Chapter 14: "The Hardest Choice"
Bulkhead and Blitzwing plowed though the building, taking their battle further down the block. Inside the demolished warehouse, Sari knelt next to the Luggy's slumped form, panic sinking its claws into her. He wasn't moving and his red optic was glowing dimmer.
"Oh no…Luggy. Luggy don't you go to sleep!" she shouted, tapping his face firmly.
The optic brightened a bit and a pitiful whine escaped him.
Sari stroked his head, "That's a good boy Luggy. Stay awake."
"Sari." he started to cry.
"Shh. Shh. It's ok. You're going to be just fine Luggy."
"Make it better Sari." he squeaked through his crying. "Make it better."
Sari paused. He was talking about her Key. She'd healed his dents and scrapes with it before. Already the artifact was growing warm in her pocket, reacting to the damage it detected in Lugnut.
"Sari! Sari! Are you in here?" Ratchet's voice shouted.
"Here!" she waved her arm to the banged up medibot.
He appeared to have suffered some damage but was still able to walk and locate her.
The medic knelt next to the broken office window, his optic already scanning the injuries to the Sparkling. His grizzled features fell slightly.
"That rebar has severed his processor's connection with his Spark…but it's somehow conducting enough charge to keep him online." he announced.
"Can you fix him?" Sari asked.
Ratchet frowned deeply, "If I remove that piece of metal the connection will be broken and he'll go offline."
The girl reached into her pocket, "Then, I'm going to use the Key."
"Sari wait!" Ratchet's hand came between her and Lugnut, "You don't want to do that."
"What do you mean? You said you can't fix him. My Key can fix him."
"Fix him…and upgrade him." the medic explained, "The last time you used your Key on him he got his weapons back. He could upgrade fully if you try that again."
Sari's gaze darted from him, to the Key, and then to Luggy, "But…but if I don't he'll die!"
The medic's optics dimmed, "Sari, I'm afraid you've lost him either way."
"No! NO! It might not upgrade him all the way! We don't know if it will upgrade him at all!" the girl protested through teary eyes.
"Are you willing to chance it?" Ratchet demanded very seriously, "If you're wrong and he upgrades to his adult mode his mind is going with it, and he'll become the same Decepticon he always was."
Sari clenched the hot Key in her hand to the point in felt like it would burn her. Deep down she knew Ratchet was right. If she helped Luggy with her Key the sweet playful Sparkling she'd grown to love would 'die' and be reborn as Lugnut. But if she did nothing she'd have to watch that same Sparkling extinguish before her eyes. The young girl fell against the desk, tears staining her dirty cheeks.
How could she make such an impossible choice?
All at once metal pinched at her boot.
"Sari…make it better." Luggy pleaded weakly, "Peease?"
The air from her lungs shuddered as she closed her eyes, hoping she wouldn't have to see him. But in her mind's eye he was still there, chasing his ball and begging her to play with him.
"Oh Ratchet…I CAN'T!" Sari screamed as she released the Key.
"Sari, STOP!" the medic shouted but he wasn't fast enough to stop it.
The Key zinged forward and connected with Luggy's Spark chamber. His whole body glowed with the intense blue light and a sense of relief seemed to sweep over his pained features. The piece of rebar slowly wiggled out of Luggy's back and simultaneously the connection from his Spark was repaired. Once the rebar left his body Sari reached for the Key and yanked with both hands, trying to remove it. But it wouldn't budge. It glowed brighter and whined with surges of power.
"It's stuck!" she cried.
Ratchet's magnetic fields encircled the Key, attempting to pry it free. Still, the artifact refused to be removed. A loud banging sounded and then another, and another. Sari stumbled back toward Ratchet as Luggy's metal appeared to be stretching and reforming itself—growing. The medic grimaced, diverting as much power as he could to the magnetic field. Luggy's optic shuttered itself as he pushed himself onto his clamps. His shoulders shook until they grew outward, smashing into the walls of the office. Ratchet grabbed up Sari and backed away slowly. The walls of the office cracked and were shoved outward as Luggy's body grew larger.
"Sari?!" Luggy's deepening voice called out with uncertainty.
Suddenly, the Key released itself and zinged onto the tip of Ratchet's magnet prongs, "Got it!"
But it was too late. In a veritable explosion of drywall and wood, a roaring, purple and teal mountain rocketed up through the ceiling. Ratchet folded his hands over Sari and bent over to absorb the blows of the falling debris. Quickly the medic transformed into his ambulance mode and drove out of the building as fast as he could. Sari frantically peered into the rearview mirror to see through the dust a large red optic followed by four others glowing ever brighter.
Lugnut felt as if his systems had sustained a full shutdown and he was only now coming back online. He staggered, smashing a brick wall under his tremendous chest. The Decepticon groaned and placed a clamp to the side of his head. His equilibrium circuits felt completely out of whack and establishing his focus was proving difficult. Blinking and blurry, his targeting sensors scrambled to calibrate.
Where was he? What had happened? He remembered… fighting the Autobots. Yes…he had grabbed an All Spark fragment for Megatron and then…and then…he couldn't recall.
He looked at his clamps for the fragment but it was gone. The Decepticon's scanners finally told him where he was, but they weren't the same coordinates he remembered.
How did he get clear across the city without remembering it? Where was Blitzwing? But more importantly, where was Megatron?
Lugnut lurched out of the building he'd destroyed, still trying to regain his balance. He fell on one knee, using his huge barreled forearms to hold himself up whilst his systems reoriented. Suddenly, a large body banged into his side and rolled off his back. He snarled when a tank tread accidentally popped him across the face.
The triple changer was lying on his back after tripping over his larger comrade. Hothead looked ready to unleash a beating. But suddenly his face spun around to Random.
"Lugnut! You're all grown up!" the maniacal face grinned with wide arms.
Random switched to Icy, "Would you mind assisting me?" He pointed beyond Lugnut's shoulder.
Bulkhead suddenly emerged from the dust and smoke, swinging his wrecking ball. He swung it hard, ready to deliver a devastating blow to whomever he hit, but Lugnut deflected the ball with a powerful swing of his arm. The green Autobot's optics widened upon seeing him and quickly wound up his weapon.
"Lugnut?" he sounded genuinely shocked.
The hulking Decepticon faced him with a menacing growl
"Uh…don't you remember me?" the Autobot tried. "Bucky?"
Somehow the strange pronunciation was familiar and it made the Con pause. But soon Lugnut's targeting sensors knew what to do with an Autobot. With a thunderous roar the Decepticon bulled into Bulkhead, sending him flying backward into the nearest building.
Blitzwing was up again and rapped his comrade on the back, "Lugnut, we need to find that Key!"
The big Con glanced around, "Where is it? Who has it?"
"The human child has it...but I've lost track of her." the triple changer explained and began pointing, "I saw the Autobot medic go that way, you follow him and I'll go this way."
Quickly the two transformed and parted ways in their hunt for the artifact. Lugnut's engines roared deafeningly as he took off into the sky. His clearing targeting sensors began to actively scan the terrain below for the Autobot as well as the All Spark energy. In no time he zoomed in on the signal of both, speeding down the street. He locked on an fired a small payload of heat-seeking missiles straight at the ambulance.
The street around Ratchet and in front of him suddenly exploded, pelting his metal with chunks of asphalt and glass. He swerved violently, almost throwing Sari into his door, but luckily she was buckled in.
"Are you all right kid?" Ratchet asked as he slid around a corner at break-neck speed.
Sari sat shaking in Ratchet's front seat. She didn't know if it was fear that caused the trembling or the horrible guilt over what she had done. Luggy was no more and now his evil adult self was trying to kill them.
"Sari!" Ratchet barked.
"I…I'm ok." she stammered.
She suddenly heard the rumble of a big plane engine and looked out the window. Just skirting the tops of the buildings was the imposing silhouette of the teal and purple bomber plane. With very little effort it overtook Ratchet and flipped around, transforming in midair.
"LOOK OUT!" Sari screamed, bracing herself as the massive Decepticon landed on his feet in front of them.
Ratchet grunted, spinning sideways as he tried to stop and whip around. In the blink of an eye Lugnut reached for his back and disconnected his gigantic mace hammer. With a mighty swing he slammed it into the street just behind Ratchet, trapping the Autobot between himself and the deadly weapon head.
"Give up the Key Autobot!" he thundered.
Ratchet's voice was quiet in his cab, "Sari, when I transform you run for it. I'll hold him off."
"Just do it!" the old mech hissed.
As he transformed Ratchet sneakily maneuvered the girl behind his leg to hide her.
"Run Sari." he whispered, standing up fully and ejecting his magnetic prongs.
"The Key, NOW!" Lugnut snarled.
Ratchet grimaced, "Never, Decepticon!"
Sari didn't hesitate as she made a mad dash past the huge hammer head and into an alley. Behind her she could hear Ratchet's magnets angrily buzzing and then he cried out in pain. Sari turned to see a flash of red and white go flying past and wildly roll down the street.
"Ratchet!" she squeaked in horror.
The pavement shook as Lugnut strode forward, his optic scanning for her. Sari ran further down the alley hoping her small size and the narrow space would effectively hide her from the gargantuan Decepticon.
No such luck.
With a thunderous growl, Lugnut threw his weight into the two buildings surrounding her, practically knocking them both off their foundations. Sari screamed and made a right turn straight down a second alley as dust and bricks rained down behind her. In a few short seconds she was out in the next street, frantically searching for her next hiding place. Lugnut wasn't far behind as he literally waded through the buildings. Sari didn't have time to think she just ran into the first store she could reach which happened to be a discount market. She ran past the counter, startling the clerk and a couple other customers near the counter. Of course, their startle soon bloomed into sheer terror when the roof left the store and an angry mountain of purple and teal metal filled its place.
"Come BACK here human!" Lugnut shouted.
Sari breathlessly ran down an aisle of toys and suddenly stopped when a particular bin caught her attention.
Lugnut's scanners were on their highest alert, searching for the human child who had Megatron's Key. He could very easily just blow up the entire block and sort through the rubble for the Key. But then again his concussion blasters might render the Key lost forever if he tried that. It was a very tiny artifact after all and he couldn't risk losing it. It would be much less risky to capture the child and the Key together and sort them out later. He tore the roof of a building she had run into and scanned for her. Immediately he spotted the tiny creature near the back of the store. He reached down inside the building, opened his clamps, and slammed them into the wall on either side of her. The girl had her back to him, but she cringed noticeably. He was about ready to close his clamps on her when she slowly turned around to face him.
His large optic blinked a couple times. The child was holding a large rubber ball out in front of her. The Decepticon was perplexed as his head slowly cocked.
Giving a hard swallow the girl held the ball up a bit, "Luggy…"
All at once his targeting sensors switched from TARGET to NO TARGET. Lugnut shook his head to try and correct the error. The grids in his vision formed a crosshair against her vitals.
"Luggy." the girl said again, "Do you remember this? Your ball?"
An image of her briefly blinked in his mainframe. She was smiling and tossing a ball. She was saying something muddled to him. His targeting grid disappeared, trying to tell Lugnut she was not a target. He growled and blinked to try and reboot his sensors. But every time his sensors tried to identify the child as a target, encasing her in a crosshairs, it would immediately buzz and switch to a passive stage.
What was wrong with him? Why couldn't he target her? Did he have a virus?
Sari remained very still between the imposing clamps of the Decepticon. But instead of squishing the life out of her or seizing her, he appeared frozen in place. His optic kept zooming in on her and then would widen as if he was confused or had some kind of glitch.
Was it working? Was he remembering her?
"You do remember, don't you Luggy?" she stated with great hope, "This was your favorite game."
She bounced the ball once. His single optic tracked the toy.
Another image flashed in Lugnut's processor. He was in recharge and the girl was leaning against him, also asleep. He could feel himself wrapping an arm around her in a gesture of friendship.
What the SLAG?
He snapped back into reality and was oddly drawn to that rubber ball she was holding. It seemed…familiar…and so did she.
But WHY? Why were those two insignificant things stirring memories in him?
Lugnut was having trouble remembering his mission as his processor was being repeatedly assaulted by images of that girl…all very pleasant images. Images of her smiling, comforting him, playing with that ball—it made no sense where these ludicrous visions were coming from.
The Decepticon was taking on a very bewildered expression and Sari noticed it. He WAS remembering but she had the feeling he was trying to fight it.
"Come on Luggy, you remember me. Sari?" she prompted urgently.
His deep voice rolled the name, "Sari…"
"That's right! Sari!" she nodded, "I'm your friend."
He shook his head slowly, "No…you've infected me with some kind of virus."
"No! It's not a virus, it's your memories of me." she stated boldly.
"I don't know you human." he growled.
Sari shook her head, "Yes you do."
The huge mech's jaw creaked to the side, "This is just a trick to distract me from my mission."
With a delicacy almost seeming impossible for such a behemoth, Lugnut's clamps closed against the girl and lifted her out of the building. Sari dropped the ball, cringing as the Decepticon carried her away.
"Luggy stop! You don't want to hurt me."
Lugnut didn't answer her as he made his way down the street back toward where Megatron and Prime were battling. Just as he was about to transform and fly there Blitzwing landed in front of him.
"Ah. So you caught it." Icy commented.
"Of course I did." Lugnut answered as he shouldered past him.
Blitzwing followed him until Random's face flipped around and began laughing in sputtering bursts.
Lugnut's optic shrank, "What is so funny?"
Icy tried to flip around and explain but Random's mirth made control impossible.
Finally the crazy red and black face managed to say, "I just…HEE! HEE! I just can't look at you seriously after…BWAHAHAHA!"
The giant teal and purple mech sighed with irritation. Blitzwing was nuts, no doubt, and he could be so annoying at the most inappropriate times.
"What is your malfunction?" Lugnut growled.
Random's hand went perpendicular to Lugnut's head and then shrank to the ground, "Because you were so Hee! Hee!…you were so LITTLE! HAHAHA!"
Lugnut tipped his head, "Huh? Little? What are you babbling about?"
Random continued his cackling as he bent over to stifle his laughing fit, "Little! So little! You were a chunky little sparkling! AHAHAHA!"
The big Con was thoroughly confused, "Silence you fool! You're not making any sense!"
At last Icy broke through, "Curious. You do not remember what just happened to you?"
Lugnut growled menacingly, "You'd better start making sense or I'll knock you into the next country."
A hologram projected from the blue face's monocle, "See? This is what I'm talking about."
The huge Con came to a sudden stop, staring at the image that seemed to toddle around on the ground in front of them. It was him…or at least a very old image of him, one he had all but forgotten.
Lugnut gave a deadly rumble, "Where did you get that?"
Random flipped quickly, "Aww! Is Lugnut gonna throw a fit? Does he want his Energon bottle?"
With a curt swipe of his arm Lugnut smacked Blitzwing in the shoulder, sending him flying into a building.
Sari piped up, "I told you."
The red optic narrowed its focus on her. But before he could say anything Hothead roared angrily and leaped onto Lugnut's back. Taken by surprise the big Con accidentally let go of Sari, dropping her on the roof of a building. Sari tumbled hard on the harsh roof surface as the two Decepticons wrestled. The moment the pain died down in her arm and side the girl scrambled to find a door that would lead her off of the roof. Like a couple of trains colliding the two Decepticons fought each other like a couple of boys rough-housing in a school hallway. But, true to his gladiatorial skill and tremendous strength, Lugnut managed to heft Blitzwing over his head and throw him about two blocks away. He turned quickly to relocate his lost catch and spotted her trying to open a locked roof door.
The Decepticon paused.
So…had she actually told the truth? Were those images he was seeing truly memories he had amassed during his transformation?
His targeting sensors tried to lock onto her but once again they would not label her a target. The small girl looked up at him, fear apparent in her eyes. Suddenly a very vivid image flashed from his memory core. The child was sitting next to him and he was feeling strangely sad. She was stroking the top of his head with a tenderness he'd never experienced for eons. Then she scratched the underside of his jaw. He remembered it felt very good and his sadness lessened.
"Yeah. You're a good boy aren't you Luggy?" she said gently with a kind smile.
He'd leaned into her and eventually he didn't feel sad anymore as he drifted into recharge.
The image ended and it was the strangest sensation he felt when staring at the child. Was it…gratitude?
Ridiculous! Decepticons did not feel gratitude! Especially toward inferior organic life forms. And yet…
Lugnut reached for Sari again and reasserted his grip on her. The girl struggled and fought him until the Decepticon unexpectedly bent down and released her on the street. Sari stumbled momentarily and with wide eyes stared up at the Decepticon.
"Luggy?" she said with wet eyes.
The cyclopic optic shrank at her and then blinked twice as he made a "go" motion with his head. Though she didn't want to, Sari took the hint and ran away.
Lugnut watched her run a second before he started tearing the building she had been on apart. Second later Blitzwing appeared.
"I'm going to take those concussion cannons and shove them up your exhaust port!" Hothead shouted.
"You FOOL!" Lugnut thundered back, "You made me lose the human!"
"Well find her already!" Hothead retorted.
Icy reappeared, "We have to find her or Megatron is going to blow us to bits."
A strange coincidence, Megatron's voice broke through the communication line, "Decepticons, we are heading back to base. Do you have the Key?"
"Oh grand Master, I…" Lugnut began.
Megatron sounded surprised, "Lugnut…you're back to your original form?"
"Uh, yes Master. I…"
"Do you have the Key?"
"Uh…" Blitzwing fumbled.
"Umm…" Lugnut started.
"You DON'T HAVE IT?!" Megatron's outrage was plainly obvious in his tone.
Lugnut cringed, almost physically hurt by his master's rebuke, "The child eluded us my Master."
"UGG!"the warlord growled, "Incompetent morons! Get your thrusters back to base…I shall deal with you at that time."
"Un-Understood sir." Blitzwing wilted.
Hothead flipped around with a glare in his visor, "You bungling defect! If you hadn't lost her…"
"If YOU hadn't attacked me I would still have her!" the gladiator bellowed.
With a brisk transformation the two Decepticons took off into the sky. Lugnut internally cursed himself for letting the child go.
What was he thinking, purposely failing his grand and illustrious leader like that because of sentiment?
Now he'd have to make up a…dare he think it…a lie to his glorious leader. Well, not precisely a lie— he would just omit certain details as to how she escaped. But he promised in the name of Megatron it would be the last time the child would be granted his amnesty should he be sent for the Key again. And still a small part inside hoped he'd never have to hurt that child…Sari.
Not too far away…
Sari ran, tears trickling across her face. Amid her sadness a smile formed. He DID remember her. Somehow a small part of Luggy had remained. She only hoped it wasn't the last. But no matter what the future held, Sari would always remember that mean, destructive, hulk of a machine as the sweet, trusting Sparkling Luggy whom she'd come to love.
A/N: Ahh. Done at last. Why it took me 3 friggin' months to churn out that last chapter is beyond my reason. I apologize and HOPE it was an ok ending to my fluff story. Happy 2010 everyone and may all your creativeness bear fruit!