Wow, so it's been a disgustingly long time since I updated any of my solo work on this site, and what do I go and do? Write a new fic that I probably won't update for a disgustingly long time. Ahh, but what can you do, plot bunnies will not be ignored. This is actually the first of what I hope will be many TF Prime-based fics; I have decidedly fallen for the series and am feeling more inspired than I have for a very long time (in my humble opinion, it's the best universe since G1). I haven't had a lot of experience writing the Autobots, even less with these new characterisations, so bear with me if things feel a bit clunky to start with.
Before we get started, I just want to say a massive thank you to my dear friend and partner in crime Taipan Kiryu – without her fics for inspiration, her extremely valuable help and advice, and not to mention persistent threats that if I don't hurry up and write something I'll regret it, this fic would not have seen the light of day. Thank you, sis.
It had been a split second decision. Transform and expose Jack to the magma-like slag destined to explode about them, or scoop him into her arms and use her body as a shield for his fragile flesh.
She had scooped him into her arms.
And then the temperature had dropped and the shockwave rolled outwards, bringing with it a heat and pain Arcee had never imagined.
The universe itself had roared in her audios as she was thrown forwards, and then...nothing.
Someone was screaming.
It was the only sound she could recognise within the painful chaos of darkness; a horrible, energon-curdling cry of terror echoing in amongst the white noise of static and pain.
As her sensors began to slowly online, Arcee became aware of a warmth beneath her; a wet, sticky warmth that seemed to conform to her body shape and leached up into the joints and seams of her armour. Liquid-hot agony seared through her as she attempted to move away from the invasive sensation, only to find that something was pinning her down, crushing her, compounding the pain and hastening the intrusion.
Arcee squirmed under the weight of her unknown captor, her arm clawing wildly at the shadows in a desperate attempt to find purchase. If only she could find something to hold on to, something to use to pull herself free so she could put an end to that terrible screaming.
If only it would stop, and give her a chance to think.
"Shhh...on, Arcee, we'll...out of there...moment..."
Someone was talking to her, concern and reassurance hanging in the air along with that accursed screaming, a hushed counterpoint to the agonized symphony in the darkness. Arcee reached out to it, and to her surprise felt it take hold of her hand, squeezing firmly.
"Hurry, Bulk...internal...sparkpulse weaken..."
Where was she? What was happening to her?
Why couldn't the blasted screamer just shut up so she could hear what was being said?
"...going...fast as I...chet."
"Any sign of...?"
Two more voices joined the first, both carrying a note of panic not present in the first. She couldn't be sure, but Arcee thought she recognised them; why couldn't her optics just online and be done with the guessing games?
" Shhh...not much longer, Arcee..." the first voice spoke again.
Something moved beside her, and suddenly the weight pinning her down lessened slightly. Instinctively, Arcee began struggle again, sharpening the daggers of pain twisting relentlessly in her chassis and spreading the horrible, damp warmth beneath her. The screaming that continued to ring in her audios intensified, threatening to drown out all other noise within and without.
Linked to the voice, the invisible hand tightened its grip on her. Why did it continue hushing her, couldn't it hear the screaming that belonged to the darkness; why not tell it to be quiet?
It was maddening; just shut up already!
Her throat began to hurt as she attempted to shoo away that demanding hand, but despite her efforts it held to her vehemently. A second hand joined it, and seemed to pry open a panel on her arm, triggering a cool rush through her fuel lines a moment later. Arcee gasped in response, and then choked, and suddenly, the world was almost silent.
The screaming had stopped.
Her screaming had stopped.
A new sensation of numbness took hold of her as the silence extended, drowning out all but the voices around her. She felt weightless as fragments of lost conversations drifted in and out of her fading consciousness, words without meaning; strange anchors in the darkness. The weight upon her body disappeared, and a cool breeze seemed to dance over her plating, setting it alight with renewed pain.
Someone whispered to Primus in the world beyond her dark, evaporating existence.
Had she been able to, she would have cried out in agony. But for some reason her body was no longer responding, and not even that scream she had loathed just some moments ago could ease her now.
"...no wonder she was screaming..."
"Ratchet, look...beneath her... Is that..."
The voices...what were they saying?
The grip on her hand suddenly disappeared and a sense of abandonment filled her in her fading moments. The hand was gone, and soon so too would the voices. Something began to pound in her audios as the dense fog of nothingness prepared to swallow her completely.
"By the All Spark...no..."
And then, as predicted, she was alone.
Oblivion had never been more welcomed.
That same warm, damp feeling from the darkness returned to her chest and abdomen, dragging her slowly into the realm of consciousness. But it was moving this time, in slow, soothing circles over her plating, as if someone was polishing her.
Arcee focussed on the sensation, lost and confused. She felt a fine line of liquid sliding down her waist, dripping to the surface beneath her with a patter that seemed louder than it should have been.
And then suddenly, something interrupted the flow. A slick but careful movement, metal against metal, like a finger catching the trickle.
Someone was touching her.
Reflexively she flinched, and was assaulted with a wave of excruciating pain for her efforts. A gurgled murmur of agony escaped her without warning, automatically drawn from her rebooting systems.
"Easy there, Arcee, you're safe now," a voice said from somewhere above her, and the movement on her abdomen gave way to a warm, damp hold on her forearm.
Yet the input from her sensors refused to give those minor details the attention they deserved; they had recognised pain and now it welled up inside her like acid, demanding and obnoxious like a petulant sparkling wanting its own way. Arcee's cooling fans kicked on, sucking air through her vents like they were somehow suffocating. Her plating felt as if it were on fire, her protoform itself crawling.
Seemingly on a time delay, her processors began to work a little clearer, suddenly recognising the voice.
"I'm here, Arcee, just relax." His hold on her arm was firm and comforting, like the disembodied hand from the darkness.
"Ahhhh...ahh scrap..." she groaned, writhing on the unforgiving surface beneath her in an attempt to find relief.
"Easy there, Arcee," Ratchet spoke again, his strong, gentle hands moving to her shoulders and holding her still. The warm dampness followed his right hand. "You've sustained a lot of damage and you don't want to go and undo all my hard work, do you?"
Arcee onlined her optics, the foggy image of the Autobot medic swimming slowly into view. He smiled at her, a faint look of relief colouring his features. "Welcome back. Now, are you going to stay still, or do I have to keep holding you down?"
"Ughhh...that...depends..." Arcee groaned out through gritted denta plates, "do you...have any stronger pain...killers..."
An imitation of a sigh escaped the medic's vents as he released his patient and stepped back, Arcee's groggy optics following the path of the red and white rag in his right hand as it fell to his side. Something about it bothered her, but her addled processor refused to shine a light on the matter.
"I do...and they will have you back offline in no time."
"But," Ratchet continued as he moved a bowl of red liquid from the berth and placed it on a nearby workbench, "I need to run a couple of quick tests on you before I let you rest. Just to make sure everything is as it should be."
Grunting softly, Arcee nodded once in consent. She watched on in silence as Ratchet gathered up a couple of tools before taking his place at her side.
"Okay, follow the light with your optics."
Arcee complied with the medic's requests, ignoring the occasional 'mmhmm' or 'hnn' that escaped his vocaliser. She knew there were probably questions she should have been asking, but pain prevented any thought from solidifying into something remotely coherent. Her optics offlined again, unable – or perhaps, unwilling – to stand the unnerving fog that continued to cloud her vision. Panic began to rise within her spark.
A dark frown creased Arcee's features as she tried to focus on something other than pain or fear. She couldn't help but feel that she was missing something, something important, but any thought on the matter slipped out of her grip like sand from the Nevada desert. An image of the red and white cloth Ratchet had been holding, and the bowl of red liquid, needled its way into her aching processor, demanding attention. It seemed strange that something so small and insignificant could steal her attention from everything else that was tumbling through her head.
"You still with me, Arcee?"
The sudden intrusion of Ratchet's voice startled Arcee out of her thoughts; she onlined her optics and was immediately rewarded with the burning flare of Ratchet's examination lights. "Mmm..." she answered as her arm rose to shield her eyes. "Scrap...bright enough?"
Ratchet grunted in familiar dissent but switched off the lights regardless. "All things considered, your systems seem to be recovering as they should be," he said as he began preparing a sedative line. "I'm going to give you those pain killers now; rest will help speed up the healing process."
Arcee remained silent as she watched the medic insert the line into a port on her arm and checked the various cables attached to her breastplate. Despite his abrupt demeanour, there was never any doubting his care and compassion when it came to his patients.
A faint smile twitched at Arcee's lips as she felt the cooling rush of the painkillers invading her system. It was only slight, but the instant decrease in agony was a welcomed change.
A question suddenly dawned on her – why was she in the med bay?
Her vents hitched at the unexpected thought, and panic once again made itself known to her.
"Arcee?" Ratchet said as he looked up from his work with concern. "What is it?"
"Uuuggh...I...what... What happened to me?"
The medic stopped what he was doing and took hold of Arcee's forearm. There was that comforting grip again. "You don't remember?"
The femme frowned again, locking her optics with Ratchet's as she wracked her memory banks for even a hint of the truth. She could feel the sedatives slowly working to drag her back into oblivion, but despite the pain she refused to let go until she understood.
The door finally gave way to reveal a vast hangar littered with the wrecks of a dozen human war planes. In the centre of the room, set up in a space which appeared to have been purposely cleared, was a computer monitor sitting atop a device which looked strangely familiar. Transforming her left arm into a blaster, she approached the display cautiously, listening out for anything other than the sound of her companion's footsteps behind her.
She was only a few mechano metres from the screen when suddenly it came to life, only to display a count-down clock. She paused, and then suddenly realised her mistake.
She knew exactly what that device was...
"There was an explosion," Ratchet said solemnly, assuming no answer was forthcoming. "We found you under the rubble at ground zero."
Arcee's vents hitched again as darkness began to prickle around the edges of her vision; she could feel herself slipping into unconsciousness with every passing astrosecond. "An...an explosion..." she muttered weakly in agreement as the memory began to coagulate in her processor. "I...I remember now...a...slag bomb..."
"Yes, that's what our preliminary reports suggested, as did your injuries." Ratchet's hand drifted to Arcee's as he sat carefully on the edge of the berth. "You suffered significant burns on your back, which have penetrated your armour and damaged your protoform. I have treated them as best I can, but as with any protoform injury they will take time to heal. I'm afraid they will be very painful during that time."
"That...explains...a lot..." Arcee said humourlessly, her optics dimming as her body began to offline.
"Your left leg was also amputated by the blast, at the knee," Ratchet continued, watching his comrade – and friend – struggling against the drugs he had given her. "As you know, limbs can be reattached relatively easily, but you will need to give me a few cycles to rebuild the joint first. Do you understand what I'm saying, Arcee?"
She nodded, closing her eyes as she did so without even a thought of glancing down at her damaged leg.
She stepped backwards as she stared in momentary disbelief at the image before her...no...surely she wouldn't have stooped so low. But her optics didn't lie, and as the clock continued to count down she realised she only had one option.
"I can see the pain killers are starting to work on you, so unless you have any questions, I'll let you rest."
"Mmmm..." Arcee replied weakly as the memories began to fade in and out with the oncoming oblivion. She felt Ratchet's weight lift off the berth.
Despite her failing awareness, Arcee forced her optics online and attempted to sit up.
"Woah, easy Arcee!" Ratchet exclaimed, rushing back to her side and taking hold of her trembling arms. "What is it? What's wrong?"
The red and white cloth.
The bowl of red liquid...
It had looked like...blood. Human blood.
"Jack!" The name came forth as a strangled shout, absolute terror fuelling her newfound energy if only for a moment. "Where...where's Jack?"
Ratchet tightened his grip on her as he once again sat on the berth beside her. Arcee felt her cooling fans cycling furiously as the darkness began to close in around her, and she saw Ratchet's expression sink as he looked into her rapidly dimming optics.
"We found Jack pinned underneath you at ground zero. Arcee, Jack suffered extensive injuries as a result of the blast, and I'm afraid that succumbed to them before we reached you both. I'm sorry Arcee, there was nothing I could do."
A gaping void seemed to open up within her spark as Arcee stared blearily at the medic holding her upright. Her head tipped forward as horrific realisation began to sink in, and the last thing she saw before the drugs won over was the small, red stain left on her abdomen. That wet, sticky warmth...had been Jack.
And now he was dead.
"I'm so sorry, Arcee," Ratchet said sadly as her body finally gave up and she slumped unconscious into his arms.
I really do apologise for killing Jack off – I'm not normally a fan of human characters in any of the TF universes but I actually really like both him and Raf. Sadly, however, for this fic to work Jack had to snuff it. I promise that I'll make up for it in another fic...
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed. All comments, good, bad, ugly or indifferent would be greatly appreciated :)