Author's Note: Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry it's been over a year since I last posted! Life got crazy as I'm sure some of you know. Truth be told I was almost ready to abandon this story because I lost my muse and my former plot line wasn't to my satisfaction. You have my new co-writer - "Misgel"- to thank for keeping this story alive! Please go check out her stories, she is a brilliant writer! :)
It did not take long for Megatron to lose himself in a bloodthirsty rage. Not only was he denied the chance to finish Optimus off…he was bested by a human child!
He managed to find the little surprise that Jack left for him in the bushes during his harried escape. A small cell phone, caught his attention from afar when the little screen began to flash an S.O.S. message. As soon as the former gladiator bent down on one knee to further examine it, the little device emitted a concentrated EMP burst which scrambled some of his circuitry and further impeded his search and destroy mission. It was a rather clever trick. One that he would never fall for again.
When his repair systems finally corrected what damage had been done…the leader of the Decepticons resumed his search. He knew he was close—until the energon trail created by Optimus Prime's seeping wounds abruptly ended about half a mile from the battle zone. Then a malicious, toothy grin crossed his face when he caught sight of another trail. It was hours later that he discovered that it was in fact, a false trail… no doubt leading him further astray. If his mood wasn't already dark enough to begin with…it was downright murderous now.
Megatron snarled in rage when the cold reality sank in that his prey had successfully eluded him.
He was not one to admit defeat so easily. Now that things had become decidedly more personal...Megatron continued on foot, unable to ignore the insatiable need for vengeance.
-3 weeks later: Present Day-
Jack sighed with relief once the last bell rang. School was finally out for the summer. Now he would have more time to spend with the Autobots. Ratchet would be thrilled…
That reminded him…the Autobot CMO should be releasing Optimus Prime from his dreary imprisonment in the medical bay. For the past three weeks, Jack made it a habit to visit the
Autobot leader during his recovery. It was a miracle, really…how Jack was able to save Optimus from his arch-rival. In the end though, it seemed that Jack was the one in need of rescuing. If it wasn't for Arcee and Bulkhead, he would have been a goner for sure.
Jack managed to gather up the supplies needed to conceal the energon trail that Optimus leaked during their escape. He grabbed a bucket, the box of baking soda from the gas station store, the bottle of motor oil, and then ran to retrieve the last ingredient. At the back of the room he found sawdust. He filled the bucket with about two cups worth of water and then proceeded to mix in the oil, baking soda, and sawdust with it. It was such an odd mixture that Jack was skeptical it would even work. The consistency in the very beginning was more than questionable.
This was supposed to obscure the energon trail? According to Optimus's instructions… this was it.
He found a secondary bucket in the back and was able to fill it a quarter of the way with the energon Optimus had already spilled. It made him sick to his stomach… seeing as how energon was his guardian's equivalent to blood. It made him shudder.
Once Jack finished he began to clean the energon that remained on the repair shop floor. The last thing they needed was for Megatron or one of his cronies to appear with an energon detector.
Jack made sure Optimus was safely obscured with the tarp and patted his hood gently with a small smile.
"I'll be back soon, Optimus. I promise," he said softly and began to leave but stopped and turned back to look at his substitute guardian's unconscious form and said one last thing in afterthought.
"And if you die while I'm gone, I'm going to kill you!"
The teenage boy picked up both of the buckets and ran outside. Using a small metal cup, Jack was able to carefully scoop out some of the odd, smelly mixture out of the first bucket and made sure to pour it over each and every energon droplet and puddle that led from the gas station all the way back to the forest. Once he'd accomplished that, he concealed the drying mixture with dirt. It was very slow going and the entire time, the boy was paranoid as hell that Megatron would spontaneously appear to enact his promised revenge.
He could almost still hear the psychotic warlord's death threats. His pulse quickened and he had to ward off a panic attack. He wasn't going to be helping his guardian by totally losing it.
Jack did everything in his power to ward off that heart stopping fear the further he ran. He prayed that Optimus would not be discovered while he was away. That too kept him on edge.
Jack released a weary sigh of relief when he successfully obscured the energon trail from the gas station to about a mile and a half into the forest. His anxiety grew the further he crept through the foliage. It unnerved him that he had no way of detecting Megatron's presence. The Kaon gladiator could be anywhere…
The sixteen year old shook his head and growled angrily at himself. Now was not the time to be thinking like that! He took the cup and rinsed it in a muddy puddle nearby and then did his best to dry it off. Then he used the metal cup to scoop out some of the energon in the second bucket. He then did something extremely clever… he began to create a false trail and went about two miles in a completely different direction. Jack made sure to use every last drop of energon from the metal pail.
Getting back to the repair shop proved to be extremely difficult. He'd had to remove his socks and shoes along the way since the ground was still heavily saturated with rain and mud. It would totally suck if Megatron simply followed his footprints from the forest back to the station. Thanks to his Eagle scouts survival training, he knew how to remain undetected. It was an ingenious method of throwing off the scent of a predator. He found a stream…one filled with smooth pebbles and grinned in triumph. There was no possible way that Megatron would be able to track him through this. The stream ran about three quarters of a mile to the northeast of the repair shop. Jack knew he would have to proceed on foot from there and take an alternate route back to the gas station.
To his extremely good fortune, Jack ended up on the winding road that ran back to Jasper. Of course that wasn't his primary destination. He began to run down the road in the direction of the auto shop after pulling on his smelly socks and muddy shoes. The poor boy was more than winded and felt ready to collapse from exhaustion…but he couldn't. Not yet.
There was one final task.
Find a pay phone.
Jack felt like dancing for joy when on the way back, he passed by a small convenience store.
That wasn't what had him so excited though. It was what stood out front.
A gleaming pay phone. Jack ran straight for the phone. It was not like city pay phones that had booths. It was simple. And offered no privacy. Jack didn't really care at that point. He could already feel tears welling up in his eyes as he slid to a stop right in front of it. He dug shaking hands into his pockets and fished out the few quarters he always carried. He cursed silently to himself when one of them slipped out of his fingers. He bent over to retrieve it. Over the years the young man had become a preparedness freak in his own right.
That trait only intensified tenfold once he was thrown into the middle of this crazy, secret, alien war.
With shaky fingers he managed to insert three quarters and immediately dialed Miko's cell phone number. Most kids his age never bothered to memorize phone numbers…who needed to when you had speed dial? Once again, it was thanks to Jack's survival training.
It rang at least four times before the Asian girl finally answered. She had probably been debating on whether or not to answer the unknown number. When she began to speak, Jack choked on a relieved sob.
"Miko!" Jack cried, almost falling to his knees in relief. "It's Jack!"
"Jack? Why aren't you on your cell?"
Jack glanced around to make sure there were no potential eavesdroppers nearby and felt his tension relax a notch to see that he was the only one outside.
"I had to get rid of it, it's not safe."
"What are you talking about?"
"No time. Optimus is hurt really bad, and he needs to get to Ratchet as soon as possible. Megatron's after us-"
"Whoa, whoa, Megatron's there?!"
"And he's pissed. Like, really pissed."
"Um… I shot him with a flare gun…TWICE..."
Her loud shriek forced Jack to yank the phone away from his ear with a pained grimace.
"Where are you?" she demanded.
Once he was sure the girl wasn't going to start screaming and ranting, he continued.
"Dane County Wildlife Preserve." He took a risk, adding, "I left Optimus in some auto repair shop."
"Well, that narrows it down," Miko muttered sarcastically, and Jack rolled his eyes at her dismissive attitude.
He opened his mouth to reply, only to wince as suddenly a dull ache throbbed from behind his eyes. The teenager grunted, hand flying to his forehead, as an image seared into mind. Suddenly his mouth moved before he could stop it.
"Miko! Take down these coordinates! 39 degrees 15'15"N and 117 degrees 07'40" W. Got it?"
"Whoa, where did that come from?"
"Just do it!"
"Okay, bossy." There was a tense pause filled with the scribbling as Miko jotted down the coordinates. "Uh… what you say again?"
Jack rolled his eyes and repeated the numbers slowly enough for the girl to process. It took longer than he liked, and every moment that passed by made him all the more jittery.
"Got it!" Miko said at last. "Texting Bulkhead right now! Back up's on the way!"
"Right, just hurr-"
With that, the line went dead, replaced by an automatic voice message. Jack sighed. At least Miko picked up and he gave her coordinates. He only had to wait a few more minutes. And then the 'Bots would find him, and Ratchet would save Optimus Prime, and this horrible nightmare would be over-
"Well, well, so it seems a little pet has strayed from its master."
The blood in Jack's veins turned to ice. No. No, it couldn't be-
It was then the boy saw the dark, menacing, huge shadow that cloaked over him, chilling the air by several degrees. For a long moment, Jack was frozen in place, muscles locked together. Then slowly, agonizingly, the boy turned looking, hesitantly, fearfully over his shoulder.
Only to meet deadly, burning, furious crimson optics.
The Decepticon warlord wore a wicked sneer, like he was looking down at a bug.
"You thought you could have fooled me with a false trail? One as obvious as that?"
Jack couldn't get his mouth or tongue to move, pinned to his spot by that terrible gaze. Then the scream ripped from his throat.
"HELP!" he screamed as his legs finally unfroze. Unfortunately, he didn't get very far.
Immediately silver claws encased around him, forming a gigantic cage. The ground disappeared from his feet and his stomach violently lurched as he was plucked into the air. Something hard and cold pressed against his sides. Jack wheezed as all the air was squeezed from his lungs.
"That was clever, insect," Megatron went on, but he was far too venomous to be praising. "But you are still a bug."
Just to make his point, Jack winced as the hold tightened. Pain flared from his ribs, and he knew it wouldn't take much more pressure for them to break.
"Now. Where. Is. Optimus?"
Despite his current predicament, Jack felt relieved. Megatron didn't find Optimus. His false trail worked, to an extent. Now he just had to wait until the Autobots found their leader, and hopefully the teenager as well.
Jack opened his mouth to speak, but only a pained squeal came out. It was then Megatron realized his grip was too strong, and loosened it ever so slightly. Not enough to relieve the pressure, but the boy could take in a desperate gasp of air. He coughed as oxygen forced its way into his lungs. Stars danced across his vision, but Jack ignored them and focused on the gigantic figure instead.
"G-get fr-fragged," the boy hissed between gulps of air.
Sure enough, Megatron's optics flared with insulted rage and the crushing grip resumed.
"Then perhaps I should crush you here and now like the insect you are?" the tyrant threatened. "Oh, how gratifying it would be."
The claws squeezed. Jack's scream became soundless as all air was violently forced from his lungs. He futilely kicked at the metal behemoth keeping him prisoner. Desperate for air he began to scrabble and weakly claw at the giant hand squeezing the life out of him. His struggles soon lessoned until he felt his body turn to lead and turn completely limp.
By now darkness lingered in the boy's vision. His head swam. It could only focus on a single thought: where were the Autobots? They had to be coming, right?
Just when he believed it was the end for him, Jack involuntarily gasped and sucked in air greedily when the crushing force around his ribcage loosened again, allowing him to drink in life sustaining oxygen. It took minutes for him to find his voice again.
"Th-the-ah!-tobots are c-huh!-ming, y-you know," Jack wheezed.
"Oh? And where are your masters?"
If only the boy could answer. His limbs were getting heavier, his struggles getting harder. He doubted Megatron realized how tight he was holding his prisoner-Jack doubted he cared.
"Give me Optimus Prime's location."
Megatron snarled furiously, his patience completely gone, and Jack was convinced the warlord was going to kill him right then and there. Then they both heard it.
A distant hum of a groundbridge portal, followed by the growls of several familiar engines. Jack tried to yell, only a pathetic squeak came out. Instead he forced out in a hoarse voice, "T-told y-you."
He looked back and forth between his captive and the source of the engines-where Optimus was. Megatron let out a rageful roar that hurt Jack's ears. Suddenly the deadly grip vanished. He didn't even have a chance to scream before he made impact. He hit the ground, hard, pain shooting through his legs. Gritting his teeth, he rolled over to all fours, all the while praying he hadn't broken anything.
However, before he could rise an inch, a giant, heavy servo fell on top of him. This time Jack cried out as the claws pinned him to the ground.
"I should terminate you, pest," the Decepticon leader hissed. "But you not deserve such a merciful end."
Jack blinked. Wha-? It was getting harder and harder to focus. The sterling Titan was turning into a blob.
"I will make you suffer. I will make you watch as I destroy everything you hold dear. And after the Autobots are gone-after this planet is mine-only then will I allow you to die."
Suddenly Jack heard the engines of the Autobots-coming closer. He couldn't scream, not while there wasn't any air in his lungs. The Autobots knew he was here, right? Surely Miko told them?
"Y-you won't win, Megatron," the boy forced out, trying to use whatever was left of his courage. A dark chuckle was his response.
"Oh, so naive," the Decepticon leader replied. "No wonder Optimus took such a liking to you. It will make it all the more gratifying when I tear out his spark before your very eyes."
Jack chilled at the words. In a low, dangerous purr, it didn't just sound like a threat or a raging rant. It sounded like a promise. One that Megatron would stop at nothing to fulfill.
Suddenly a roar sounded through the air. There was a squeal of tires on rough terrain, and the shifting of gears. There were furious shouts.
"Let him go, Megatron!"
"Took your time, didn't you?" the warlord mocked. "So this is how the Autobots value their treasured pets?"
The grip didn't relent. Jack shut his eyes tight, bracing for the warlord to finish him. To crush him, skewer him. But it never came.
Apparently not even the Champion of Kaon fought against uneven odds. With a huff, the crushing pressure on the teenager's ribs disappeared. Instantly he went into a coughing fit, desperately trying to get air back in his lungs.
"Fine, then, take your fleshling," Megatron announced. "Such an insect is worthless to me.
Jack opened his mouth to retort, but an ugly hack came out instead. He glanced up through squinted eyes, to see menacing, glowing red optics peering down at him.
"Take care to remember the details of our little conversation, Jack."
Hearing his name from the warlord-when Megatron shouldn't have known what it was-sent a chill that crawled down the boy's spine. With that, the Decepticon leader turned away. Before any of the Autobots had the chance to charge their cannons, the sterling titan transformed into a gigantic Cybertronian jet. With a roar of thrusters, he vanished into the skies, all the while promising himself retribution. There would be pit to pay…and a delicious scheme was already forming within his wicked processor.
Meanwhile, a bright, blue blob came into the boy's line of sight.
Jack blinked slowly as the fog that had enveloped his mind, made it difficult to recognize the worried shout of his loyal guardian, Arcee. He opened his mouth to speak but all that came out was another cough followed by wheezing. His ribcage was sore down to the bone and when he moved a certain way, pain flared through his torso. The teen wouldn't be surprised if his ribs were fractured...
"A-Arcee?" he croaked as oxygen slowly began to filter back into his brain.
"Shh...don't speak." She ordered softly but firmly.
Jack began to protest when Arcee scooped him up and began to carry him towards the swirling green vortex of their ground-bridge.
"I can walk on my own you know."
"You can stand on your own two feet again after Ratchet examines you."
Furthur protests died on his lips, when bone-weary fatigue began to settle over him. It felt good to be off his feet...especially after jarring his legs when Megatron dropped him. He was amazed that he was even still alive at all after a fall like that.
Soon they found themselves walking into the Autobot base. Jack heard the ground-bridge closing behind them. Thankfully Raf and Miko weren't here yet. The last thing he wanted was for them to see Arcee carrying him like an infant. Jack's breath caught in his throat when his eyes landed on the battered and near lifeless looking form of Optimus Prime who was being hooked up to life-support by Ratchet.
Arcee placed Jack, gently down on the couch that he shared with Raf and Miko. He wanted to see if there was anything he could do to help but the warning glare Arcee gave him, forced him to gingerly sit back down.
Once he was comfortably settled, he reclined against one of the cushions, and before he knew it...the exhausted teen drifted off to sleep.
Jack reached into his pocket to grab his cell phone, only to remember that it was currently in pieces somewhere in the forest… He needed to let his mom know that he was going to be late getting home. Ratchet still needed to perform a follow-up examination of his injuries.
Thankfully he did not suffer broken bones which was a complete miracle. The boy had been sure at least one of his ribs had been fractured but a quick scan proved otherwise. Even after three weeks, Jack didn't have to lift his shirt up to know that there was still dark, angry bruising around his torso. He still wore a bandage around his rib-cage. It was a very good thing that Ratchet had treated him. The wounds inflicted by the leader of the Decepticons would be difficult to explain to human medical staff.
Jack grimaced a little when he thought back to the day his mom tried to hug him after the ordeal. It had been hard to keep that secret from her, but the less she knew the better. It was the only way the boy knew how to keep her safe. It was a little comical when he danced out of reach of her outstretched arms. Usually he was a lousy actor but his mother came to her own conclusion. She believed that he'd finally reached that stage in his adolescent life, when most boys his age avoided physical contact due to that feeling of embarrassment at being coddled, wishing to prove their manhood.
He felt a small pang of guilt at the memory because rather than correcting his mother on the subject, he simply agreed with her. He did miss her hugs...they were always warm, loving, and made him feel safe.
Arcee met him in his garage and together they returned to the Autobot base after ensuring that June was not home. Jack ran his right hand through his hair and released a long suffering sigh when Ratchet greeted them seconds after stepping through the portal. He waved Jack over wordlessly. The teen did not look forward to being prodded since his injury, though mostly healed, still pained him to a degree.
The form of Dr. Ray suddenly appeared three feet away. Jack glanced up to see that Ratchet's Cybertronian form was slightly slouched over and had dim optics. It was kind of strange to see the bots like that whenever they used their holograms.
"Sit." he ordered without preamble. He gestured towards the human sized gurney, the same one Fowler had used when he had his encounter with Starscream during his run-in with Soundwave's mini-drone, laserbeak.
Releasing yet another sigh, the boy did as he was told. His eyes caught sight of Optimus about a second later. To Jack's surprise, the leader of the Autobots did not greet him but gave him an unreadable expression. Then the red and blue titan turned his back on him and walked past the computer monitors and down the hall out of sight.
Jack hardly registered Ratchet's ministrations as his eyes remained locked on the vacant space that Optimus had recently occupied. It did not escape Jack's notice that the normally reserved Prime, had a flicker of barely subdued rage in his optics.
Megatron returned to his customary position on the Nemesis's bridge. He strode towards his communication's officer with a purpose.
"Soundwave! I have a special assignment for you. I want you to closely monitor all activities in relation to a boy, designation 'Jackson Darby'. I want to know more about him and his family unit," Megatron began before presenting his 3rd in command with a holo-photo of the human child. It was one that Soundwave had taken weeks earlier during an energon scouting mission when his loyal friend had encountered the Autobot's three human pets…Jack being one of them.
Soundwave silently nodded and began to type furiously away at his computer monitor. He paused in his task when Megatron growled softly behind him.
"Report all of your findings to me. The child has become a thorn in my side and I have very…very special plans for him." Megatron released a dark, delighted laugh at the prospect of what he had in store for the boy.
Soundwave acknowledged his master's order with another subtle nod and resumed his work. Megatron left his side. After a cursory look down at himself, a dark snarl escaped his vocal capacitor at the sight that greeted his optics. He was still coated in a thick layer of mud and vegetation. Some of the mud had already begun to harden and dry. A stop at the shower racks would quickly correct the problem. With a disgusted sneer, he plucked out a large clump of grass that had been wedged between the plating in his left shoulder.
Oh how he detested planet Earth…
TO BE CONTINUED!
Author's Note: Thanks so much for reading! Sorry this chapter couldn't be longer but thanks to Misgel, I should be posting a bit more frequently. Please review and let us know how we are doing! :D