her any visitation rights. Which, the girl supposed, explains why Delphra seemed so obsessed over Rusti and her siblings. The house fell disturbingly silent again. Rusti wondered if they were staring at her and whispering. She dared a careful glance through the corner of her eye. The two adults simply sat on the couch, staring off. Netty folded a washcloth then hauled up one of Rusti's blouses. Then a pair of her jeans. Then one of Dezi's tank tops. Then a pair of Brian's underwear.

"What are we doing sitting here?" Delphra suddenly came to life and jumped to her feet. (And momentarily, the girl wondered if that odd woman could possibly run in those shoes) Delphra activated the TV and stepped back, folding her long arms across her stomach. Rusti stared at her aunt again. The woman really did look like the White Witch; long limbs and a flat front side.


A pause of silence hung in the air and Rusti realized she had stopped coloring, sitting with a crayon in her right hand, fingering the others with her left. She felt scared and excited at the same time. It wasn't everyday they declared a bomb threat in Central City.

Aunt Delphra left a while before Daniel came home. He said few words to Netty and nothing to Rusti.

At least not yet.

Dinner was a mandatary thing in the family. Everyone had to be there. The parents called their offspring to the table and sat, waiting for the three to unfold their napkins before picking up their forks. As always, Daniel started the dinner table conversations, asking each of his children how the day went and what they did. Dezi, the family workaholic and avid bookworm, gave him the usual grunt before losing him in a sea of science equations and formulas, daring him to recall years of education he threw away for the sake of intergalactic diplomacy. Dezi was studying to be a nurse, and ultimately, a doctor. Daniel always fell silent after asking his eldest the usual nightly questions.

Then he turned to Brian, their 'wonderful' fifteen year-old son who always shrugged and said "The usual stuff, English, math, science." But even Rusti knew he was a liar. Brian probably didn't bother to go to school.

Then the conversation would turn to her and the girl would usually start out with "Fine." But tonight she couldn't say anything. Her sea-grey eyes turned to her mother.

"Little Miss Goody Two-shoes there didn't go to school today." Netty announced coldly.

Only Brian laughed.

Daniel's kick missed Rusti by inches as he targeted his idiot son under the table. Brian obviously didn't feel a thing. He silenced the outside laughter, but he kept smirking.

"And what possessed you to do something like that?" he asked his youngest, his voice filled with acid.

Of the three, Rusti spooked her parents the most. She would portray traits they never taught her, like how to think before speaking in a situation. It must have been something she picked up from the Autobot leaders because neither Dezi nor Brian ever did odd things like finger objects or pause in a moment of silence. Her folks didn't really catch on to her little acquired quirk. Rusti sipped her milk a moment, calmly setting it on the table and dabbed her mouth with the napkin. "It was pretty outside." She answered. "I didn't want to stay indoors."

"So you decided it was the best thing for your future to go and play." Daniel snarled.

"Well, no." She admitted freely. "Since I don't play on the weekends with my friends, and I don't play with my friends after school, I thought I would take a day and play by myself."

Brian howled with laughter.

Daniel eyed him with a measure of patient plotting, crossing his arms and leaning in the chair. His childhood was never this complex! Of course, he was an only child and the Autobots babysat him while his father was off saving the universe. Now he had three very strange children of his own. Before their deaths, his folks thought them all perfectly precious.

But they never knew what a pain in the ass the kids were. Dezi won't communicate with him anymore. Brian does whatever he feels like doing and Daniel wasn't about to let Resonna go down that same path. She was going to grow up to be a good, well-behaved adult, even if he had to pound it into her. His problem, however, was the influence the Autobots had on her; particularly Optimus and Rodimus Prime. They filled her little head with the strangest of notions.

Daniel sat up straight in the chair (after Netty gave him one of 'those looks') and laced his fingers. "Well then," he answered just as diplomatically as his daughter, "I guess for the remainder of the month, you won't go outside except to go to the bus to go to school. You won't see any more sunshine and fluffy clouds. How's that one suite you, smart ass?"

"Daniel!" Netty shot him a very hard look. She hated it when he cussed at the children.

But he paid her no mind. It was reality and the children were going to get what the world dished out to them.

Although Rusti was accustomed to her father's verbiage, it always hurt when he stooped to name-calling. On the other hand, 'ass' was what he called her, ass she would be. Perhaps living with the Autobots had made her arrogant because she knew that Daniel would not dare raise a hand against her past a certain point. Optimus and Rodimus were too protective of her. Unfortunately, being grounded would naturally mean she would be unable to go Home. And there she realized her mistake. However, she considered bitterly, her parents still would not have let her go Home, whether or not she was good.

Trapped at both ends. But she wasn't going to give her father the pleasure of knowing his sentence hurt her. She silently ate another nasty brussel sprout, but could not make eye contact. He had won.

For now.

Daniel stared at his nine year-old a moment longer. He anticipated some kind of remark in rebuttal or at least a whimper or begging or something that would resemble a normal nine year-old's mentality. Why couldn't he have normal children like everyone else? No, he had a son who was a trouble-maker, an eldest daughter who ate, slept and drank science books and a youngest daughter who thought she was a human version of an Autobot.

His wife took over from this point.

"Resonna, finish your dinner and do dishes." She ordered quietly.

Rusti hated that name! She hated it every time they spoke it. It was a name for someone who was less than she should be. It was a name that meant no time for play or Saturday morning cartoons. It was a name that said how well controlled her life was.

The wee dark hours of night brought shadows that permitted the creatures of darkness to emerge. That's what came to Rusti's mind when she heard a car ease in front of the Witwicky house. Three car doors slammed and in the distance, a dog alerted its owner. Voices raised and lowered outside Rusti's window and their pitches called her from sleep. She shifted in bed, hoping she could block the rude noises and go back to sleep. But after about ten hopeless minutes, she sighed in frustration and peeked out her window.

Two cars sat in front of the house facing each other. Four men and one woman stood between the cars' lights, their bodies only half visible. One person lit a cigarette and pointed at someone else.

That someone else was Brian. If Mom and Dad knew Brian was out this time of night, they'd kill him. Brian was only fifteen and Central City's 'under-age' curfew was nine-thirty. The man with the cigarette tossed it in the yard. It was a rare thing to see anyone smoke. Rusti figured the man was probably very wealthy. She watched as the 'cigarette man' reached into a coat pocket and handed Brian something. Brian stashed it in his coat and pretended to kick a rock. The woman laid a hand on his shoulder then on another man's shoulder and the Cigarette man howled like a dog.

Rusti laughed softly, thinking him an idiot. Then after another moment of quiet conversation, the group departed and Brian aimed for the house.

The girl slipped from the window and bounced on her bed, pulling the covers over her head. She laughed inwardly. She could blackmail Brian with this! What an idiot! She lay there, softly giggling, hoping Dezi didn't hear her down the hallway.

But she swallowed air when a dark figure peeked into her room. She lay very still, hoping he didn't see her eyes. She could hear him cross her bedroom floor and a putrid smell wafted about him.

Then he was gone.

She yawned and in spite of her excitement, Rusti fell back to sleep.


The morning brought with it a searing headache. Rusti moaned the moment her eyes met the blinding sun as it peeked into her room. Her head hurt so that her vision blurred and her ears rang so loud that noise, any noise of any kind would be welcomed.

"Resonna!" Her mother sang.

Well, any noise but that.

"Get up! You're going to school!"

No she wasn't. She slowly rolled over. She wasn't moving out of bed. But the very next moment the blankets were stripped off her and her mother yanked her hard out of bed.

"You, young lady, are already cruising for a bruising!"

The world tipped one way, then the carpeted flooring of her room met her dead-on. She tried to get up but found her body didn't want to do anything.

A darkness hit, powerful as though it were a living thing and she gasped. An arrow shot through her head and Rusti thought she was going to vomit blood. Then all the fuzziness left her and she found herself standing atop a great ravine made from a patchwork of metal. Whole armies of machines, large and small, great and simple, amassed far below. They praised her name. She, the Mighty One they called Prime! She gazed down at them, fruit ripe for the harvest of war. The poor fools trusted her with their very lives! She opened her chest and removed an organ from within and held it aloft for her worshipers to cheer.

She laughed and opened the Matrix and sucked all their lives into it. Ahh the power to control life-enough to make the senses reel; that makes the fuel flow faster than your heart can pound! She controlled their lives by taking them! Oh, gawd, what power!


Whatever it was that she saw and heard and felt diminished the strength from her and Rusti crumbled, laying very still upon the floor. She heard her mother shout in a panic, trying to shake the girl to her senses. But Rusti just whimpered. Darkness came to their house and touched her. Somewhere else, some place Rusti did not know, another bomb went off in the city, killing people in every direction. "A red fog rolled into the city," she thought. "And I have been touched by it."

"Migraines might be associated with stress, Mrs. Witwicky. The whole town is pretty upset over the bombing at the mall. It could be she's . . . well . . . sensitive."

"Please, don't suggest my daughter is psychic. I'm sure she's not." Netty growled coldly.

"I don't like to rule anything out, Mrs. Witwicky."

Rusti could only hear the voice. A cold compress laid over her eyes, forehead and one on her chest.

" . . . chances are it will fade by the end of the day. I just gave her a shot of ibuprofen and she should be alright. If the problem persists, just bring her in."

"What kind of problems? What do I look for?"

"Fainting, vomiting. You'll figure it out."

"Are you sure it's not a seizure?"


"She's had a history of problems, as you said. It would be hard to just come out and say, really. I mean, there would have to be something we're missing. But it's very hard to say exactly what at this point. Has she been to Fort Max of late?"


"No. We're . . . trying to integrate her into mainstream society now."

"Ah-ha. Well, if we can't do anything for her, I suggest you take her to Dr. Cynar. He's had better experience in these matters."

"Thank you."

Netty's cold voice stayed flat. The front door closed and Rusti felt herself drifting above her bed. The pain wrapped itself about her head so that all she could do was lie flat. She needed noise, any noise; music, a voice, something! She tried to contact Optimus or Roddi. But she heard nothing but the terrible silence and with it, the feeling of abandonment.

"Resonna, honey, I have to go to work. I know I shouldn't leave you by yourself. But I'll be back in four hours. I'll leave the phone next to you if you need something really bad-but only if you absolutely need something. Okay?"

That wasn't what she wanted to hear. If she were Home at Fort Max, either Optimus or Rodimus would have spent the day watching her, or at least seen to it that she slept in their office. But her mom was, after all, only Human and it would not be possible for her to pick Rusti up and take her. Rusti just felt miserable and was in too much pain to complain.

The front door closed and she could hear her mom lock the house. The car door slammed shut and the engine turned over. The tires crunched over tiny pebbles in the drive way, the car shifted gears and was gone.


Rusti woke later, finding the light on in Dezi's room down the hall. Rusti slowly sat up. Her heart pounded, demanding more room than her body was willing to give. The girl tried to force air into her lungs and realized her migraine had fallen to a slow constant throb. She wasn't dizzy and her vision had cleared. But her head felt as though someone had pulled it all out of joint. She tried to rub her neck muscles, but that did her little good. Rusti slid out of bed and stumbled. She grabbed the bed post and waited. She took one step, grasping the door frame, took another step and before too long, she made it to the kitchen. Her movements were slow, deliberate. She almost had to tell herself every little thing she needed to do; go to the cupboard, open it. Reach up, take a glass. Close the door. Step sideways to the sink, turn the faucet to the right. Set the glass under it and let it fill.

Her ears picked up footsteps behind and Rusti told herself to turn the faucet off.

"Res?" Dezi's voice filled the silent and dark kitchen. "Are you okay?"

Rusti stared at her with glassy, dry eyes. Dezi laid a hand alongside her face and frowned. "Mom said to give you some aspirin if you woke up. Are you hungry?"

She met her sister's gaze and gave her a wry smile.

"Should be something soft, hu? Soup sound good?"

Rusti just felt too hot for something hot.

"Cream of Wheat?" Dezi offered instead.

She couldn't nod yes, fearful it'd make her dizzy again. She smiled instead.

"Okay. Cream of Wheat."

Dezi served her Cream of Wheat with a small banana and Rusti sat on Dezi's bed while her big sister did homework. They could just barely hear Rusti's clock radio echo through the silence of the room. Dezi worked fervently on her chemistry, moving from book to paper and back as though it came natural to her. Dezi was the smart one of the family, just a junior in high school, but already offered places in six different universities. Even Aunt Delphra promised to help her through school. Dezi loved science. She ate, drank and breathed it. It was her thesis on universal life forces that got her the first scholarship EDC ever gave to a high school student. She was the pride of the family.

Rusti sighed and wondered why her parents compared her to her sister so much. She and Dezi were so different; as though they had two different fathers. Dezi's mind was solely on her work. Rusti's head wandered. Her curiosity leaned more toward coloring and drawing and just goofing off. She didn't have any idea what she wanted to be. At least not yet.

After half an hour, Dezi sighed and wiped a strand of hair from her face. She had long red-brown hair that lay limp over her average frame. One couldn't say Dezi was particularly 'pretty', but well-put together. She had a lot of their Grandpa Spike's attributes.

The front door slammed shut and someone sniggered followed by a shushing sound. Dezi sighed irritably and slammed her pen down.

"Forget it, Brian!" She sang toward the doorway. "Your Neanderthal friend gave you totally away."

Brian, a stick-figure of a teenager, appeared in the door and leaned against the frame. A pair of dark glasses concealed his eyes. His light brown hair clung to his head, his clothes had been slept in and his general appearance needed washing. "Moi?" He grinned widely. "Did you call the name of the Almighty?"

A friend sniggered behind him. Rusti clutched a nearby pillow. There was going to be a fight. Not the first, of course; Dezi had scars she had never shown her folks.

Dezi kept her temper; "If I did, it was to pray for your soul. You were supposed to be home four hours ago."

"Oh, and I'm sure you've been keeping track, hu, Dez?"

"What? Are you as stupid as you look right now?"

He didn't answer her. He nodded toward Rusti. "Hey, Kiddo. How's the day been? Missed school again?" In two large steps he was in Dezi's room and sitting on the edge of her bed. Rusti was grateful she was at the other end. "You're good at faking it, aren't ya?" He asked. "Or did the powder work wonders for you?"

His friend cackled in laughter, bending over in a fit of lunacy. Dezi jumped out of her chair. "What?" She cried. "Brian . . . oh gawd, you didn't poison her with that crap, did you?"

His grin froze on his face, just staring right through his little sister.

"Goddamnit, Brian! You could have killed her!"

"I was careful." Brian sang smoothly. He stood and leaned over but Dezi blocked him from moving closer to their little sister.

"Brian, you take one more step toward her and I sa-w-ear to God I will personally see to it that you never propagate the species."

Brian stood and studied his big sister's face. He stepped back to his friend and turned to leave.

"Oh, Dezi, just ta let you know; Bax's gonna stay the night."

Dezi turned away, murder on her face. "Res, go in your room and get your pillow. You're staying the night here."

Brian took that personally. "She can stay in her room. I won't do nothin'. Geeze, Dez, what's a matter with you, anyway?"

"I am not talking to you, Brian. I was talking to Resonna." her voice came tight, controlled. Her fists bunched, her arms swung just slightly. She was ready to give him a fight if he so desired. Brian backed away, holding his hands in the air as though to ward her off. He wasn't going to pick a fight tonight.

Rusti slowly slid off the bed and padded to her room, feeling the stares of the two boys on her back. She returned a minute later, finding the boys had disappeared into Brian's room upstairs. Dezi made a place for Rusti next to the wall on the bed and tucked her in. Rusti lay there, staring up at the ceiling, wishing Roddi were there to sing her to sleep.

After several tense silent moments, Dezi returned to her homework. But Rusti didn't feel so secure. She sighed loudly wishing Dezi would turn music on or something. The little girl sighed again. "Dezi?"


"When 'r Mom and Dad supposed to be back?"

Pause. Dezi finished a calculation then looked up. "Not until late, Res. You know how those stupid ambassadorial parties and meetings go one forever. Don't worry. I won't let Brian pull any stunts tonight. Go to sleep."

Rusti frowned and rolled to her side, hearing Dezi call Brian a testicleless bastard under her breath.