Transformers Prime: Lost, But Found
"Jack! Down!" Arcee cried out in warning as she, in vehicle form, Jack now clinging to her frame, barreled around the blossoming cloud of heat and debris. In her wake, the section of interstate was now dominated by a smoking crater. Already, both the human teen and his cybernetic partner could hear the high pitched wail of another rocket propelled projectile screeching across the afternoon Nevada sky towards them.
"Where's it coming from?" Jack shouted, hands griped to the controls like a vice. "I don't see any 'cons!"
"I don't know! Something's playing havoc with my sensors. I can't…scrap!" Tires spinning, Arcee barely managed to avoid the car in front of her, putting distance between herself and the motorist, observing in consternation as the missile altered it's trajectory to follow her meandering course through the traffic, many of the aforementioned motorists already driving hectically in light of what they likely assumed was a terrorist attack.
"Damn it! Heat seeker! We need to get off the road! Too many Civvies!" Arcee called out. "Hang on tight!"
Banking hard, the Autobot female cleared the cavalcade of vehicles, clenching proverbial teeth as her heavy tread tires tore into the loose sand and grit of the dessert terrain. Dust clouds in their wake, the pair rode hard away from the Highway and those innocent bystanders now hopefully out of harms way.
Chancing a skyward glance at their back, Jack's eyes widened as he watched the missile corkscrew, angling to drop straight down upon them.
"Arcee!" Jack warned.
"I see it!" Came her response, the Cybertronian already visually scanning the surrounding landscape for any degree of cover they could find. The projectile quickly closing, Arcee spied several small structures no more then a few miles away.
Have to give that missile something else to think about…
"Jack? Time for a Springboard!" Arcee announced.
Jack, for his part, felt his mouth go dry. "Now?" He asked incredulously.
"Trust me." Arcee said confidently.
"Shit." Jack answered, almost with a laugh. Despite knowing what was coming, the teen could feel his insides tighten up. They'd only ever practiced what Arcee was suggesting a few times, and they hadn't exactly gotten it down, Jack usually ending up with a few bruises.
"Alright!" Jack called out to her, loosening the grip of both his hands and legs. "Good to go!"
Watching the missile's speed, Arcee counted aloud. "Three. Two. One…go, Jack!"
Getting his feet atop the rider's seat, Jack rose just long enough to push off from Arcee with enough force to launch himself nearly vertical. Within those few seconds, free from the burden of her rider, Arcee shifted from her vehicle form to her normal bipedal appearance, the speed of her forward momentum putting her into a slide as she came down upon her armored feet.
The seconds, and her window of opportunity to ensure Jack's safety, ticking by at near light speed in her cybernetic mind, Arcee brought out one of her canons, taking aim just off the missile's path of decent as it dropped from the sky towards her.
"Scratch one…" Arcee breathed as she fired the single energy blast, spinning in place as she did so. The lone bolt of condensed energy arched into the sky, splitting ozone in it's wake. Sensing the new heat signature, the projectile's simple acquisition software designated the canon shot as a new priority target.
As the missile merged with the energy blast, filling the air above them with a small pyrotechnics display, Arcee, only just completing her turn in an eye blink's span of time, reached out her hand to catch Jack as the teen succumbed to gravity.
Coming down only slightly less gently then he would have preferred into Arcee waiting grasp, Jack was grateful that his helmet concealed the brief flash of pain that appeared on his face.
"Nice catch." Jack said around the discomfort as Arcee, not missing a beat, shifted back to her motorcycle form, returning Jack to his previous spot.
"We can celebrate later," Arcee replied, gaining speed as she aimed them for the collection of buildings now in the near distance. "Something tells me we're not out of this yet."
"Did you contact HQ?" Jacked asked her.
"No good." Arcee answered. "Whatever has my sensors on the fritz, it's also playing hell with my coms. I'm getting static. Try your cell."
Pulling the device from his jacket, and silently thankful that Arcee's interception hadn't broken it, Jack checked the bars on the screen. "No signal." Jack reported. "Looks like the secondary frequency Ratchet installed is being blocked to."
Arcee cursed silently. "You know, with all the time and resources the Doc and Raf have poured into making sure we can't get jammed any more, you'd think that wouldn't be a concern." Arcee paused at that. "Though I don't think we're dealing with Soundwave or his tech this time."
"What do you mean?" Jack asked, at a loss.
"Got a good look at that missile in my sights." Arcee answered ominously. "It wasn't Decepticon."
Jack had to blink at the implication several times. "No way it's the military. Not anymore. It's been months, and we're still on good, well, lukewarm terms with the Pentagon." Jack observed. "Plus, North's been keeping a low profile since he put in his walking papers."
"Exactly." Arcee stated flatly.
"Wait. You think it's North? Or his supporters? Can't be." Jack argued. "Optimus had the President's promise. No aggression, and complete transparency from here on out. They wouldn't just let North or his Black Op buddies start lobbing missiles. Not to mention, there were a heck of a lot of people back there."
"Just because North doesn't have official backing anymore doesn't mean he couldn't have gone rogue." Arcee countered. "You saw the look on his face when he walked out of the Silo. It won't ever be over for him."
Jack was thoughtful as the pair continued to speed across the dessert. "I still don't see it. At least, not like this. Too sloppy. I mean, you're a solider to. Would it make sense to just start blasting at us out in public when he's trying to make us appear to be the bad guys?"
Arcee mulled that over. "No. It wouldn't." She relented. "But if not North, then whom?"
"What about Silas and his MECH group?" Jack suggested. "We haven't heard from them for almost a year, not since that Train Job. Maybe this is payback."
"Maybe." Arcee nodded unseen. "If it is, we need to regroup. If he brought more then those rockets, we can't take him on. We'll need to contact HQ, or at least get word to Fowler and the Task Force." To highlight that objective, Arcee dipped her mirrors forward, in the general direction of what was quickly appearing to be a small, dilapidated town out in the middle of nowhere.
"Might be a way to get a signal or call out somewhere in there."
"Hope you're right." Jack replied, as he searched the fading light of the late afternoon sky for any further projectiles.
It would be another few minutes before they at last reached the outskirts of the town. What they encountered did not, however, instill any great degree of confidence. Taking sight of a rusted sign on what could barely be discerned as a main road cutting through the smattering of crumbling buildings, Jack and Arcee identified their location as what was left of a mining town called Desolation.
"Well, that name is infuriatingly ironic." Arcee observed, her ire raised.
"Might still be something in here somewhere we can use. Maybe an old radio or something." Jack offered encouragingly, slipping off the rider's seat, his helmet now in hand.
"Ever the optimist," Arcee observed, bemused, as she shifted out of her vehicle mode.
"Well, I thought that was one of the reasons you fell head over metal-heels for me." Jack teased.
"Who says that wasn't the only reason?" Arcee mocked. "There's really not much else, after all."
"Ouch." Jack moaned. "I guess all those moments we've spent making my hair stand up weren't as good as I thought."
"No." Arcee admitted. "Those have been okay."
"I here I thought you loved me for my mind."
"Again with the optimism."
"You know, you really can…"
Then the world was suddenly a roaring sound in his ears, mixed with light and heat. Then something struck him across the head, and there was a funny taste in his mouth before everything was darkness and silence.
"J…Jack…" Came a voice, whispering to him in his dreams. Or was he still dreaming? For a dream, there was great deal of pain racking his body. "Jack…Jack? P…please, wake up."
The voice, so familiar, especially in his dreams, implored him to rise, and instantly he wanted to, his instinctive reaction being to go to it, to answer it. Because, the woman whom the voice belonged to was the love of his life. His soul mate. He knew he had to go to her. She needed him. But…there was so much pain all a part of him wanted to do was stay asleep, unmoving.
No…no, Jack. You have to get up. Arcee needs you. Arcee…Arcee…
"Arcee?" Jack croaked aloud. His left eye was now open, with only a smoky, flickering glow to greet him. Coughing past a mouth full of dirt, Jack called out to the near darkness once more. "Arcee?"
"I'm…here." Came the voice he had heard in his dreams. She sounded strange. Distant.
Struggling to move limbs and a body which seemed unwelcoming to such a course of action, Jack tried to search the area around him, what little of it he could make out, for where she was speaking from. The muscles in his neck felt shredded, burning, as he tried to look, realizing with some terror that his right eye would not open. Reaching up slowly, Jack could feel a try, brittle mass over the lid. Bringing his hand away, Jack could see the tips of his fingers were now red.
I'm bleeding, Jack realized through his state of shock. Must have dried a little, sealed my eye shut.
"Arcee? Where are you? I can't see too good." Jack called out. "Are you okay?"
"Not…really…" Arcee answered. "Wait…"
From the near darkness to his left came a piecing light cutting through the smoky gloom. Jack had seen Arcee use the beam atop her wrist often enough. Though he still could not make her out completely, Jack could discern her form in shadow behind the light.
"Hold on." Jack said to her. "I'm coming…"
Trying to get to his feet, Jack gasped at the searing pain that filled his chest like fire as he took a breath.
"Jack?" Arcee called out to him.
"It's…it's okay. Think I broke some ribs." As Jack tried to step forward, the world began to spin. "And my head." Fighting through the agony, Jack stumbled towards the beam, trying to avoid the small piles of shattered brick and wood.
"What happened?" Jack asked, still somewhat stunned.
"Explosion." Arcee said after a moment, her voice almost a whisper. "My…my fault. Wasn't paying attention."
"It wasn't your fault."
Nearly loosing his feet out from under him, Jack ambled through the debris, at last coming to where Arcee lay. The sight which greeted him filled his heart with sudden terror, anguish, and rage. The Cybertronian woman lay partially covered by brick and other broken pieces of various materials from the waist down, her back propped up against the remnants of a wall.
Belatedly, Jack realized they both appeared to be with-in what remained of a small, single story building. From the shattered wall open to the night nearby, it appeared the explosion had sent them from the street and into the interior.
As Jack came into view, Arcee's eyes, their violet blue glow dimmed, went a little wider. "Jack…" Arcee breathed, reaching out to touch the teen's bloody face.
"It's fine," He assured her, taking her long fingers in both of his hands. "Don't worry about me." His eyes sweeping over her, Jack wasn't sure how badly she had been injured.
"Where are you hurt?" He asked her.
" Worst is h…here…" Arcee answered weakly, using her free hand to touch her chest. In the light from her wrist, Jack could see a hole, jagged, and roughly a few fingers wide punched into the thick armor of her upper torso.
"Might…be shrapnel of some kind. Maybe something…else." She said slowly. "It's…near my Spark Chamber. Might have…nicked it. Loosing a lot of…power. Can barely move."
Hearing that, Jack felt himself grow cold. Much as a human heart, an Autobot's Spark was their source of life, an energy which permitted them to function. If the chamber containing this energy was seriously damaged or destroyed…
"Can…can you remove it?" Jack asked her, trying to keep his voice even.
Arcee shook her head slowly, even that small action seeming to take more out of her then it should. "The…wound is too…small. I can't reach it. If I…tried, I could damage something else." Arcee gave Jack's hands a squeeze, the pressure almost unnoticeable.
"Jack…I need you…to do it." Arcee pleaded.
"What? But…I'm not a medic. I don't, I mean, I'm not Ratchet. I don't know how…" Jack was terrified at even the thought. In his condition, a sealed eye and possibly a concussion, he was the last person to try something so risky to Arcee's life.
"Jack…I'll…walk you through it. Please…" Arcee whispered. "I can't self repair while it's…still in there."
Even past all the fog in his head and the pain across his body, Jack knew if he did something wrong, if he caused Arcee's injury to worsen or simply could not remove the shrapnel, things could go from bad to the worst possibility of all. Gently, Arcee touched the side of Jack's face.
"I…know…you can do it." She told him quietly, her tone sure.
Trying not to visibly shake, Jack nodded. Despite all the fear, Jack knew he would rather throw himself into hell then let the woman he loved perish.
Taking a deep breath, fighting the fire along his sides as he did so, Jack moved closer, trying to get a banter vantage point on the puncture.
Using his feet to push away as much debris as he could, Jack stepped gingerly between Arcee legs. Though he was, essentially, above her waist in his current position, the wound in her chest plate was still just above his eye line.
"Climb…on top of me. It's…okay." Arcee told him.
Trying to keep in mind that he, technically, sat atop her almost everyday, Jack eased himself as gently as possible up several inches, resting against her, the puncture now evenly in view.
"Okay." Jack said. "I need some light."
In response, Arcee held the beam from her wrist over the wound. "Try to…do it quickly. I don't know how long I can…keep my arm up."
"Alright. So, what do I do?" Jack inquired.
"Just…reach inside. I'm…pretty sure the wound goes straight in. Just…be careful of any sharp bits."
"What about…I can't get, like, electrocuted or anything, can I?" Jack asked.
Arcee shook her head. "Systems…cut off from damaged areas. Like…blast doors coming down." She told him slowly.
Nodding, Jack took another painful breath, then went inside, fingers probing hesitantly.
"I can't find anything." Jack told her. "It's too tight."
"You have to…go deeper. "Arcee answered gently. "It's…alright. You won't hurt me."
Swallowing audibly, Jack plunged further in. His fingers, after a few seconds, brushed against something small and round. At the same moment, Arcee gasped, her body twitching.
Startled that he had done something wrong, Jack almost jumped back, removing his fingers quickly.
"I'm sorry…was that too much? Did I push to hard, or…?" Jack stammered.
"It's…fine, Jack." Arcee mumbled. "Your…fingers are cold." Gazing up into her face, Jack could see the smallest trace of a teasing smile.
"That's not funny, Arcee." Jack said with a frown.
"Sorry. Just trying to…lighten the mood. Keep going." She told him.
Finding the spot where he had left off, Jack continued to explore inside. It wasn't long at all before his fingers found something oddly shaped, and sharp, wedged between Arcee's inner workings and the slightly vibrating sphere that was her Spark Chamber.
"I think I got it." Jack told her.
"Okay. Good. Now…try to get your fingers around it."
Jack grunted as he pushed to get a hold. "Almost…"
"When you have it, pull. Pull…hard." Arcee told him gently. "Don't worry…about hurting me."
Nodding, Jack strained to find a solid grip. Finally, the twisted piece of metal was completely in his hand.
Arcee tensed. "Now."
Jack strained against the resistance, trying to maintain his position atop her. Persistently, though not forcefully, Jack, accompanied by one final gasp from Arcee, removed the fragment. Slumped against her, Jack held up the piece of shrapnel for inspection. Though still weak, Arcee smiled down at him.
"Nice work." She said with a wink.
"Thanks." Jack replied, the intensity of the last few moments leaving him panting with exertion. "Don't know if I could do that again."
Resting her fingers across his back, holding him close, Arcee laughed gently, though with some effort. "I'll try not to… abuse you so much in the… future."
"You'll be alright now?" Jack asked her, his face still full of concern.
"Not…one hundred percent. But, stable." She answered. "Thanks to you."
Reaching up to touch the pearlescent surface of her face, Jack looked deeply into the now slightly brighter gaze there. "I love you." He told her, his voice at last betraying the emotion he had tried to keep back in the last few moments. "If I lost you…"
Arcee traced the edge of his chin slowly, a caress. "I'm still…here. Not going anywhere just yet." She smiled somewhat more strongly then before. Holding out her hand, Arcee indicated the shard of metal still in Jack's possession.
"Let me see that." Without hesitation, Jack placed the fragment in her hands. "Strange…" Arcee whispered.
"What?" Jack inquired, eyeing the shrapnel piece.
"My alloy, it's resistant to most earth based metals." Arcee observed. "Even the explosion should not have been enough to…punch this through."
"What does that mean?" Jack asked her.
"I…don't know." She answered, turning her attention back to him. "How do you feel?"
"Don't think I'll be dancing anytime soon." Jack admitted.
"You were never…all that good anyway." Arcee prodded gently.
"Well, the shrapnel didn't damage your sense of humor…"
"No. But…it did enough." Arcee's gaze went distant, as though she were looking at things Jack himself could not. "The breach to my spark chamber is closed, I think. I don't believe anything else was damaged too severely. Another hour, I should be able to move and maybe use my weapons. We can go from there."
"Then rest. I'll keep watch." Jack said resolutely.
Though hesitant at the idea, Arcee empathically understood the need. Though more then a little frustrated, and fearful, of their situation, she watched Jack slip off of her and back down to the rubble strewn floor.
"Be careful. Wake me if you need me." She told him softly.
"Don't worry. Just rest." Jack answered. Closing her eyes, Arcee went still, leaving Jack to watch over her, a Sentinel in silence.
To be Continued…