This story came to me because of an incident that happened to me a little while back when I made a stupid mistake and jumped into a freezing, flooded river. Thought I was familiar with the river in that particular area, but flooding had made it erratic and undercurrents had formed. Anyway, the terror of being swept away on monster currents is something else, lemme tell ya! I wanted to put it down in words, and I thought this would be a cool way to do it. Anyway, the overflow dam that is mentioned toward the end exists as well. I will stick a photo link at the end, in case y'all are curious. :) Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Update 6/26/11: This morning I read in the local news that yesterday two teenagers (girlfriend and boyfriend), both seventeen, were wading in the water a ways up from the overflow dam mentioned in this story. The girl was knocked down by the current and, unable to get back up, was swept down river. Her boyfriend jumped in after her, but both were swept over the dam and drowned. It is almost eerie how soon this has come after I decided to write this story.
It was February. Mikaela was stressed out.
Not that that was anything new lately, but the combination of worrying about financial stability (especially concerning her father's struggling machine shop), her new internship/job on the Autobot base under Ratchet (which she had started directly after the Christmas Holiday) and the separation from Sam while he was away at college for the second semester skyrocketed her stress level way above what it normally was. She was sleeping less, eating less and working more to keep herself distracted. She was reminded often that said distraction did not always come without a price, like now, elbow-deep in spare autobot limbs and internals. She had been clanking away enthusiastically in one-such situation, her thoughts trained on Sam and her father when she leaned a little too far forward, catching her hip on a sharp piece of metal protruding from the exterior of the part she was working on. Startled, she moved to jerk her leg away without paying attention the angle of the sharp metal, tearing her jeans and leaving a slash in her skin about four inches long. She cursed loudly, dropping the tool she had on a nearby human-sized work bench and earning the attention of Ratchet.
His smooth baritone floated over to her, "Everything alright?"
"Yeah, fine," she ground out, prodding the gash lightly and hissing through her teeth when it stung like hell. She turned to look at Ratchet as he came to stand beside her, assessing the damage with his scanners.
"That may need stitches," he said matter-of-factly, his optic ridge tilted up in wry amusement as Mikaela swore again.
"No, thank you!" Mikaela grumbled, searching for a clean rag to staunch the blood that was now soaking her jeans.
Ratchet clicked at her disapprovingly, motioning to the berth nearest to them. "Get up there and let me have a look," he said firmly, and when she didn't move; "Or should I send you to Wheeljack?"
Mikaela shot him the dirtiest look she could manage and limped up the ramp to the autobot-sized berth. There was a flicker of light from Ratchet's chassis and the medic's holoform stepped forward, making her jump. With a light, somewhat lanky build, dark, shoulder length hair pulled back into a neat ponytail at the back of his neck, slight stubble on his cheeks and chin and a slight frown tugging at the corners of his lips, the image just oozed Ratchet.
"I still can't get used to that," Mikaela grumbled quietly, flopping down on the berth.
"Yes, well, you had better. I have a hard time treating humans with autobot-sized hands, as precise as they may be," Ratchet groused, leaning forward and placing his hands on either side of her wound and pressing lightly. Mikaela groaned. Kind eyes peered at her leg in rapt concentration.
"You can scrape by without stitches," he informed her. "But we'll need to clean this out and wrap it up tightly. You will have to take the utmost care in keeping it clean for a week or two, and I mean it."
Mikaela waved her hand dismissively before pinching the bridge of her nose and squeezing her eyes shut as if in pain. "Yeah, yeah. I know."
Ratchet eyed her carefully as he began cleaning the laceration. "You are distracted lately, youngling. Are you alright?"
"Yep, I'm good. Just have a headache."
"That's not what I meant, Mikaela."
The girl sighed, allowing her shoulders to drop a bit before staring at the CMO through her dark hair. "I'm fine, Ratchet. Just stressed out – ouch, damnit!- Under a lot of pressure, yanno?"
The CMO looked at her thoughtfully once he had applied enough gels and creams to the wound to be satisfied. "Would you be up for a drive?"
Mikaela stared, surprised by his question. "Uh, sure, I guess? Where would I drive to?"
"I am quite capable of driving myself, thank you," Ratchet chuckled.
"Oh! Sorry, I think I should have been born blond. You mean… go for a drive with you?"
"If you're up for it," Ratchet said, "I think I am being brutally honest when I say it would probably do us both some good to get off the base and get some fresh air."
Mikaela laughed lightly, nodding in agreement. "Where did you have in mind?"
"Nowhere in particular. I was considering perhaps the area around the river. Not many venture down there this time of the year."
An hour and a half later saw them pulling off of a little-traveled dirt road and into a secluded field next to the river where Ratchet could transform. Mikaela stepped down from the cab of the Hummer, stretching as she looked around. The river was higher than normal this time of year, nearly crawling over its banks. It's rushing rapids and frigid temperatures made Mikaela shiver slightly and draw her arms around herself. A fully transformed CMO came to stand beside her and, to her surprise, held out her jacket.
Baffled, she took it from his massive hand and slipped it over her shoulders. "How'd you get that?"
"You left it in the medbay," Ratchet explained. "It's cold, Mikaela. Organics are easily subjected to germs and diseases and viruses when the temperature drops. You should carry it with you."
Mikaela waved him off, much as she had done earlier and began to walk toward the banks. Ratchet had picked a good spot, explaining that he came here relatively often when he needed time to himself or time to think. Climbing through the weeds, she off-handedly noted that there was an old wooden bridge nearby that looked on the verge of falling apart. There was a slight downward slope where the field met the riverbank and she slid down it cautiously, her leg still stinging. Ratchet followed her, taking the incline in a single step. Mikaela rolled her eyes and plunked down onto the river bank, crossing her legs under her. She tilted her head up to look at the sky. It was a cloudy, bitterly cold February day. The majority of the sun's light was obscured behind the clouds… a perfect complement to her gloomy mood. She sighed.
"Would you like to talk about it?" Ratchet asked, breaking the silence and seating himself heavily beside her.
She turned a grateful smile on the CMO, suddenly wishing that she had more people like him to keep in her life. "It's just financial stuff, mostly. I'm worried about my dad's machine shop. He's about two steps away from going bankrupt already, and nobody wants to cut him a loan because he's so fresh out of prison…" She trailed off, staring moodily at the water. "I just don't get it. How do people expect prisoners to rehab themselves if they don't have any help, and no one wants to give them the benefit of the doubt?"
Ratchet nodded silently. Mikaela continued, "And I am right at that point where I want to be out on my own, with my own place and my own financial problems."
"He doesn't want you to be on your own?" Ratchet asked. Mikaela shook her head.
"It's not that. I guess I am just afraid of leaving him to fend for himself. He says he'd be fine, but I don't believe it."
"Why don't you believe it?"
"Because… Because I'm worried that he wouldn't be able to make himself stable financially and he'll just go back to stealing cars again," she said, her voice taking on a slightly desperate undertone as she picked up a handful of stones and tossed them into the water. "He'll end up right back in prison, just like the first time."
"Perhaps he wants you to give him the 'benefit of the doubt,' Mikaela," Ratchet said gently. A look of slight surprise crossed Mikaela's face before she smiled wryly.
"Things will work themselves out in due time, youngling. Until then," Ratchet followed her example and tossed a rather large rock into the river, creating a massive splash. "Don't fret."
"Thanks, Ratch." Mikaela smiled, genuine this time. Ratchet 'hmm'-ed thoughtfully.
"This could be an adequate swimming hole for you younglings in the warmer months, when the water is lower and calmer," He indicated a calmer spot where the river branched off into a small alcove, pointedly changing the subject.
"Nah, don't think so," Mikaela said, pushing her hair behind her ear and eyeing the water warily. "Not for me, anyway."
She looked at him hesitantly, as though she was weighing whether or not to answer him. A long silence passed and Ratchet began to think she would ignore the question, but then; "I can't swim."
The CMO had the good grace to hide his surprise.
"I've been afraid of water since I was a kid. I almost drowned in my aunt's back yard pool when I was about five years old," she explained, absently flicking another rock into the rushing water. "I was alone in the back at the time, and it took them a while to hear me screaming and splashing around. Since then I just… can't even get into water passed my waist without panicking."
Ratchet nodded in understanding.
"Out of everything that I've seen, everything that I've been through," she said, knowing Ratchet would understand exactly what she was talking about, "Water still scares me more than anything."
"A legitimate fear," he said gently. Mikaela glanced at him as she pitched the remainder of a handful of stones into the river.
"Are you afraid of anything, Ratchet?"
A soft breath of laughter escaped the CMO, but there was no mirth behind it. Mikaela looked concerned. "I …," he hesitated, "There is much I fear."
"Care to share?" She encouraged softly, her voice full of genuine kindness and the expression on her face conveying her willingness to listen.
"I fear death," Ratchet admitted. "Not my own, but those who are under my direct care. To watch another's life force be so senselessly cut short knowing that there is nothing you can do is a whole different kind of terror."
"You deal with that a lot," Mikaela said. It was not a question.
"I do, more than I would like. Such is the price of a long-fought war."
"But you've saved a lot of lives too, from what I know."
Ratchet graced her with a small smile, his optics following the flow of the water. "Mmh."
Mikaela opened her mouth to say something else, but before the words left her lips Ratchet was suddenly on his feet, weapons at the ready. She jumped up in alarm, head whipping around in panic to find what it was that had Ratchet on sudden defense. She didn't have to look or listen long before the roar of a raptor jet reached her ears, deafening. She immediately lifted her eyes to the overcast sky and caught sight of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor directly overhead as it circled back again.
"Starscream," Ratchet growled. "Slagging wonderful. Mikaela, go to the bridge. Hide there."
"Do not argue!" The CMO barked. "I cannot protect you and fight at the same time, now go!"
Mikaela, although giving no further argument, kept her eyes trained on Ratchet as she took off running up the bank, skidding to a halt around the red wooden bridge and crouching next to one of the support beams. She panicked internally when she saw the jet land several meters away from Ratchet, knocking over trees and strewing dirt everywhere. She had seen with her own eyes on several occasions just how capable in combat Ratchet was, but she wasn't sure if he would fare well against the SIC of the Decepticons, especially without warning or backup.
Starscream, who was at least six feet taller than Ratchet advanced slowly and Mikaela was reminded of a big jungle cat stalking its prey. Ratchet activated his rotary saw and circled at the same pace, his optics fierce on the seeker. Mikaela swore the jet's faceplates were tilted in a sadistic smile. Ratchet activated his comm. without taking his optics off of the Decepticon.
Ratchet to Prime.
Optimus, I am about thirty seconds away from a very violent run-in with Starscream. Requesting immediate backup, sending location coordinates.
You are alone, Ratchet?
No, Mikaela is with me.
Optimus sounded alarmed. Sending back up immediately, hang in there Ratchet.
Whoever you send, tell them to hurry their afts up. Ratchet out.
Ratchet cut the transmission, continuing his stare-down with Starscream.
"Autobot Ratchet," the seeker crooned mockingly. "Out and about and so alone? Where is the pretty little human you were with?"
"Just me, Starscream."
Starscream chuckled, low and cruel. "You should know better than to lie to me, medic."
Mikaela flinched and ducked back behind a large support beam as Starscream's optics roved passed Ratchet and locked on the bridge where she was hiding. "Aha," he said quietly.
There was a sudden rush of dust and air as the seeker leapt into the air in the direction of the bridge and Mikaela half screamed, scrambling further to the center of the structure in an attempt to shield herself, but Starscream didn't get far. With an angry shout, Ratchet leapt at the airbound Decepticon, catching the metal of his calves and dragging him back to the dirt below. If he had no other advantage, Ratchet at least had his massive weight to even the odds for him.
The seeker screeched a harsh Cybertronian oath as Ratchet threw him into the earth. He gracefully regained his feet and rounded on the medic, hissing in anger.
"So that's how you want to play, Autobot scum?" he snarled. "Come on, then. I'll kill you first, and play with her after."
Even from the distance Mikaela caught the absolutely deadly expression that passed over Ratchet's features before he schooled them back into a battle mask. There was a roar and a sudden, powerful clash of metal on metal as the two collided like freight trains. Mikaela covered her ears, trying to block out the sound of screeching metal as she watched, enthralled as the two mechs dueled like titans, throwing their massive weight and size against each other, ducking and rolling as gatling guns and cannons were discharged, creating huge craters in the soft ground under them. Despite Ratchet's immense weight, he was even more graceful than the seeker as he did flips and whirls, wielding his saw like some kind of seasoned gymnast.
The battle was quick and rough, mostly hand-to-hand combat with the occasional opportunity at close range cannon or gunfire. Despite her earlier worries about the matter, Mikaela was thrilled to see that Ratchet seemed to have the upper hand over his Decepticon foe. The medic, though not as seasoned in battle as some of his Autobot counterparts due to his pacifist nature, apparently had immense skill when it came to close, physical combat.
Within moments, Starscream's faceplates were all but shattered, along with a good part of his chassis, and Ratchet was swooping in with his saw to do some more intense damage when the enormous seeker jumped, using the twin jet engines on his back to get enough air to vault over his oponent. The Decepticon landed with a crash behind the CMO and before Ratchet had time to realize what was happening, Starscream had swept both legs from under him, throwing him into the dirt. Without wasting time, the jet activated his plasma cannon and fired. Ratchet rolled to the side and Starscream's shot missed its target – his spark casing- but caught the medic's hip instead. A harsh cry escaped the CMO's vocalizer as the armor over his hip and the joint itself was shattered.
Starscream subspaced his cannon, advancing toward the fallen mech with a feral grin plastered on his features. Ratchet scrabbled at the ground, attempting to regain his feet, but his shattered leg would not hold his weight and he crashed back to the ground with a grunt of pain. Starscream soon stood directly over him and though the Decepticon was covered in his own energon and had quite a few injuries of his own, he was clearly the one with the advantage now. He kicked Ratchet's side with vicious force, knocking the air from the medic's intakes.
"Say goodbye, Autobot scum."
Just as Starscream moved to draw his killing weapon, Mikaela screamed; "Don't you touch him, you son of a bitch!"
It was the opportunity Ratchet needed. In the split second that Starscream had taken to turn his head at the outburst, the CMO had drawn his own plasma cannon. The Decepticon snarled, realizing instantly that he'd made a mistake in allowing his attention to be diverted to something other than the medic as he found a massive plasma cannon aimed at him, in a position to extinguish his spark with a single discharge. Seeing that he was losing now, he turned quickly, intending to take to the skies.
"Running away, as always?" Ratchet spat, attempting to get up again while still keeping his weapon on the seeker's chassis. He ran a quick scan that told him no more than he already knew; his legs were severely damaged and would need some serious repair before they were any use to him again. His hip joint was completely disconnected from its casing and the opposite knee was crushed, sparking and spilling fluid all over the dirt below him. He could not transform, he realized with a great deal of frustration, and he couldn't stand. That meant that they were stuck there until the backup he had summoned arrived.
"You'll live to regret this day, medic," the seeker barked angrily, transforming in mid-leap. "You should take better care of your charge!"
Ratchet's spark clenched, realizing what the Decepticon had in mind as he took off low to the ground, toward the bridge Mikaela had taken refuge on. His dread quickly turned to horror as the jet launched a missile toward the bridge in retreat. Mikaela screamed. There was a blast of fire and smoke and the bridge exploded in a storm of wood and metal. Starscream laughed triumphantly as he picked up speed, and then he was gone.
Ratchet pushed himself to his feet, immediately stifling an oath as the weight on his legs shot white-hot agony through his entire frame. He crumpled helplessly back to the dirt, intakes working overtime as his processor reeled. He had to get to Mikaela, but he was no good with his legs the way they were. In a stroke of quick thinking, he quickly activated his holoform. It may have been smaller and much, much weaker, but it was still functioning and mobile, which was more than he could say for his true form. As soon as the holomatter form flickered in to place, Ratchet took off at top speed toward the last place he'd seen Mikaela, spark pounding in fear behind organic flesh.
He approached the location of the bridge, attempting to keep calm and quell the rising feeling of trepidation in his spark as he took in what lay before him. There was virtually nothing left of the structure, but for two support beams and a few loosely hanging planks. The base walkway was destroyed in its entirety, Mikaela nowhere in sight. The majority of the bridge floated rapidly away on the current. A painful, shuddering breath escaped him and he feared the worst, but then; "Ratchet!"
His head snapped down river to the direction of the cry and his spark dropped in terror when he laid eyes on Mikaela's floundering form in the water amid the wood as she was swept away by the current. Before even having a moment to consider it, Ratchet had taken a running leap headlong into the frigid water, leaving his immobile Cybertronian form on the banks. He was submerged for what seemed like an eternity before he resurfaced, gasping, to fill his struggling intakes with air as the cold hit him like a ton of bricks. It took a few seconds to orient himself as his internal temperature control kicked in and he was swept into the current. After a moment of searching he spotted Mikaela no more than twenty feet away, struggling to stay above the surface as the undercurrents below yanked at her legs.
Ignoring the stinging numbness piercing his holomatter skin and still attempting to regain his breath, he pushed himself further into the raging river and allowed the flow to carry him to his struggling charge. She flailed desperately, making eye contact with Ratchet for a split second as he approached her thrashing form. The CMO flinched inwardly. There was a deep terror Mikaela's eyes then that he had never seen before, and never wished to see again.
"Mikaela," he grunted, taking hold of one of her violently swinging arms.
Her face locked on his, but she could only choke as water filled her mouth. Ratchet wrapped a strong arm around her waist, pulling her against him. "Hold on to me, little one."
Mikaela clung to him desperately, her nails digging into his skin in utter terror. Ratchet struggled momentarily with the additional weight, but there was enough power and energy left in his legs and arms to keep them afloat.
"R-R-Ratchet," Mikaela shivered, her teeth chattering violently. The water was frigid, even to Ratchet, who had the ability to reign in his inner temperature even in this form. He couldn't imagine how cold it must have been to her own fragile, human body. Mikaela's long, dark hair was plastered wetly across her face, giving her cold-induced pale skin an almost eerie shade of blue-white in contrast. Ratchet was deeply concerned to see that her lips were already turning blue with the onset of hypothermia.
"Push for the bank," he ordered, kicking in that direction without letting go of her torso. "Kick your legs."
Mikaela struggled against the current, the icy water rendering her feeble and sluggish. She kicked her legs, feeling her jeans and shoes weighing her down. They were suddenly swept into an undercurrent, dragged under the surface in the blink of an eye, and Mikaela saw only white, the rush of the water muted in her ears. Ratchet's grip tightened around her and she felt him push his feet against a rock, rocketing them back to the surface as she choked and sputtered.
She held onto his shoulder weakly, trying to regain awareness, but the cold was getting the better of her and she sobbed, desperately wishing for somewhere warm and safe. Ratchet, intakes with flooded with water from being unexpectedly swept under, coughed violently in attempt to clear the water from his humanized internals. Suddenly, his attention was snapped down river and his eyes widened in alarm as he remembered what lay beyond the next bend. His keen hearing had picked up the roar of the overflow dam before he saw it.
"Mikaela, I need you to swim for the banks now," he said urgently, thrashing his own legs again against the current. He felt the girl move her legs weakly for a moment before going limp again.
"I can't," she said tiredly. "I c-can't."
"Try, Mikaela," Ratchet huffed, using his free arm to attempt to paddle against the current. He didn't have a good idea of what her physical state was, other than what the river was causing. He was unsure of whether she was injured in the initial blast when the missile had struck or if she had gotten lucky, but he knew he wouldn't be able to haul both of their combined weight to the bank alone. "I need you to try."
The girl tried again, heaving all of her energy into two or three more scissor kicks underneath the freezing water before wearing out again. "I'm s-so cold, Ratchet."
"I know, youngling. Stay with me," Ratchet said sharply as he felt her head loll against his shoulder, her eyes fluttering closed. "Stay with me, slaggit!"
But she had already lost consciousness. Ratchet let out a frustrated growl, turning against the current and putting all the force his strength allowed into kicking for the bank and trying to keep his charge's head above the water as the current carried them further down river. His internal temperature control was beginning to falter, the icy cold of the water seeping in. Trying to remain focused, he chanced a glance behind him, his spark jumping into his throat when he saw the swirling mist and the sudden drop off that signaled the overflow dam. He had seen that dam dozens of times with his own optics; it was not a particularly long fall, but the churning rapids and undercurrents that waited below were sure to drown even the hardiest of swimmers.
Ratchet's eyes widened as he his legs suddenly impacted a shallow laying rock on the riverbed and he stretched both limbs down as far as he physically could without going under. Surprise and hope filled his spark as he realized he could touch bottom here, if only barely. His surprise quickly turned to determination and he dug his heals in as hard as he could, attempting to slow their progress toward the raging dam. The depth of the river was erratic, dropping off into deep parts at points and into water just shallow enough for him to barely touch bottom in others. He fumbled desperately, hoping to gain enough of a grip with his legs to maneuver himself and the unconscious girl in his arms to the banks that seemed so close. He tried several times without success, pushing desperately as the current quickened and they were swept further along. The roar was filling his ears now, the mist that rose from the pounding water was surrounding them. Ratchet knew that at this point any effort to reach the banks would be fruitless. Fear gripped his spark as they were dragged to the edge. Tightening his arms around his unconscious charge, the CMO let out a strangled cry as they were swept over and into the churning depths below.
This short story is to be continued! I'm working on a second chapter now and should have it up soon. Please review, if you read! :)
These are photos of the dam mentioned in the story. Remove the spaces if you'd like to see;
i1198 .photobucket. com/albums/aa447/MDHazel/dam-1807 .jpg
i1198 .photobucket. com/albums/aa447/MDHazel/dam-1798 .jpg
i1198 .photobucket. com/albums/aa447/MDHazel/dam-8898 .jpg