She'd spotted it in Simmon's new office, sitting precariously atop a pile of not yet unpacked boxes. After no small amount of begging, wheedling, and a bit of trickery, she'd been granted permission for the thorough examination that there'd been no time for before.
As for what happened next... well, she's still not entirely clear on the details. It involved Sam, an air-tight tube with just a dash of silvery dust at it's bottom, an impressive light show that made her hair stand on end, and all of a sudden the decapitated head on the table was moving. Suddenly she was having flashbacks to Hoover Dam and there was shouting and somehow – somehow – she was the one who managed to catch the little silver head on legs.
What follows is a flurry of activity, of meetings, talk of recovering Jazz's body from its resting place at the bottom of the ocean, attempting to reign in a six inch alien who is anything but cooperative and creates more trouble than a three year old. (Case in point: the little rat that's taken to following Sam's girlfriend everywhere – Mikaela, that's her name – took one look at Frenzy, now the smaller of the two by a significant margin, and didn't stop laughing even when Mikaela gave him a hard enough nudge with her boot to send the blue mech toppling head over wheels. Frenzy tackled him and by the time they managed to separate the two they were both sporting torn wires and spitting sparks. Apparently Mikaela's little tag-along also used to be a Decepticon. Maggie can appreciate the humor.) But for some reason he puts up a fit every time someone tries to put him into more qualified hands. He's actually been somewhat helpful when she's the one making the demands, so with her he stays. (Although not before Ratchet gets his hands on the Decepticon, disabling comm and Internet access and everything else Frenzy might possibly use to contact his side.)
And once they sorted out who was in charge—well. Maggie can admit the attraction to having a robotic minion whose expertise dovetails so nicely with her own.
But it's all wearing, and by the time Jazz is back in his body and back on his feet Maggie is sick and tired of humans and technology alike. She's taking a vacation, no one is going to stop her, and she'll even take Frenzy along for the ride, thanks. He's been relatively good as of late. So she packs, making a point to leave behind every bit of technology that she can, which is everything but her phone and her little hacker companion. Just as she's about to make her escape Glen holds up a six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade and won't let her leave without it, so she finally takes two of the bottles ("My God, Glen! All right!") just to shut him up, resolutely ignoring the fifteen foot silver alien snickering in the background.
It takes half a day to get far enough away from the major centers of civilization to satisfy her, and another hour after the last small town disappears behind them before she pulls her sedan onto the shoulder and puts it in park.
She turns a narrow-eyed glare on the silver not-Decepticon clinging to the headrest of the passenger seat and announces that they're hiking to their campsite. ("And if you even think about giving me trouble, I'm inviting Mikaela over for a girls day when we get back. I'm sure she'd love to bring Wheelie.")
He growls at her, saying something derogatory in his rapid not-English, not-Cybertronian speech, but slouches down into the headrest in a sulky "fine, I give up," way, as close to an agreement as she ever gets from him. Maggie nods sharply, making a point of checking that the failsafe Ratchet provided her is still tucked safely inside her sock ("If he gets more than fifty feet away from this, it will send him into stasis lock," as he hands her a small electronic coin the shape of a penny, Frenzy snarling angrily.) before opening the door and stepping out.
He shoots across the seats and onto the ground, scuttling around her feet before coming to an abrupt halt by the rear tire. Maggie takes a moment to let her heart settle – just ignore it, ignore him, if she reacts he's won – before firmly closing and locking the door, retrieving her hiking backpack from the trunk and locking that, too.
It's not until they're a half hour away from the road that she connects his twitchier than usual, scuttling movements with the possibility that this is the first time Frenzy has ever been in a truly uninhabited area on Earth. He's underfoot more than usual. After the third time she nearly trips over him, she bends down, wraps her fingers around his head, and drops him unceremoniously on her shoulder.
Maggie blinks awake in the pre-dawn light, not sure at first what's awoken her.
She can hear Frenzy muttering rapidly to himself from not too far away, not unusual in and of itself, but something feels... off. So Maggie sits up, having slept fully dressed, and groggily tugs on her shoes.
Frenzy lets out a particularly devious cackle. Maggie looks up.
Scraps of paper and what might have been one of her socks are smoldering in the fire pit she so carefully put out the night before. Frenzy has stuffed part of one of her pairs of underwear into the neck of one of the still-full bottles of Mike's. He's chortling gleefully to himself, like a boy with his first BB gun, and he has her lighter.
The sight finally registers, and in the next moment Maggie is up and scrambling towards him, but she's too late. The underwear light up with a whoosh, and despite his size Frenzy manages a kick that sends the Molotov cocktail spinning through the air. It shatters against a tree, and just like that there are half a dozen fires eating through the dry brown grass.
Maggie's brain jumps to that level of intent focus that is her version of full-blown panic. In the next instant she's beating at the fire with her sleeping bag. Frenzy yelps when he doesn't get out of the way fast enough.
For every spot she beats out, the air kicked up the the flying material spreads the fire three times faster.
Then Maggie pauses long enough to feel the steady breeze tugging at her hair, to look again and see the dry grass all around her.
The fire is spreading fast, fanning out to both sides of her campsite and coming towards her.
Phone, where's her phone?
...It's in pieces on the ground. What has Frenzy been doing, and why was she idiot enough not to bring a cage to lock him in as she slept?
She tries frantically to pick up the pieces, but they're scattered everywhere. It's getting hot, and that bit over there is melting and fire.
An hour past the last town. Another two of hiking. Help is at least three hours away, and the flames are between her and her car.
She snatches Frenzy off the ground, grabs blindly for her backpack, and they're running. She's running, hem of her shirt pulled up over her mouth and Frenzy a prickle of claws on her shoulder that barely registers. Her backpack is already slowing her down. She should probably drop it, but... food. Water. What if they get lost? So she keeps it, and she runs.
And they're lost. They didn't pass this ravine coming up. They've gone too far from the trail, trying to stay out of the path of the fire, but now she doesn't know which way to go.
The air is a sickly yellowish orange, a mockery of a sunrise, smoke filling in the spaces between the trees. She can't catch her breath. She starts coughing and can't stop, even after downing a quarter of her water. Frenzy scurries around the back of her neck to her other shoulder, chattering loudly in her ear.
Think, Maggie. It's a ravine. A gorge, a sheer cliff, no way she's getting across, but it has to end sometime, or maybe there will be a less steep portion she can risk crossing. So keep going.
She thinks her car is to the left, but so is the fire, so they go the other way.
But now Maggie is thinking along other lines. ("What were you doing with my phone?") She wants to yell, but when she tries all the comes out is more coughing, so she settles for a hissed threat. ("If I don't get out of this, do you really think you're going to stay alive when the Autobots find you?") Frenzy, for once, falls silent.
She can tell the fire is gaining on them when Frenzy starts getting jittery. She wonders if a wildfire can get hot enough to hurt him. She doesn't think this one is that big. For her own sake, she hopes it isn't.
When Frenzy burrows into her backpack, she can't spare the breath to yell at him. He's shifting around, doing something, but she just keeps walking. Just stay ahead of the fire. Stay ahead of the fire, find the road. Any road.
She crawls over the trunk of a fallen tree and something thumps to the ground behind her. She pauses, blinking smoke-irritated eyes. Her water filter. Frenzy must have dislodged it. Then her flashlight follows it, and her travel hairbrush with the elastics wrapped around the handle, and it finally occurs to Maggie to get mad. She swings her backpack off her shoulders and drops it on the log, the better to glare at Frenzy as she's yelling at him. But when she pulls open the top he scuttles out onto her hand, trying to drag a bundle five times his size behind him.
Maggie blinks, peering into the makeshift bag he's made of the long-sleeved shirt she brought along, just in case. He's managed to tuck her water bottle, car keys, and some of her snacks inside it, and he's tied the ends of the sleeves together. She pulls the bundle out, discovering that he's made a sling of her shirt, something she can toss over one shoulder, much lighter than her backpack.
That makes sense. She doesn't really want to leave her backpack, but she's getting so tired, and she still can't catch her breath.
Frenzy disappears back into her backpack. She hears him muttering to himself, and her lips twitch tiredly upward despite herself. The start of a smile disappears when she hears fabric ripping ("Hey! Get out of there!") and then he shoots back out, straight up to her shoulder with a scrap of fabric fluttering behind him. He holds it up to her jaw and she swats at him, pulling her head away. He snaps back and scuttles around a bit before shoving the fabric up against her chin, and she finally figures out what he's trying to do. She takes the remainder of one of her t-shirts, a little embarrassed, and ties it over her mouth and nose. Frenzy mutters, sounding satisfied, but he's getting even more jittery, and the mutters quickly become panicky squawking. She looks up and finds out why.
They've lost time. Maggie can see flames. Actual flames, not just a wall of smoke. It's closer than she thought. She starts running again, panting, coughing, but going faster now that she's carrying almost nothing.
Frenzy's electronic yelling calms as soon as they're moving again.
It's almost as if he's actually worried.
Maggie can tell there's something wrong with her head. She has the vague sense that they might be lost, but she can't quite remember where she was headed in the first place.
Frenzy keeps tugging on her hair. It's irritating, like the loud snapping, hissing rumble filling her ears. She knows that sound is the fire, she can remember that there's a fire, and that she needs to run, but not where. It's so hot. She has no idea how long they've been going.
Frenzy tugs on her hair again. She grunts, batting at him, and realizes that she's slowed down. She makes an effort to put on speed again. They come to a log and Maggie prepares to clamor over it, to keep going straight, but Frenzy scuttles around to her left shoulder and tugs on the fabric of her shirt there. She veers that way instead without even thinking on why.
The fire is almost on them, she's sure of it. The panicky feeling that's she's running blind isn't helping things. The smoke is so thick she's not sure she'd be able to see the fire until she's right on top of it, but she can still hear it, and it's frighteningly loud. Frenzy is chattering constantly in her ear now. He sounds even more energetic than normal, if that's possible. Maggie is suddenly extremely irritated by that.
Then, without warning, there's asphalt under her feet.
Maggie is so startled that she actually stops running. A road? They made it to a road? Relief rushes through her, but the sense of urgency Frenzy and her own instincts are giving off keeps her on her feet. She turns left, the direction Frenzy is urging her in, making her way along the road at a stumbling jog.
Something falls into her hair and she swats at it reflexively.
She looks up and sees flames. They're jumping across the trees directly above her head. Ash and embers drift down towards her. There is fire right at the edge of the road. She breaks into a sprint.
Somehow, she isn't surprised when her car appears moments later. She runs straight into the door, tugging at the handle before remembering that it's locked. Blindly fumbling through the bundle on her shoulder, ("Frenzy, get out of the way, you're no help at all!") she's dumped half the contents on the ground before her fingers close around the jingling metal ring.
She scrambles into her car, slamming the door shut behind her, and huddles on the floor in the back, panting from heat and lack of air as the fire blazes past the windows outside.
Maggie has never been so grateful to hear a helicopter in her life. The men who help her from her car are all wearing the N.E.S.T. badge. The ground all around them is blackened, trees still standing but branches stripped bare of their needles.
She doesn't realize until one of the soldiers asks an urgent, pointed question that Frenzy has disappeared.
Optimus informs her later that Frenzy tried to use her phone. Ratchet had thought of that possibility; the moment Frenzy plugged in, the phone blocked him and sent an alert to the Autobots, who in turn notified their human allies.
The Autobots will find Frenzy, she is assured. The government will take care of the evidence left in the forest that implicates her in the start of the fire, and since charges for arson are never leveled against her, she can only assume that they have.
Once recovered, she is told simply to return to her job. Given no other good option, that's what she does, and tells herself that she doesn't miss the prickle of claws clinging to her shoulder, doesn't wonder what happened to him, and needs no answers to the question of why.
Soundwave Frenzy calls, the tiny electronic failsafe trigger that had kept him chained to the human looped over one leg. That trap the Autobots put on the phone might have prevented his call from going through the first time, but with the phone dismantled and a few particular parts carried tight against his body during the fleshy's frantic run through the burning forest, he'd bought himself all the time he needed. He ignores that there was no need to make sure the squishy made it out alive. Frenzy doesn't feel grateful, or enamored of some human female. He's nothing like that disgusting Wheelie. Not at all.
Using parts from the phone to bypass the blocks the Autobots had put on his own systems, Frenzy sends a searching message up towards the stars. Soundwave.